Believe It or Not, It’s Our Last Day :(

On Thursday, we had our last school visit, which was in Dunmore. All the kids gave us an amazing welcome; they sang several songs, told us about their county, and even did an Irish dance (: Sarah and I went to a second/third class and read them “Too Tall Houses”, which is a book about friendship. Then the class had plenty of questions for us about America and Frostburg, and even told us some places to visit while we were in Galway for the day! (They said we’re going to have to come back in July for the arts festival, sooo I’m not opposed to that..)

For lunch, we went to Patricks house, the current Irish GA. They treated so well, and were incredibly kind! We ate so much awesome food (including dessert!) and, again, it was great to have some relaxation time instead of always being on the go.

Then we walked around the streets of Galway, saw the Spanish Arch, and may or may not have done more shopping. We ate dinner in the city then headed back to Courtbrack.

Thankfully, today we got to sleep in a bit and didn’t leave until 10am to go to Adaire Village. This was a quaint town with nice shops and restaurants, plus a beautiful Abbey. We walked around and did some more shopping (you’d think we would get sick of shopping, wouldn’t you?) Hannah, Elle, Maryssa and I ate at a pub and all had the Irish dish of bangers and mash for one of our last meals here. After we got back to our rooms in the afternoon, we had some free time before the dinner party, so most of us walked down through limerick and visited the store Penny’s..just to kill some time (:
We then all got dressed up and headed to the Unicorn for our dinner with some of the past Irish GAs to celebrate an awesome visit here. When we got back, we gave each other paper plate awards, which are like giving a superlative or nickname based on getting to know them the past two weeks. Today was a great way to end a great trip!

I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow, the days flew by! I am just so grateful for the opportunity to come on this trip, and it’s been an amazing experience. Not only did I learn so much for my future career, but I also enjoyed getting to know everyone that came and and seeing the beautiful sights that Ireland is known for (:

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Last Adventures in Cork

On Tuesday, we went to a school in more of the rural side of Cork, and we were in an all girls primary school. They had a portable planetarium that day, so we all got to go in there with the kids and gaze at stars too. Sarah and I went to a second/third class. After the planetarium, they were practicing their whistles, and they sounded really good! Then they split up between the third class and second class and the third class students were reading, and the second class was doing math in their workbooks. After their lunch, Sarah and I read the book “The Sandwich Swap” and did an activity to go along with it that explains how hurtful bullying can be. And the girls had plenty of questions for the Americans of course, so we talked to them a bit before leaving. Then we all went to lunch at Central Perk Café, which was right down the road from the school.

Thankfully, we actually had about an hour of free time when we got back to the hostel, then we headed to Aisling’s home for dinner, and treated us like royalty. She and her family are the sweetest; it was a wonderful meal and they played some beautiful music for us as well!

Today, we visited the old Cork prison, then went to the Butter Museum and had lunch at the Buttercup Café. We walked through the English market too, where the Queen actually visited before. Of course, we then had to walk around and do some more shopping! We made it back to Courtbrack this evening completely exhausted, so we made a run to Supermac’s for dinner and now plan to get some sleep before our early morning tomorrow!

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Cork City

Today, we had the opportunity to go to two different schools for half a day each, both with past Irish GA’s that came to FSU as teachers. Sarah and I went to the junior infant class in both the morning and afternoon, and it was great to see other teaching styles to compare to those at St. Connaires. In the morning, I got to read the book I brought with me and do the craft that goes along with it, which was really my first experience doing a lesson on my own, so I was so happy to have that opportunity here! I noticed how much classroom management she had with the kids, and, again, how well behaved they were. Also, I liked how while they were sounding out words with the sounds they learned, they counted the syllables down their arm. Before we left, they spoiled us again with tea and delicious pastries. In the afternoon, the class was not exactly very well behaved per say, but it was great because they were completely engaged and interested in everything their teacher was saying. They were literally lying across the table to get closer to her while she was with the individual groups. Then, the choir sang several songs for us, and they were so impressive!

After school we headed straight for the Jameson factory for our tour. Complimentary drinks at the end, of course. Then we went to the Titanic experience, which was awesome! It is actually the building that the passengers walked through to board the Titanic back in 1912; there were several rooms with examples of the first class and third class rooms, facts about the ship and icebergs, and information on the passenger we were assigned when given our ticket. Luckily, “I” survived!

We then went to dinner in downtown Cork, and made it back to the hostel for the night. Now, we are going to visit one more school in Cork tomorrow!

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The Rain Didn’t Stop Us

This morning, despite the dreary weather, we set out with our (maybe overstuffed) bags and headed towards Cork. We stopped at the Caves, which was so amazing! They were not commercialized at all, so the experience was simple and all about the caves. It was fascinating to see the creation, and how huge and open it all was!

We then went to a past Irish GA’s home for lunch, which was absolutely lovely. They took our whole group in with welcoming arms and fed us so well! It was wonderful to have some relaxing time around the fire and in the sunroom.

