Teaching; I survived my first placement


This post has been on the cards for a while, however, as often happens in life, other things took over such as Christmas, family visiting, finishing off assignments and of course working, unfortunately bills need to be paid. With two days to go before starting on my next assignment and a brief retrieve between jobs, it’s now or never really to get this post written.

Going into my first teaching prac I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy it. The initial week was probably the hardest, I was thrown in the deep end and teaching lessons pretty much straight away. The first class where I had to stand up at the front of the room with 23 Year 9 students sitting there and staring at me, waiting for the teacher to say something, was totally terrifying. I was responsible for them, I had to teach them something; my palms were sweaty, my throat dry and my heart was racing. But I got through the class, thanks to being an overly organised person, I had a fool proof lesson plan written, extra material in case I rushed through the content of the lesson too quickly, and a teacher in the room, just in case it all went haywire.

Over time I learnt which ones were the cheeky ones, who needed extra help, which boys needed to be split up and sat with the girls, who handed in their homework and school work on time and those that needed constant reminding and chasing. But those first few lessons were so very scary.

I learnt so much over the seven weeks that I was teaching there. I taught a mix of classes; an online Year 7 English class through a trial virtual selective high school (xsel) for students in rural areas around NSW, a traditional classroom group of Year 9 students and a small group of Year 11 students who were taking English Standard classes.

As with most things I had good days with a sprinkling of bad ones. But each day I learnt something new and every mistake and error I made (and trust me there were a few) I learnt from and took that experience and feedback on board. What I enjoy about teaching is that every day is different, you have different classes to teach, different students and a different topic, so no one lesson or day is the same.

There were a few small misunderstanding on account of my accent (one student thought I said a character was blind instead of blond) and a number of questions about Leprechauns, all of which added a bit of humour to the lesson.


It was hard work, involving a lot of late nights and working over the weekends; correcting homework, creating lessons, searching for resources and writing endless reports for university, but cards like this one and genuine thanks and questions as to whether I would be coming back to teach the class in 2015, made it all worth the while. The pride I got from seeing the end result of the class newspaper that my Year 7 class created was immense. I had taught them a media studies unit from the start to the finish, decided what areas needed to be covered, assigned work to students and fed back on their creations. It was so fulfilling to guide them through the process, observe their progress and get frustrated when they did not take feedback or suggestions on board. And the end result confirmed that they had learnt something and that my teaching had been successful. At the end of the day, isn’t that what teaching is all about, those moments of pride where you can clearly see that your hard work has paid off!


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Road trip; Byron Bay and Queensland

Byron Bay lighthouse

After four months of winter and work, I was hanging for a break, absolutely dying to get away for a few weeks. Last year I went to Newcastle for a week with my sister and nephew to recuperate after winter, and this year Queensland was on the cards. Originally we were going to fly straight to Brisbane, but what with one thing and another and wanting to leave as soon as possible, we ended up driving via Byron Bay to Queensland.

The drive was lovely, and long. I’ve finally started to get used to the vast distances in Australia, it takes about six to eightOld Bar beach festival hours to drive from one side of Ireland to the other, but in Australia, well six or eight hours is nothing. It took us two days to drive to Byron Bay, stopping in Bar Beach on the way, where they happened to have a Kombi run that evening. Which is something I’d never seen before, there were just so many VW’s in every colour imaginable.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay was lovely, if a bit windy. We walked to the lighthouse on our first day and the view was spectacular. It was so nice to be lying and walking on the beach again and soaking in the sunshine, it was much needed. On our last afternoon there, I booked a time at the local tattoo parlour to have a tattoo. It’s something I’d wanting to do for years but was always too scared to actually go ahead with. Finally, with some morel support – although I was told it felt like a Stanley knife cutting into you – I decided to go for it. On the aforementioned afternoon we rocked up at the tattoo parlour, I was surprisingly relaxed – although while the lady was doing the tattoo I gripped the chair so hard my fingers were cramped by the time she was finished. Once it was all over and done with, the lady proceeded to explain the aftercare and the rest is a bit of a blur as I passed out falling smack bang on the tiled floor. The egg on my forehead that resulted from passing out, was definitely something to write home about, it was bloody huge! By the next day, half the swelling had moved down my face so I now had two puffy black eyes and a somewhat deflated egg on my forehead. A month later and I still have a small lump on my head and the wrinkle lines on my forehead still don’t line up. Other than that, love the tat!

