This week the sixth years have had meetings with the guidance counselor  about completing their C.A.O choices. For anyone unfamiliar with the CAO, students complete this prior to completing the leaving certificate. Students who wish to attend third level education complete a form in which they  rank ten level eight college courses in order of which they would prefer to attend. Students also have the choice to list ten six/seven level courses as a safety net in case they do not receive the points they are hoping for in the leaving certificate or if they wish to attend a College of Further Education. When the results come out in August the students who have achieved the grades and get the necessary points for their chosen course will receive an offer for a college course.

Students are told to take care when completing the CAO forms. They must insure they complete the relevant information, research the courses they are imputing to make sure they are the correct ones and to put them in the correct order. The order of the courses is one of the most important things in my mind for the following reason. For example let us say a student puts nursing first, teaching second and business third on their list. August comes and the student has done exceptionally and got the points needed for their first choice. They receive an offer for the nursing course but then decide no they really want to be a teacher. If a student is offered their first place they can reject it however they will not be offered any other place on the list. This means a student will have to wait a whole year before they can apply again.

Some of the students I have chatted to about this have told me they feel extremely pressured and unsure of what to do. This is completely understandable. Students are aged between 16-18 and they are being asked to make decisions that will have a huge effect on their adult lives. They also have the stress on pre-mocks, mocks and the actual leaving cert to deal with also. My advice to students this week has been to breath.  Take a moment to sit down and think about your options. To the students who have an idea of what they would like to do I am advising them to shop around for different college courses that offer similar things in regards to the career offered at the end. For the students who do not have a clue I have told them to look at what they are interested in and to research ways they can make these things into a career. I advise all students to look at the level 6 and 7 courses. Some of these courses offer amazing skills. Many are only one year long so if its not what you want it will not last forever and you will still be young enough to start another course the following year.

Above all I am trying to get the message across that if for some reason students to not get the course they want or if they change their minds later it is not the end of the world. Like I said above you can do a PLC for a year and reapply or you could work for a year while deciding what you want to do. Students think that if they do not start college straight away they will fall behind and never go back. That is not the case anymore. People are starting college at all ages and at different stages of life. Personally I made the mistake in the example above. I put business number one and when the offer came in I said No I want to be a history teacher. At the time I was heart broken but I got some good advice from my own teacher and I signed up for a beauty and leisure course for one year. In this year I feel I grew up a lot and I felt ready for college then when the time came. I do not regret my choice for a second.

Students need support at this time in their lives. They have so much to deal with in school alongside any personal things in their home lives. If we as teachers can help them through and show them they have options and different roads to go down I think it will make the journey easier.



Blogging as a Method of Reflection

When I think about blogging and what I want to put into my blog I automatically think of other people. How can my blog help other people? What resources will others find useful? What have I learned that some other new teacher might not know yet? I never really thought about what I could take from my blog. Yes it is a nice place to keep my favourite resources but how else could it help me as a newly qualified teacher. This thought never entered my mind until I read an article by Maureen Killeavy and Anne Moloney on a study which looked at using blogs for reflective practice.

Reflective practice is a crucial part of being a teacher. No class no matter how well prepared we are is ever going to be 100% perfect. Some do go smoother than others but we still have to ask ourselves what made that class better than others? We are always reflecting even when we do not realise it. So how do we reflect efficiently? We are told to look back and see what went wrong or what worked well and build on that information to improve the next class. It is suggested that teachers, especially NQTs, keep a journal or diary for reflective practice. This is a nice idea but it is often not practical. Some teachers have eight classes a day and it can be hard to find the time to write in detail what made the class great. Often we find ourselves reflecting as we run down the corridor into the room that went downhill yesterday. When dealing with one class or one day this type of reflecting is often all we have time for (Not necessarily a good thing but we work with what we have).
What about the long term? How do we reflect on a month, six months or a years teaching? This is where the report says a blog can be extremely useful. On a blog we can document our thoughts and feelings throughout the year, the classes that went well and the ones that went not so well, our teaching and learning styles etc. We do not have to do a daily update but the report stated that teachers who blogged once or twice a week found it helpful to look back and see how far they had come. Some teachers reported that at the beginning of the school year as a NQT they felt alone, insecure, unequipped for some situations. After a year teaching they admitted to not realising how far they had come until looking back at their first blog posts and seeing that these feelings had improved or disappeared with experience. From the information we upload we can look back to see how we have changed for the good and sometimes the bad. We can see how far we have come as teachers. A blog has the added benefit that we can share it with others who have had similar experiences. People can comment and ask questions about your practice and offer advice and support which in my opinion all teachers need at some stage.
For this post I am talking about a reflective blog in the short term as in up to one year but imagine having something after a 30-40 year career in teaching to be able to look back at and say this is how far I have come and having one place to keep all the memories good and bad you have gathered along the way. This, I think, would be something extremely valuable and remarkable. This article has made me think about blogging in a completely new way and I hope to be able to use this new way of thinking to improve my blogging style in order to create something that can benefit me personally as well as other new teachers who may read my blog.