Last fall, while I was abroad in Galway, Ireland, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a U.S. visiting students’ service learning course at the National University of Ireland Galway, which went to a local primary school to help at their homework club. This club was where particular students that were struggling with their work would be recommended to attend. They would get all their homework done before going home. Majority of these students didn’t come from the best homes, so this club meant the world to them. While we still had class in the classroom, most of our learning was done at the primary school Scoil Bhride.
This program/class was very important to me; I’m going to school to be a teacher, so when I decided to go abroad I knew I’d miss the kids I work with every week. That is what pushed me to apply for this class. I wanted to be able to make connections with students while abroad, as well as explore a new educational system. Being a teacher or a tutor is so rewarding and I wanted to continue pursuing my educational goals while I was abroad.
Every Tuesday at 2:30pm, I would walk through the primary school doors and check in with Sister Mary, one of the nuns that helped open and run the school. The school was loud with the sound of children being released from a long day at school, and the hallways were crowded with tons of little ones finding their parents or friends to start their journey home.
Irish accents are always great, but when you hear a 5-year-old speaking with the thickest accent, it is literally the cutest sound EVER.
I’m so glad this was a part of my experience while in Ireland; the students were all so wonderful, and I loved being able to view and work in a different education system than I’m used to. The students usually had around four different items of homework each evening, and we could usually get through them all in one hour. I was able to create some wonderful relationships with peers, students, and teachers. Overall, I’ve learned so many educational fundamentals about myself as a future educator, and I cannot wait to be a teacher.
I have to admit, of course, there were ups and downs throughout the process, but they were only minor bumps on a super positive road. Like any other group of students, I’ve worked with, I’ll always have students that are highly intelligent yet refuse to complete their work, as well as students that misunderstand your authority.
However, the kids that make incredible breakthroughs and are kind make up for all the negatives. There were a couple of girls in the class that struggled with math and reading. One of them was there on my last day, and I was able to help her with her math. In the beginning, I could tell she was very confused, but by the end she had completed all the problems on her own. It made me so proud to be able to see her complete the tasks on her own without any questions or complaints! It’s little moments like these that make me realize why I’m becoming a teacher.
We were also able to fundraise €300 for the school program by having a bake sale at an international festival on campus; we ended up throwing them a little party with the money. At this party, we presented them with books and educational games. I had conversations with the students I worked with, and many of them were very sad to see us go. However, it is my goal to go and visit them before they graduate secondary school. I promised one of my favorite students that I would come back and see her progress, and I meant it with all my heart!
From this experience, I learned how fortunate American schools are. The educational system in the states is way more advanced and forward thinking. Ireland in general is very traditional, but the school system would look similar to how my parents or grandparents went to school. Tradition isn’t always bad, the school had a feeling of community and family that I really loved, and I think tradition is to thank for that. This class taught me how to portray myself as a teacher, and helped me discover the impact in want to make on my future students.
I absolutely LOVE teaching, it brings me so much joy; even on days when I go home frustrated and upset, I know the next days will be better; all I have do is work even harder with certain kids. Thank you Scoil Bhride and Ireland for such a memorable experience.
Annie Beaver was a Psycology major at The University of Redlands and studied abroad with IFSA on the National University of Ireland Galway program in Galway, Ireland in Fall 2016. She served as an alumni ambassador for IFSA.