Oh yea, and that all happened the day before I met my boyfriends family!

When we finally arrived in Queensland it was hot. It was throughly enjoyable, relaxing, not working – just a bit of studying – and lovely warm weather. While there I went for a two hour horse ride, in true country style; Western saddle, riding through the cattle and gorgeous sunshine. I hadn’t ridden a horse for maybe 10 years and I loved every minute of it. Not so much after, as my ass was a little bit sore for the next two days and every time I sat down I had to wince.

Following the lovely two week break, I went straight into teaching, but that’s another post for a different day!


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Miss Brave; I’m going to have to get used to being called that


I hated my school growing up! Getting up in the morning and putting on my uniform was a chore, and the first thing I did when I came home from school at the end of the day was to change out of it. Despite all of that I loved learning and I did well at school, particularly in English. Maybe it was just the school I attended; a public Catholic school in rural Ireland, previously run by the nuns – two of whom were still there when I went to school, relics of a bygone era. After my rather creative primary school where we wore what we wanted, and there was art and crafts galore, I suddenly had to wear a uniform which consisted of a hideous grey skirt, a bright blue sweater – I still can’t see that colour without cringing, – a blue shirt and knee length grey socks, and there were so many rules.

By year 12 I couldn’t wait to get out of there, vowing I would never set foot in a school again. Little did I think then that well over a decade later I would be studying to become a teacher!

When I was younger I went through a phase of wanting to be a vet, until I read James Herriot, brilliant books, absolutely hilarious but they put me off that notion, later it was an air hostess, until I realised it wasn’t as glamorous as it looked and you didn’t actually get to see much of the places you travelled to.  I’ve tried a bit of this and a bit of that over the years and now I’ve finally decided I had better put my head down and do something worthwhile and fulfilling, so teaching it looks like it will be, time will tell how I go teaching.


After a few years off studying, it’s great to be back learning again and using my brain. It’s challenging, something that’s always driven me and I’m thoroughly enjoying it as we’ll as writing assignments again. As a self confessed nerd, I’ve always enjoyed writing, whether for school, work or pleasure and it’s nice to be doing it again.

Now the theory is all well and good, however, the daunting part will come, next month, when I have to stand up in front of a class of teenagers and teach them. The closer it’s getting the more nervous I am becoming.

When I visited my first school for an observation a few weeks ago, I had to sign in at the reception and wait for the lady I was meeting to arrive. As I sat there, I began to panic; what the hell was I doing in a school, memories came flooding back and I wondered why I had decided to go into teaching. But then the lady arrived and took me to meet the other teachers and I sat in on a few lessons, and gradually I began to feel much more at ease. It wasn’t the same school I had gone to growing up, the students seemed nice, the other teachers were very friendly and to be honest with you, I think I can do it; be  a teacher that is.

Will I make much of a difference? At this stage I’m still very idealistic about teaching, only time will tell if these ideals will come about. But for now, going in with a positive attitude and the aim to succeed and enjoy it is a good enough start for me.

I know it won’t be easy. Once I’ve done the first week of my placement I’ll report back and let you all know how it went. In the meantime I’ll be busy reading and writing assignments and getting increasingly nervous about the actual teaching part of teaching!


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The Giver, a great movie and hopefully an equally good read!


Memories, we all have them but most of the time we take them for granted. Imagine living in a world where you have no memories, where everything is good, there is no bad, no jealousy and no hatred. In theory it sounds pretty good and if you didn’t know any better I guess it would be a perfect situation. This is the world Jonas and his friends grow up in The Giver, a 1993 children’s novel written by Lois Lowry and recently made into a movie.

I watched the movie the other night and I have to say I was hooked from the start. Very briefly and without going into too much detail or spoiling the story, the movie follows Jonas and his friends who are about to graduate from high school and receive their role in the community. The role that Jonas is assigned is that of ‘receiver of memories’ for the community. He has to visits ‘the giver’ each day, where he receives memories from the outside world, something neither he or anyone in the community knew existed.

The movie starts in black and white but as Jonas receives memories and learns about the world, and begins to feel emotions he starts to see in colour. His life becomes more enriched, from the memories of both the bad and the good in the world, and he starts to realise that their ‘perfect’ community is not so perfect after all, and he yearns for more and for things to change.

Some very valid points are raised throughout the movie, including the fact that no matter what we do there is evil and bad things going on in the world. We cannot simply shut out the rest of the world and pretend it doesn’t exist. Yes, people can be brainwashed and made believe certain things, however, we are humans and as a race we are flawed no matter what we do in order to protect ourselves. It also makes you think about all the things in life that we take for granted and without which our lives would be very poor.

