Bailieborough Community School, Cavan
BA in German and French from UCD
Why did you choose teaching & why Hibernia College?
I have come late to teaching. However, I think I always wanted to teach, but the right opportunity never presented itself, and life kept getting in the way. However, teaching was always nagging away at me. I had been working in the private sector for over 30 years, often working in close proximity to one of my passions, namely foreign languages and when I was made redundant, the opportunity to pursue my dream appeared right in front of me. With the encouragement of a loving family, I went for it, and here I am, teaching foreign languages and history. Furthermore, I have always enjoyed coaching badminton to kids, seeing the incremental improvements they make from day one. Removing the mystery of foreign languages for young people, and seeing them glow with pride after they are able to introduce themselves in either German or French has given me a job satisfaction I have been missing for 30 years. I chose Hibernia College because it offered me the flexibility to study which was invaluable to me.
What field of work or study were you in before you started your PME?
I graduated with a BA in German and French from UCD many years ago, having started German as a beginner at college. During my studies I spent a year working as a Foreign Language Assistant Teacher on the German North Sea island of Föhr. After completing my studies, I subsequently worked in Germany for a number of years in the tourism business before returning to Ireland in the early nineties as the Irish economy started to grow. I got involved with the first Contact Centres opening at the time, all multi-lingual, and I worked for a number of companies in this field, travelling extensively to Europe, North America and Asia during this time until I started the PME in 2017.
Can you tell us a bit about your research project and why you focused on this area?
During the PME, I was fortunate to get offered placement in Bailieborough Community School in Co. Cavan, and I also obtained occasional substitute hours. When I walked into one of my first classes, I noted a certain disengagement and indifference by a percentage of my students, namely the boys. This was something I had not expected, but as I continued my practice, I continued to observe this phenomenon. I made up my mind quite early that this area would form the basis for my research project – specifically the under-achievement and lack of engagement by adolescent boys in Modern Foreign Languages. It is an area I am passionately interested in, and both want and need to understand better. After all, the target group is 50% of my student cohort. Some of my key findings encourage me that all is not lost. Getting foreign languages into all primary schools would be a great start, and developing cross-curricular links between foreign languages and other subject areas is a growing area in education. Finally we need to continue to promote and discuss the advantages and positives to be gained from developing some knowledge of a foreign language in our ever changing world.
Now that you have graduated, what are your plans?
On completion of the Masters, I have been fortunate to obtain a RPT contract in Bailieborough Community School. and I can honestly say that I have landed on my feet. Both German and French are promoted strongly in the school, and I have a full timetable which allows me to follow my dream of de-mystifying foreign languages, with the addition of one of my other hobbies, History. I am constantly looking for ways to keep all students engaged with the languages I teach, making it relevant to all, but obviously with particular focus on boys. I also get to coach badminton to even more kids, so I could not be happier.
What piece of advice would you give to any person considering starting a PME.
The PME is a challenge, but is manageable. Fully commit to it, and be organised. Use your particular cohort – your classmates will be the rock you will reach out to, and return to again and again – they are going through the same thing, and you will both find support from them, and provide support to them. The 2 years fly by – and suddenly, and wonderfully, you are a teacher.