T: Technology

Technology-that new fangled stuff that all the cool kids are using like the Google, the YouTube, the Facebook, the Twitter, iPad thingy, Android yokes and 3G everywhere you turn.

Technology is everywhere, I can barely go to the shop without some kind of tech in my pocket, usually my phone which allows me access the whole world. Comes in very handy when I can't remember a recipe for something or need to look up quantities. If I can't go to Dunnes without it how can I expect to go to school without it? How can I expect my pupils and classes to learn without it when it's become a part of me, my right arm almost. We once laughed at the idea that pencils would take off at school, sure weren't they fierce expensive and we had slates. If we can get used to using pencils we can use the latest tech right?

We shouldn't fear technology, the pupils in our classes have grown up using iPads as naturally as we grew up with pencils and paper. There are apps for everything from Spelling to Science, from Addition to Art and we can make great use of them in school. I even have an App on my phone instead of an actual spirit level. There truly is a app for everything.

Of course technology in education isn't just about apps. Anything tech and educational is considered edtech so you can include Scratch, Arduino, Animoto, Glogster, Blendspace etc as technology. Teachers and pupils should be using it together, learning from each other and helping each other along. Educators do not stress if you think your students know more then you do. Remember they grew up with this technology as part of of their norm.

Coder Dojo has taken up and is picking up the slack for those with interests in coding and programming but can we do more? Probably yes, time is a factor of course. But consider an alternative world where time and curriculum aren't factors, could you bring more technology into your classroom? We use laptops to plan our lessons and make/research resources so maybe we could bring more into the school.

If in doubt check it out. There are people around to ask for help if you need it, there's no shame in needing more IT support. And there are places to go. My first port of call is always to ask Twitter, there are people there who are IT experts in my eyes, people like @hassandabbagh or @johnmayo who always have the answers I need. I also use the CESI list for answers, great place for discussion and help as well as getting opinions on important techie matters check out www.cesi.ie

Speaking of CESI I've found the CESI and ICTEDU conferences to be the best source of ICT CPD going. Real live ICT for the classroom right in front of your very eyes, the most up to date and relevant ideas being used in real classrooms. Truly a Godsend for all teachers interested in edtech. You can read up on my conference going here. The next conference on the calendar is ICTEDU in LIT Thurles on May 10th with a TeachMeet CESI the night before. All info can be found here including the link to get tickets!

S: Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee- a spelling competition for senior classes in primary schools, run by Eason in Ireland.

Of course the Spelling Bee competition started in the States in 1925 and was won by the 11 year old Frank Neuhauser in Washington DC. It has since gone from strength to strength around the world.

Eason Spelling Bee 

Four years ago Eason started the Irish Spelling Bee with Ryan Tubridy of 2FM. It started out small but has grown hugely over the last few years. You can read about the original launch here when only 12 schools were involved. Things have changed a lot since 2011.Now each county has a Spelling Bee county final EG the Cork Spelling Bee was held in Rochestown Park Hotel a few weeks ago. You should check out the Spelling Bee blog for all information on recent county winners, and upcoming Spelling Bee dates and locations.

The Spelling Bee starts out in the school, each school holds their own Spelling Bee to choose a School Spelling Champion. They then go on to the County Final eg Cork or Dublin or even Mayo. Once all County Finals have been held the finalists go onto the Provincial final or All Ireland Semi Finals which will be held in late June and heard on the Tubridy Show on 2FM from Monday to Thursday. On the Friday the All Ireland Final will be held and the overall winner will spell their way to the top! Sounds like fun right?

I do wish this was an option when I was in school, while I wasn't be the best speller ever it would have been nice to have that incentive to work harder and be a better speller. And I'm sure my parents would have loved that! That said I am having great fun playing with the new Eason Spelling Bee App I'm not ashamed to admit there are words there I'm struggling with, words I thought I knew. "Could work harder" did feature on my school reports now and then :) If you don't have the app or want to try something to warm up to the app check out this Spelling Bee Quiz from the Irish Examiner (Jan 2014)

(Disclaimer: Eason didn't ask me to write this nor did 2FM)

R: Religion

Religion in schools. A hot topic at the best of times. I wrote last year about some of my views and clearly stated my lack of Religious beliefs even though I could see how much they helped my family during a tough time. I mentioned two blogs I often read from Annmarie Miles and Helen Hamil, both of which I still read and immense respect for. My views haven't changed, I still don't have a strong faith in a religion and I'm ok with that.

The day after I posted the above post I posted again on Religion.  And questioned if religion should even be taught in school. I don't think it has a place in school and I stand by it. There is plenty to do on the curriculum already without trying to teach beliefs. In my opinion that is a parents job, to pass on the beliefs that they have and feel important to their own children. Let's face it, knowing now as you do that I'm not religious and don't have a strong faith would you want me passing on my beliefs and faith in school? If the parent feels strongly enough about their children learning about religion then by all means, educate your child. But why should a school take responsibility for it?