Now I’m sure you’ve realised by now that among many other types of books, I have a soft spot for teen fiction. But I do wonder about one thing, why is it that all recent teenage fiction or futuristic novels portray such a morbid and dark view of the world. The Hunger Games, The Giver and the Divergent trilogy to name but a few, they all portray a world that has basically gone made. In The Hunger Games the Capital has created a game where people have to kill each other in order to win and survive, The Giver sees a select few people create a ‘perfect’ community where nothing bad happens and people are happy to live their lives that with no memories, and the Divergent trilogy, a dystopian novel set in post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into factions based on their human virtues.

Aside from the undesirable settings, what all these novels have in common are teenage protagonists who grow up in a world where they don’t fit in, each of them struggling to find their identity and in doing so they try to make their world better for their family and friends.

I’m usually one to read the book first and then watch the movie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie and wanted to read the book afterwards, so this is a first for me. It’s a fascinating story and I highly recommend watching it. I’m very much hoping the books is as good, if not better than the movie!


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The Invasion – the end of my short story

Apologies for the delay in posting the final instalment of my short story The Invasion, between working a lot and finishing and re writing the end of the story, it has taken a bit longer than expected. For those of you who have been reading the story as I post it, it might be worth re reading part six as I’ve made a few changes and added a few important bits and pieces that will ensure the end makes sense. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading The Invasion, who knows, I might even post another short story at some stage in the near future.


The Invasion – the end of my short story

On the appointed day everything was in place. Ben and the men from the valley were all in position. Thanks to Carl’s cooperation, they had invaluable information regarding the valley’s ammunition and weapon numbers and they were just waiting for their old signal from Tom, whom he hoped had received his message and followed out his instructions.

Marla was nearby, she always seemed to be these days, ever since she’d found out about him and his involvement and leadership of the resistance in the previous invasion of their valley. He had been a young man then but he remembered it all too clearly and when he had heard her full name the preceding day, he had no doubt that she was the daughter of Johann Berlitz, the mastermind of the last invasion, everything was starting to make sense and fall into place. However, that fact in itself required extra caution but it was too late to warn Tom, they just had to hope it all went according to plan.

Finally, it felt like hours but it must only have been a few minutes, he heard an owl hooting nearby, loud and long. They had come up with the signal during the previous invasion. The valley had no owls, no one knew why, but those not from the valley were unaware of this fact, so it was a perfect signal. Nodding to the men at his side and across the clearing, he drew in a deep breath and stepped forward.


Tom lowered his hands as the signal echoed and slowly faded away. All the valleys men and able bodied fighting people stood in silence and waited. Mat, very aware of his dad’s loaded gun in his hand, looked behind him. He was unable to see anyone but he knew their men were out there, spread out and hidden in the thick undergrowth and trees surrounding the clearing. Elayne was back there somewhere too, she had not been happy about being denied permission to remain in the frontline, however, her mother and Mat had both insisted that she stay well back and out of danger.

Tom had briefed all the ‘new recruits,’ as they had been dubbed, on what to expect and their roles in the upcoming altercation. The minutes following the signal seemed to drag by and the silence was deafening but when the first shot was finally heard it was all action. The next few minutes were complete mayhem with men running everywhere and everything happening very quickly.

Mat raced forward as instructed with the rest of the men towards the clearing where his dad had given the map co-ordinates for in the note. Cresting the hill they were met with a sight; the camp, large and very well organised in its layout, was a full blown combat zone, with a few bodies already littering the ground. Luckily Ben had told them that the men on their side would be wearing red armbands, otherwise it would have been impossible to identify one man from another as they were all dressed in the same black outfit from head to toe.

The invaders were taken aback by the wave of men cresting the hill emitting battle cries as they joined in the fight. As the men continued to spill over the hill they began to realise that they were outnumbered and a panic began to ensue among the invaders.


Perspiration running down his face Ben eagerly searched the newly arrived men. His gaze passed over Tom, whom he acknowledged with a nod, and continued on until he found who he was looking for, Mat. His son had grown into a man in the three years since he had last seen him; he hardly recognised the tall, handsome youth. Breaking away from the main fighting, Ben loped eagerly towards his son. Just before he reached him he saw Marla sprinting past him towards Mat. Cursing Ben sped up, but suddenly time seemed to slow as he saw Marla draw her weapon aiming directly at Mat. The shot deafened him and he shouted at his son to get down. Mat instinctively threw himself on the ground as the bullet grazed his leg and blood gushed from the wound.