Luckily, the rain cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful day. We made it to Blarney Castle, and it was so neat and yet another beautiful view! Most of us got to kiss the Blarney Stone and cross that off our bucket lists (: We then got to the hostel in Cork, had some dinner, then talked about the next few days and what classes we’ll be going to.

We have quite a packed full schedule for the rest of the week, but I’m so excited to enjoy it all!

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Sightseeing and Touring

Yesterday, we visited the Cliffs of Moher in the afternoon. It was absolutely gorgeous, and shows just how beautiful Ireland is. It was great to see some country side and breathtaking scenery.

Today, we had the opposite experience and visited Dublin City. I loved it, even though it was super crowded. In the morning we went to the Guinness Factory and tasted the famous Irish beer (not exactly my favorite). After lunch, we then went to Trinity College, one of the oldest colleges in Europe, which had a beautiful campus. The library was my favorite; it was so big filled with so many old books. Not to mention gorgeous, as well. Then we walked around a bit..just our luck, a few of us got lost from the group for a bit but soon had Patrick’s sister rescue us! We shopped on O’Connell street for a little while before going to dinner and heading back to Courtbrack.

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Our Final Day at St. Connaire’s

Unfortunately, yesterday was our last time at St. Connaires school. It was a great day though; the 5th and 6th classes put on the play “Oliver” for us! They did absolutely wonderful (:

In the morning, Sarah and I went to a senior infants class with Mrs. Hogan. They, just like the junior infants, impressed me so much! Mrs. Hogan also used used Jolly Phonics, and the kids were working on two letters with one sound. The activities were more to their level, but had the same idea as the junior infant classes. These children were so smart, and when answering their teacher they spoke in full sentences. After Mrs. Hogan read them a book about penguins, Sarah and I got to help them with a craft. With a potato cut in half, they stamped a penguin body shape with black paint (needless to say, it was a bad day to wear white pants). They loved it, and were very tidy even though it was a messy craft.

After the play and lunch, we had some time to discuss the special education in Ireland (and specifically St. Connaires) compared to the U.S. with several teachers and the principal. We also talked about other differences and similarities, and one difference that stood out was that most schools here get 100% attendance for parent/teacher conferences. At home, that would be unheard of! It’s very interesting to hear what’s different and what is the same between the school systems.

After school, Dr. B surprised us and said that he arranged for us to go to Bunratty Castle yesterday afternoon, since we weren’t going to have time to go today. It was beautiful, and the view from the top was amazing! We had to inch our way up and down those narrow, spiral stairs, but it was worth it. After a little shopping, we headed to Scott’s for dinner. Later, we went to Durty Nelly’s, the oldest pub in Ireland, for our party with the teachers from St. Connaires. (:

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Our 2nd Experience at St. Connaires

Today, me and Sarah went to the same 2 junior infant classes but at opposite times of the morning. We each did our craft that corresponded to the book that we brought; Sarah had the kids paint a snowman with marshmallows (which they could just not believe they were painting with a marshmallow!), and I had the other class decorate and glue together popsicle sticks to make a snowflake. All of the children loved these crafts, and remembered what the books were about that we read to them yesterday.

Both teachers used the program called Jolly Phonics to teach them letters today through the smart board. It was really great by using songs, a story, pictures, motions, and actually drawing the letter so the kids could easily learn and retain it. A huge difference between this and American schools is that they taught sounds before the actual letter, so the kids were reading by recognizing a letter by the sound. It was quite amazing to see how smart these 4-5 year olds were, already practicing reading and writing and they’ve only been in school for four months! They even each had a little writing notebook, where they were writing the letter that they had learned that day, and even a simple sentence. I was so impressed!

We were in Mrs. Garrahy’s class right before lunch, and she emphasized that the kids needed some time for activities at this time of the day. She clarified that they were not toys; there was several different boxes of objects and things that the kids could group and and play with them, but they all helped them work on pairs or patterns, and/or fine motor skills. On top of that, this time allowed them to interact and communicate with each other, but in a classroom setting.

In the afternoon, Sarah and I went with Mrs. Garry in resource support. She was working with a boy who had a very rare disease, similar to Down syndrome, that gave him motor and speech disabilities. She works with him for two half hour periods a day, and the rest of the day he is in the classroom. She has about 9 kids total that she works with, all with different situations and things needed to work on; resource support is for more severe cases of disabilities or difficulties (compared to learning support) and to give them one-on-one time to focus on what needs to be improved.

The lecture yesterday and both lectures today were very informative and interesting, especially
since, as a freshman, this is my first experience like this and hearing these topics discussed gave me a great insight to what I will be studying in the next few years and eventually my future career. Yesterday she talked about the importance of oral language in becoming literate and teaching literacy. Tonight, both speakers touched on the early childhood education system and its progression in Ireland; we discussed the differences to America, as well as what we have already observed in the school these past two days.

I have already grown attached to the kids we have been working with, and don’t want to leave them (: I love being in the classroom and getting to observe how the teachers run their classes and having the opportunity to work some with the kids myself!

Fun fact we learned today: the Irish language actually originated in North Africa!

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