Student Teacher Tips

On this day for the past three years I have been busily preparing for my teaching placement to start the next day. This has been a day filled with nerves, excitement, fear and anticipation. I almost never slept the night before placement no matter what time I went to bed, how much lavender I put on my pillow or how many breathing exercises I tried. This year for the first time in three years I am relaxed today and excited for the new school term to begin. The reason of course is because I am no longer a student teacher and do not have to go to school for the next four weeks with the dreaded fear of an inspector knocking on the door at any minute. However, all across the country there are student teachers preparing for placement tomorrow whether it be their first, second, third or last so I have decided to dedicate a blog to them and write down a few things I have learned along the way or things I wish I had of known on my own placements. I hope this blog reaches some of these student teachers and helps give a little calmness or confidence during their first day of placement tomorrow.

Remembering names – this is still one of my worst abilities as a teacher. Do not panic if you are bad at remembering names there are loads of ways to combat this. One of the best tips I ever got about names is to ask students one by one to say their name and one random fact about themselves such as – My name is Emma and I like playing piano. Repeat this after the student out loud. The association with piano helps to link the name to an object which makes remembering easier. If this fails have name cards in place for when the supervisor knocks.

Classroom management Create classroom rules with the students and keep them displayed at all times. Allow students to have a say in what will happen in the class. Be fair but firm. If you say something stick to it. Example if you give three warnings but then do not give a punishment work students will see it as an empty threat and you will lose respect and control. Do not hang on to a grudge if a class goes badly deal with it and move on. Students will forget if you do. If you are in the wrong admit it. If you shout at a student by mistake or lose control apologise students will respect this. If you do have to give punishment work try not give something that is pointless (many schools have rules of what to give) If you can give an essay or something students can learn from.

Apps and Online sites I love and use all the time 

Kahoot – This is an online quiz game very useful for revision. Teachers can make a quiz or pick from loads already uploaded. Students need a phone or tablet with internet access to play. Students can work in pairs or groups if the number of phones available are low. I used this in a history supervision on the Nuremberg Rallies with a TY group and the inspector loved it.

Studyclix – This is another revision aid. Teachers can access all past exam papers to create tests and worksheets. Handy for creating end of chapter exams. – This is a website filled with ideas and programmes you can use in your lessons. They range from name pickers to lesson introductions to fake Facebook pages. The list goes on and on. You could spend hours just playing with the apps this page has to offer but try focus on using them to plan lessons 🙂

Dropbox – With Dropbox you can upload all your lessons, worksheets, power points and videos and can access them from any device with internet access. Everything is saved to the one place and they can be used and reused as you wish. If this is your first placement I would definitely recommend Dropbox because you will reuse the lessons and resources again next year.

Twitter – This I have only learned about this year but Twitter can be an online encyclopedia for teachers if you follow the right people. All you have to do is tweet a question and wait for the responses to fly in. For starters follow Fboss, NCCA, RTAI and Edchatie and see you they follow to get on the right track. You can also check out who I follow @5j16msdunne

See some of my previous blog posts for more apps to use in the classroom 🙂

Plan B This piece of advice is repeated so many times by supervisors and mentors but it is amazing how often we do not listen. it will not happen to us right? The classroom is a very unpredictable place. You never know what is going to happen. The internet may fail, the computer may break or the students may simply react badly to whatever you have planned ALWAYS have a plan B. Whether it be extra worksheets, a different approach or a backup revision game have something that can be adapted for different lessons.

Bring extra work Also a piece of advice that we rarely take on board. There is no worse feeling than a class ending 5 minutes early and you have no work prepared (I speak from experience) It will be the longest 5 minutes of your life. Make some extra worksheets and have enough photocopied if you have an inspection. IF you find yourself in this position and have no work with you do some class revision. Ask students to make a brain storm on the board of the mains things they learned this class, quickfire questions at students, ask students to stand you ask one student a question if they are correct they ask another student until everyone has asked and answered a question.

Ask for Help All teachers were student teachers at some point. Do not forget this. We have all been through what you are going through now. If you need help with a student, a class, a topic or a supervisor ASK there is help and support available. It could be from the staff room, your college or your friends or classmates. You are not alone in this.

Get to know the staff It can be easy to sit down on your first day at one table and stay there for the remainder of your placement but try to move around. Get to know the other teachers. They will be your support network for the next few weeks and you never know who has a friend who is a principal who needs a new teacher next year. Make a good impression.

Look after yourself This might be the most important piece of advice. Ensure you get enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up all night to make sure your power-points are perfect but what use are they if you have a migraine the next day and cannot see properly. Teaching is a draining profession. You will be tired and you will feel run down make sure you do not take on too many extra classes or extra curricular activities. Eat right do not skip breakfast or lunch. Make some time for yourself to see friends and family even if it is only one hour on a Wednesday evening.  You will be surprised how this can help you through.