Without thinking Ben raised his loaded gun and aimed for Marla, shooting her from behind straight through the heart. As she fell, Mat raised his head and saw his dad standing there gun elevated. He tried to get up but his wounded leg stopped him from standing and he collapsed on the ground moaning. Running to him Ben gently lifted his son up.

All around them the fighting continued, but it was obvious that the men from the valley were winning and slowly the sound of shots being fired slowed and finally stopped. All that could be heard was the moaning of wounded men and the shouting of the victors. The helicopter had been made immobile by the men from the valley, making escape for the invaders near impossible. Those not involved in the fighting were beginning to emerge from the forest, among them Elayne who made a beeline for Mat and his father, who had been joined by Carl and Tom and a number of other men from the valley all clapping Ben on the back and smiling. They had done it; stopped the invasion before their valley was attacked, and aside from a few casualties, they had all their men as well as a few wounded prisoners to take in for questioning.


It felt like a second cycle had come to an end; Ben had killed Johann Berlitz in the first invasion, Marla, following in her father’s footsteps had returned to finish what her father had started and to seek revenge for his death. However, once again the valley and its inhabitants had emerged victorious. They had proven once again that, despite meticulous planning and organisation, the invaders could not win. With Marla’s death the immediate Berlitz family had ended and Ben hoped that now the cycle had truly been broken once and for all. Despite the bandage around his leg, his son’s deathly white face looked beautiful to Ben as he cradled him in his arms, he smiled down at Mat who could not take his eyes from his father.

“You’ll be alright son,” he said his voice gruff with emotion. “I’ll have you home in no time and you can have as much time to rest as you need. You did me proud son, real proud.” And with that he reached an arm around Elayne’s shoulder, squeezing it gently as he smiled down at her, nodding to Carl and Tom who stood nearby, the five of them slowly headed back towards Mat’s family home.


The end.

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The Invasion – part six

The Invasion, part six of my short story.

The Invasion – part six

Changing direction, Elayne and Mat hurried through the forest, past their school and on to Uncle Tom’s house. They made sure to remain near the tree line or under the cover of the forest at all times. He was standing at the front door when they arrived; it was like he was waiting for them.

“I’ve been expecting you two,” he grunted in greeting. Never one for ceremony he walked inside and into the kitchen where he sat down.

“You want me to tell you about your dad!” It wasn’t a question and he continued, “well, when he first came to me three years ago and told me his theory, I thought he had lost the plot, a total fool and I told him so. But he insisted on giving me this letter for you in case ‘it’ ever happened, that’s what we used to refer the attack to.” He sighed. “I’ve re-read it so many times over the years since the accident but it all seemed a tall tale until this morning’s announcement. He was right damn it. I have no idea how he figured it out, but he was always too smart for his own good, that dad of yours.”And with that he handed Mat a rather dog-eared letter. “Oh and I found this note in the old tree house this morning. We used it as our communication site during the last invasion and after the strange happenings over the past few days, I decided to check it, just in case. It’s not signed but it has his old signature at the bottom, that’s how he used to sign his instructions off.”

Mat, looking increasingly confounded took both letters and sat down on the kitchen bench opposite Uncle Tom, Elayne remained standing behind him.


‘Dear Mat,’ he read in his deep voice so similar to his fathers.

‘There is a lot that you don’t know about the previous invasion, I know your mother and I have never really talked about it, however, if you are reading this my worst fears and suspicions have come to pass and I must tell you a bit about what happened.

The leader of the invasion was a man called Johann Berlitz, he was a foreigner, a narcissist with very lofty ideas of his own self-importance. Prior to invading our valley, it was rumoured that he successfully invaded and took over another valley, closer to his homeland. Intoxicated by his success and power, and growing increasingly deranged, he decided to move on our valley as his second conquest, why he picked us we never found out, but it was reported that his ex wife had distant family in our valley.

We started a revolt against Berlitz, which after a few weeks resulted in his death and our victory. Among his personal effects was a lot of copied paperwork with detailed information on the attack and a few backup plans, including one which I’d almost forgotten until recently, detailing a plot to stage an explosion at the local mine in order to capture as many miners as possible. The plan was crossed out as if dismissed, which is why I’d almost forgotten it. The papers were locked away somewhere safe and out of mind and only a few people, myself included ever read all of them.