Pic taken from my recent
trip to Bunratty Castle
"Most Irish schools are in fact Catholic so what do we, as teachers, do? We fall in line and teach religion. Which is ok if you don't object to it. There aren't many options if you do though. Educate Together schools are great but there aren't enough of them for teachers or pupils who don't want to partake in Catholic education."  (quote from my own blog in Aug 2013

Yes we still fall in and take one for the team and teach religion regardless of our own beliefs. I was subbing lately in a second class, thrown in the deep end for a few weeks and starting to get ready for Communion. I'm no expert and I taught it as well as I could and was delighted that the Learning Support teacher was so helpful in helping me. The local priest was in a lot to offer help and support and advise for me. It wasn't easy but in the few weeks I was there I was doing quite well if I do say so myself. However going to a Mass a few days before I was due to finish up was a tough one. I don't believe and would have found it hypocritical to go and take communion. So I didn't. None of the staff commented on it, quite a few of the other younger teachers didn't go up either but some of the kids in the class did ask. One pupil spoke up before I had even chance to think of an appropriate response 

"Maybe Miss Bullock has a different religion and doesn't go for Communion, it's none of our business"  
And so ended that discussion. 

 "I taught in one class where a 3rd class boy didn't "do" religion but did listen in, his parents didn't mind and he was interested. He knew all the bible stories, his parents had told them as bedtime stories and he enjoyed working on them. He didn't learn off prayers like we expect pupils to do, he didn't make his communion the year before and wouldn't be making his confirmation in 6th class. This to me just worked, this boy ate up information and possibly is a better person for taking interest and wanting to learn about all faiths, not just his own, or the one taught in school. When the rest of the class were learning prayers he was reading about different faiths and I believe that will and stands to him." (Quoted from my own Blog in Aug 2013

I had a similar experience again lately, the child was a different religion and wouldn't be making Communion or Confirmation. The parents were fantastic, they had a folder of work ready for her and she did that work whenever the rest of the class were doing religion. She learnt about animals or her own religion or read books that her parents wanted her to read or learn. It worked really well and I honestly think the parental involvement here was key to how well this particular girl was doing. 

My views haven't changed but my experiences have and I now have more ideas how I would deal with Religion in my classroom when the time comes. 

Q: Quiet Me time

Peace and Quiet, the pride and joy of a teachers day. The one part they look forward to most out of everything in their day. Be it listening to the radio in the car on the way home, watching their favourite TV shows, reading a book or spending time with family. Having time away from school and teaching is important.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job, subbing and all.

But me time is important.

That quiet alone time, where I can be ME. ME is important, not losing myself in my work is important.

I find my solace in many things. I love reading. I watch some old favourites on Netflix. I pick a film and lost myself in it. I write. I spend time with Gav, watching a documentary or eating together. I meet friends. I cook. I bake. I sometimes knit. I make crafty things.

Every day needs a little ME time. A little quiet time that is all about me. It's important for my mental health but it also makes me a better teacher and educator. It keeps my energy levels up and makes sure I can do everything I need to both in school, at work and at home.

This one is short and sweet because I should be enjoying my Easter Holidays and my ME time!


PE: Physical Education, the art of running around doing physical activities and games while learning about health, rules of games and how best to drive teacher mad.

Roger Hargreaves Mr. Bump
Brutal honesty time here: I hated PE in School. 

It was bad in primary school it was even worse in secondary. I am not a very sporty person. Anyone who knows me well knows me to be clumsy and awkward. I trip over stuff. I walk into things. Random objects jump out in front of me and cause collisions everywhere. PE was never going to be a subject that I excelled at. In fact I'm so clumsy Mr Anseo A Mhuinteoir (aka Gavin) used to call me Little Miss Bump when we first met because I was usually bruised from my latest stumble over my feet (to be honest I have a few bruises I can't explain this week but I'm pretty sure the floor/door/own feet/random object is bruised too)

I no longer have to fear PE right? I'm the teacher, I decide what we do in PE and can be understanding of pupils like awkward ole me? WRONG I'm still the most awkward person in the PE lesson, I'm still the one who somehow ends up at the wrong side of the flying ball coming towards my head. I still trip over my feet. Not a day goes by that I don't somehow fall over something and the days I have PE to teach the risk increases ten fold. PE is not a safe subject for the naturally ungraceful. I long for the days when someone else is dealing with PE for me, those swimming lessons in the local pool, swimming instructors are fantastic for the physically inept teacher. As are GAA coaches, tennis lessons, basketball clubs etc. They are a Godsend for the uncoordinated.

I don't get much enjoyment out of teaching PE, I have lists of games to play to warm up and down. And loads of ideas for learning new skills. But I ask you, how can the ungainly awkward me ever hope to teach young active enthusiastic people to do things I can't do myself? I can't play hurling so how do I teach those skills? I can play games outdoors....Duck Duck Goose is great fun right?? But what happens after a few weeks of that and they want a soccer tournament? I may need a soccer for dummies book just to understand the off-side rule thingy.

And I don't like the cold. PE inside a warm (ish) hall is one thing but out in that cold Irish weather is another. There is a very large chance that it's raining out there too. And what if the school doesn't have a hall? Not everywhere does you know....Does that mean I don't have to teach it? Nope somehow I have to figure out a way to teach PE while staying upright on my feet, not causing an accident, staying warm (ish), staying dry and possibly without a hall.

And they say PE is fun?

(Disclaimer to prospective employers: I can teach PE, I have done so a lot as a sub. It is not my strongest subject to teach but I can't be brilliant at everything right?)