Have Fun Teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs if you let it. Do not take everything so serious. Have a laugh and a joke with the students but ensure you have strict boundaries and the students know this too. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes students relate to you more when they see you are human too. Get involved with extra curricular if you have time (but do not take on too much) Students love to see teachers take an interest outside of the classroom. Do not hold grudges or hang on to mistakes – start everyday fresh. Do not forget to smile – students will see you are happy to be there and feel like you care about their education.

I hope these few small tips might be of a help to some student teachers. If you wish to comment or add to the list please feel free, all feedback good or bad is welcome. Good luck to everyone starting placement tomorrow especially all from Mater Dei and I hope all teachers both student and qualified have a successful and happy start to 2016.



Homeless Ireland

Last week marked the one year anniversary since a homeless man was found dead on the steps of Dail Eireann in Dublin. According to the Peter McVerry Trust in October of this year over 150 people were sleeping rough in Dublin every night. The minimum number of people homeless at the end of September in the whole of Ireland was over 5,000. This year alone homelessness has risen by 76% in eight months. This includes 1500 homeless people who are under the age of 18, children. (RTE: Sept 15)

The reason I have included this topic in my education blog is because I believe Education is key to helping fight against social injustice and helping bring about positive social change. As teachers and students we may not be able to house 5,000 people but by awakening students attention to the problem and highlighting ways in which they can help we may have a chance at helping even one family find a safe place to sleep.

The internet is an amazing place to find resources on almost any topic. The resources made available on Homelessness are some of the best I have used in a classroom. There are a number of charities that are set up to tackle homelessness and help those affected including:

All of these websites are filled with information, events and resources that can be adapted for the classroom. Some, such as Focus Ireland, even have a section dedicated to school resources. There are people available to come to your school to talk to students. There are plenty of fundraising activities and links to other helpful websites and resources. Below are resources I have used in the classroom. Some are slightly adapted. All taken from TES is the place to go for topics such as homelessness. You never know what you will find.

The first resource I found interesting and useful is a list of 100 facts about homelessness. I out students into groups and ask them to choose the most and least surprising. 100factshomeless

This is a power-point of statistics regarding teenage homeless. These teenagers are close to age to some of our students. This will highlight the importance of trying to help but teacher should also be sensitive if a student may be in a similar position. Runaway Children

This is a six part documentary on homeless children in the UK. EVICTED

All of these resources are free to use and completely adaptable to suit age and ability. The number of homeless people in Ireland is rising daily. We need to do our part to highlight these issues and help the charities to tackle homelessness. Our aim should be together to decrease these figures by December 2016.


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.


Looking Through the Darkness

I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As a student I was always helping other classmates to study, helping with exams and helping with after school study. When I began my teacher training I would have thought I was very realistic and prepared for what the job would entail. I knew I would have behaviour issues, I knew some children would need more help than others, I knew there would be different learning styles and abilities, I knew not all students would like me, I knew about the long days and the work I would have to bring home with me. Despite all of this I still wanted to do it to make a difference and help students find their potential. What I was not prepared for was the emotional  impact and the heartbreak I could potentially face. I did not think about the children being sick, some terminally, students loosing people close to them, students who come from a bad home life, and the students who have no body to rely on but you. How do teachers as human beings prepare for this? Honestly I do not think we can.

In the schools I have worked in so far I have come across students who have nothing, the students from dysfunctional families and students who have lost those closest to them. In the moments I thought my heart would break. Different people deal with this is different ways. I talked to other teachers and to friends and family (omitting names of course). I also cried for these students and for how unfair their young lives seemed to be but when I was with the students I put on a friendly smile and made sure I was there for them in a supportive role. What I found most difficult is encountering the students who have serious illness. This effected me in a different way. I think this is because there is no way I can physically help them to get better. I can support and offer guidance but I cannot fight the illness. I feel helpless.

I have been struggling to deal with this for a time now but this week I met someone who offered great insight and support even if he did not realise. This person was a chaplain. He has seen a lot of the world and has encountered heartbreak and disaster numerous times. When he was asked how he dealt with this and the effect it has on him personally he said that even in the worst situations light and love in some form can be found. He used the recent Berkley tragedy as an example. Even throughout the horror of the accident the sense of togetherness and support offered by students across Ireland and America created a beacon of love and light in the darkness.

The lesson I learned from this man is that to always look beyond the sadness or tragedy and find some hope. In a school this could be in the form of friendship, love, community, support, family, small acts of kindness. Even in the worst situations there is always some light if we are willing to look. If someone passes away we have the love they leave behind. If someone is sick we have the support from friends and family. If someone has a bad home life we have the care and support from friends or teachers. If there is no light we should try to help create it. This lesson I think is very important for teachers especially RE teachers to embrace in order to help deal with the stories we will hear all the time. Next time I have a child in a bad situation I am going to try look beyond the pain to find the light and help the student to see the light also. This is how I can help in the situations which feel out of my control and what I intend on doing from this point onwards.