With the recent unrest at work, there has been a lot of talk. One recurring name that keeps cropping up is that of Johann Berlitz. I’m unsure what will happen but something is definitely brewing and if anything happens at the mine and people go missing I have a feeling that they will be used against the valley in some way. If my theory is correct I’ll try and get a message to Uncle Tom as soon as possible, he was the main communication man during the last invasion.

I know this all sounds crazy but after leading the resistance in the previous invasion I got to know the enemy pretty well and I can read signs. I haven’t said anything to anyone else yet as it is a very tenuous assumption and I’m not sure anyone would believe me but I’m trusting my instincts.

Take care my boy and look after your mother and sister, I’m relying on you.



The room was so quite you could hear a pin drop, Mat continued to stare at the page, disbelief on his face. “Dad was the leader of the resistance? Why did he never tell me?” It wasn’t really a question, Uncle Tom looked at him before answering.

“A fine leader, a very fine leader indeed,” he was lost in the past for a minute. Shaking his head he continued. “He was the brains behind our ultimate victory and I was his right hand man. I dealt with all the communications; passing on instructions from your dad to the rest of the men and women in the resistance. We were a good team, I guess that’s why he entrusted the letter to me and told you to come to me.”

Looking increasingly dumbfounded and overwhelmed, Mat re read the letter to himself, after which he opened the second note. It was hastily scribbled and brief, instructing the reader to secretly gather the valley’s able bodied inhabitants as well as all the available ammunition and weapons and to assemble in two days time. Map coordinate were given for somewhere deep within the valley. He warned them to be wary of sentries and noted that they were a big group; including all the missing people from the past two days and that they were heavily armed. At the end was a strange symbol, this must be what Uncle Tom had referred to as his father’s signature.

They all sat in silence until Elayne finally broke the quite. “I guess we should get to work” she said straightening up.

Nodding in unison Uncle Tom and Mat rose and Elayne headed out the front door after them; they had plenty to do and not much time.

Over the next two days the three of them spent all day recruiting people, sending them on errands and gathering everything they could find in order to fulfill Mat’s father’s instructions. As it turned out Uncle Tom seemed to be held in high regard by everyone, all the older inhabitants fell quickly into their old roles from the days of the resistance and they were all eager and co operative in carrying out the directive.


To be continued …

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The Invasion – part five

Part five of my short story.


The Invasion – part five

Ben lowered the microphone as the echo of his voice slowly faded around the valley. He looked back towards the base they had set up in a clearing well away from civilization. Most of the people here were men, kidnapped, like himself in a staged mine explosion three years earlier. Since then they had spent countless days in solitary confinement, beaten and brainwashed until the memory of their previous lives and who they were had become a distant recollection. However, what their captors had not anticipated in their grand scheme was the effect being back on home soil would have on the men.

Since their arrival a week earlier, there had been rising tensions in the base. The men from the valley, who had been separated for the majority of their captivity, began to seek each other out, including Ben, and they had began their own plotting. To Ben it felt like a fog was beginning to lift and memories were slowly trickling back. For the first time in a long while he thought of his family, his wife Anna, son Mat and daughter Aisha.

A few of the men, including Ben, had heard a few rumours in the weeks leading up to their capture. Talk of an uprising, of recruiting inhabitants of the valley and using them against their family and friends. Most of what was said was dismissed as over the top gossip that had been blown out of proportion, as tended to happen in small communities. Yet some of what he had heard had made Ben weary, and as it turned out, rightly so.

Marla, one of the leaders of the attack walked over to him her AK-47 swinging almost seductively at her hip. “We need you over with the new captures Ben” she drawled in her foreign accent, which even after three years Ben could not pick, “they are being uncooperative again.”

Nodding, Ben walked beside her to the ‘prison’ as the men were calling it. He had recognised all too many of the men they had picked up, including his daughter’s boyfriend, Carl, at least that’s what he had been three years earlier. Ben had not yet managed to speak to Carl alone, his insight and cooperation was crucial to the plan that he and the men from the valley were formulating.

The men who had been picked up from around the valley in the raids over the past two days were all foreigners, like Marla. The idea of the attack was to use the new captures as a decoy when the time was right, more information than that was not imparted to the likes of Ben who were merely tools, brainwashed instruments to be used to terrify and destroy his home. But they would not let it get to that point, their plan had to work.


To be continued …

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