Tag Archives: teaching

Teaching Human Rights

Amnesty International

“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.

Education is the only solution. Education First.”

These are the last two lines of the inspiring and powerful speech made by 16 year old Malala Yousafza at the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2013.

We’ve all had someone who inspired us in some way as a child or in our youth. For me there were two women whose influence has had a lasting impact on me. One was a family friend who fostered in me from an early age, a love for reading and literature, the other I have written about before, Janet Coggin who lived in the community I grew up in in Ireland. Janet inspired me in many ways, one of which being her passion for human rights and her work with Amnesty International. I remember at 13 or 14 after I received one of my first pay checks from my work in a local cafe, I was out in the Big Smoke (that’s what the Irish fondly refer to Dublin as) with my sister for a day of retail therapy. As was often the case there were charity street fundraisers at various points along Grafton Street. I usually sped up and feigned haste when I saw them, but not this time. That day I went up to the Amnesty International representative and asked if I could sign up and donate on a monthly basis to the organisation.

Over the years I have continued to support Amnesty and maintained a keen interest in their work. When I started teaching I tried where possible to incorporate human rights into my English and History lessons and I often did this successfully and with some inspiring results from my students. However, it is a daunting and challenging issue to teach young, and indeed older people about as it is such a vital and complex area to teach about in an engaging and relatable manner. When I lived in Australia, I saw that Amnesty ran Teacher Programmes but they were delivered in London and as you can imagine the distance posed a slight hurdle. So when I recently found myself back in Europe and teaching here, I decided to finally sign up and do the training.

20171014_084748_resizedI returned this afternoon from the first inspiring and motivational session in London. Myself and the other teachers on the training spent all day Saturday at the Amnesty offices in London soaking in all the information. I got so much energy and enthusiasm from the training, so much new knowledge, resources and ideas from the session but also from the other teacher who were there. We shared best practice and what we are doing, or have done in our schools and in our classrooms. I now feel that I can stand in front of both adults and children and teach them about and through human rights a lot more comfortably and engagingly than I did before.

It may sound odd but it felt so right being there. I feel that I have a renewed focus, energy and enthusiasm and I’m going to do my utmost to transfer that enthusiasm to my students and fellow teachers at my current school. 20171015_210631_resizedHuman rights is such an important issue and rights are violated and denied a lot closer to home than we realise and on a daily basis. It’s so easy to forget that, we get caught up in our own little bubbles, and often think that human rights violation (if we thing about it at all) is something that is removed from us and happening far away.

As Malala so aptly said in her speech, ‘education is the only solution’. It just takes one person to be passionate enough and to have the courage to start to make a change. Teaching others about human rights is to empower them with the knowledge and skills and for them in turn to pass this on to others. So me, my newfound knowledge, my bag of resource teaching goodies and my empowerment are going to set out to start making a change, even the smallest change, at my current school. I know it won’t be an easy task, but what worthwhile things in life are every easy!

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Wiser words on teaching after surviving my second teaching placement (at a private school)

Year 10 student comment

Year 10 student comment

With three weeks and counting left before I have to submit my final assignment for University, I feel that I’ve come a long way since starting out last September, both in relation to learning about the ins and outs of teaching and of course actually standing in front of a class and teaching.

Year 8 student comment

Year 8 student comment

For my first teaching placement I spent seven weeks at a local public school, after which I have to admit I was slightly skeptical about my second placement which was to be at the local private school. Being myself from the Irish public school system (although at the time I did not rate it and I’m not sure how it’s changed since I was at school) I was already somewhat prejudiced towards the private system, with what I believed were a number of solid reasons. However, after having spent six weeks teaching and working at the private school, my views have changed considerably. Yes, there were elements that I had had preconceived ideas about which proved to be well founded, however, as a whole the school was great, the students were a delight (most of the time) and the other teachers were not only excellent teachers but also very supportive and inclusive.

Year 10 student comment

Year 10 student comment

I know that I already mentioned in a previous blog my slight trepidation regarding my choice of going into teaching before my first placement, and how I was relieved that I had made the right decision during my time at the school. Well this was only further reinforced during my second placement.

Year 8 student comment

Year 8 student comment

At one point during the six weeks I was asked by the principle and other teachers if I could give a careers talks about my background and experiences both of working and University to the Year 9s and the Year 10s. I assented and spent a half hour on two consecutive Thursdays talking about and answering question regarding my previous experiences. When asked by a student in the Year 9 class whether I thought different types of people were suited to certain jobs, I responded that I did believe this was the case, to which I was further pressed as to whether I believed my personality was right for the fields and jobs I had chosen (journalism and PR), this really made me think. The honest answer that I came up with and responded to the class with, was that no, I don’t believe my personality fitted either the field of PR or journalism, but that I had gone outside of my comfort zone and tried and succeeded in both areas, growing with each experience and acquiring new skills. It was only after I said this out load that I realised that standing in front of a class and teaching is the most natural thing for me and it’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt. Yes, I was terrified at the start and the idea of being unprepared for a class truly frightens me (which is why I don’t believe I’ll ever be unprepared for a lesson) but it feels right and that’s what I told the students.

That’s the great thing (I really despise that word, its such a filler and lazy word) about living in the 21st Century, you don’t have to know and decide what to do with your life straight after finishing school. You can go on to try many different things before you decide or find out what it is you’re supposed to or want to do. It took me a few years, but I learnt so much in the process and had the opportunity to travel at the same time, I’d never take any of it back.

And the most rewarding things about teaching; well it’s when you teach a great lesson, when you inspire students and when they write lovely things about you when asked to feedback on your teaching!

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Teaching; I survived my first placement

English

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.

Card

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

Teaching

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.

grammar

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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