Gaelchólaiste an Chlair and Ennis Community College
Degree in French and Economics, UCD
MBA University of Edinburgh
Overall Student of the Year
School Experience & Professional Practice
Why did you choose teaching & why Hibernia College?
I come from a family of teachers, my mother and two of my sisters were teachers. My aunt was actively involved in her teachers’ trade union over the decades. Further back still my grandfather was a School Principal in Co Limerick. Teaching was in my blood so to speak. I also have a huge passion for French thanks to a great teacher I had at school. This personal school experience showed me that teaching is an important profession because it impacts greatly on how we see ourselves as learners and how we feel about learning. I wanted therefore to be part of something meaningful and support individual students’ journey to be the best version of themselves to which they might aspire.
I chose Hibernia College because the blended learning environment suited my need for flexibility. I researched the programme and it was really well structured with highly relevant content. You learn remotely but are part of an active learning community who meet once or twice a week online and once a fortnight or so face to face. The lecturers and tutors are very accessible and responsive through email and by phone. Also the online learning environment enhanced my digital literacy which was critically important for me going forward.
What field of work or study were you in before you started your PME?
When I graduated with a degree in French and Economics from UCD I thought teaching adolescents might be a bit tame. Hence for twenty years I worked in retail sales and marketing. During that time I went back to college for a year to upskill through an MBA which gave me access to more interesting and better remunerated positions within retail business. However one day I got made redundant and used this opportunity to switch roles with my husband. He pursued his career full time and for eight years I was the full time carer of our two sons. Nevertheless the desire to teach never went away. When my sons were twelve and fifteen I registered as a further education teacher and gained two years’ classroom experience covering others’ maternity leave. I found that being in the classroom with adolescents energised me and this gave me the confidence to commit to a new career in my early to mid-50s.
Can you tell us a bit about your research project and why you focused on this area?
Developing key skills as a learner is an integral part of the new Junior Cycle and I was surprised during school placement to see how little insight students had to themselves as learners. My initial research proposal was to understand how to teach learners better metacognitive skills but the actual research project transformed into a critical reflection on my personal journey to becoming a qualified post primary teacher. I chose self-study action research methodology because my purpose was to improve my own practice. Ten other teachers in the school where I taught for my final teaching placement participated in the research and their values, beliefs and purposes in teaching served as a reference point to guide my emerging professional identity. The research generated a rational belief of who I am as a teacher and this gives me the confidence and control to adopt an inquiry stance towards the daily challenges of classroom practice rather than being in permanent pursuit of the right answer. Hopefully the research might be of help to others in initial teacher education as I intend publishing it through the next NEARIMeet or Sociology Association of Ireland Annual Conference.
Now that you have graduated, what are your plans?
I am covering a maternity leave in Gaelchólaiste an Chlair and Ennis Community College, wonderful schools on a single site in Co Clare. I hope to get a permanent position there or in Limerick teaching my registered subjects of French, Economics and Business Studies (Junior Cycle). I plan further self-study action research. Of interest to me is the development of metacognitive skills in the post primary classroom to improve the quality of learning outcomes for all.
What piece of advice would you give to any person considering starting a PME.
Don’t underestimate the commitment required. There is a huge volume of work and you will need to be organised. You get back as much as you put in so contribute actively in webinars and at on sites. If you reach out actively to other students, tutors and lecturers, you will find that it is a very supportive learning community. Keep as open a mind as possible to everything you experience during the course of your studies. Remember there is a wealth of knowledge in the schools where you teach during the two years. Seek advice from your mentors, colleagues in your subjects, principal, deputy principal, career guidance teacher, year heads etc. I found it quite nerve wracking in the beginning but am delighted with the decision to do the PME. It has been a game changer for me.