Cyber Bullies

I think everyone can agree the internet is an amazing thing but we cannot deny it has its weaknesses. One such weakness is cyber bullying. The month of November in the UK is anti bullying month and this year there is an added focus on Cyber Bullying. Cyber bullying involves unwanted messages, images, audio or video sent by electronic means to threaten, abuse or harm someone. ( Some examples of cyber bullying include:

  • Abusive messages or slagging on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram  etc.
  • Offensive comments on videos or posts.
  • Spreading rumours online.
  • Hacking into your online accounts.
  • Posting offensive images or posting doctored images of victims

While the idea of an Anti-Bulling week or month is highly commendable it is important to highlight anti-bullying in schools all year around. Bullying happens everyday in every school and every playground no matter how much we fight against it. Before cyber bullying the person being bullied got an escape once they made it through the school day. Today with the advancing technologies and the wide access to internet bullying can occur 24/7 which makes it more dangerous than ever. So how so we fight against it?  In my opinion EDUCATION

Bullying happens we cannot stop it completely but by making students understand what bullying is and the effects it has on people we may be able to stop potential bullying incidents. Often bullies do not realise when they are bullying. I have often heard people who I went to school with who did bully people claim to hate bullies and everything related to bullying. They do not realise bullying can take small forms as well as big. It can be something as simple as whispering so a person cannot overhear, laughing when a person enters the room, asking questions which make people awkward, excluding a person from a group or including them just so you can make fun at their expense. Students need to understand that the little things make just as much of an impression as the big things.

Students need to be aware of the amount of support that is out there for people who have been and are being bullied. Schools should have a support system in place and students should be made aware that there are people to talk too. If students are uncomfortable talking to someone they know there is a whole world of support online. Childline,, Samaritans, webwise, anti bullying ireland, and all offer a mountain of support and this is only a number of organisations that are available.

In today’s cyber world a big part of the problem is not seeing the reaction bullying can have. It is not a personal interaction. It is done by phone or through a computer screen. Students need to develop empathy with others and be able to see what the effects of bullying can be. To tackle this problem there are a lot of online videos that talk with people who have experienced bullying and who still are. People are often available to come into schools to chat in person about the effects of bullying and what you can do.

Bullying is not going to disappear any time soon but awareness, support and responsibility can help tackle the problems in our schools. Below I have links to some videos that can be used to highlight the issue that I hope people find useful.

If you are reading this and are a survivor of bullying or it is occurring now do not be afraid to talk to someone, a friend, relative online etc. You are not alone and help is out there even if it does not feel like it.

Video Two

Video One

Video Three

Twitter as a Learning Resource

As I mentioned in a previous post I am relatively new to the world of Twitter. I have set up my new Twitter account for my Digital Learning module as part of my Masters degree. The purpose of my new Twitter account is to connect with as many people as possible from the world of education in order to learn and grow as part of the education online community. Before being set this task I would never have thought of Twitter as a place where I could find resources or advice on teaching. But I was unbelievably wrong. Twitter is a goldmine for the educator if you know where to look . In order to discover how to make the most of twitter I began looking up tutorials and articles to see how to use twitter and how it can improve my work as an educator. The first article that stood out to me is written by Megan McPherson, Kylie Budge and Narelle Lemon. This article talked about twitter as an informal learning space. I immediately liked how they described twitter as this informal learning space as I think it takes away some of the pressures usually related to learning and educating. They speak about twitter broadening the conversation from the hallways and staff-rooms into the global sphere. You have control over the type of profiles you follow to ensure the news you want to see comes up onto your profile. The 140 word maximum tweet also provides a quick vies of the story and then if you want to research further you can use the hash tag to search for more opinions and discussions. ‘Twitter efficiently filters information through’ (McPherson 2015) so we can see what we need to see.

The second author that spoke to me was a fellow blogger, Tom Barrett. Barrett, in a blog about twitter for teachers, describes twitter as a constantly flowing river (Barrett 2008). When we open up our twitter accounts or feeds we are at the banks of the river looking at the ever flowing water. Some people stay here looking on taking in the new information or some people dive in and eagerly contribute. Whether you are on the banks or in swimming you need to be involved to see what is happening. If you are away and miss a tweet it has been washed downstream and unless someone re tweets it is likely gone forever.
I think what stood out to me as an educator from both these articles is the possibilities twitter holds for people. It is a mass collection of information, resources and opinions that can help you form opinions and gather ideas. At the start it is ok to sit back and watch the flow but I think for educators to get the most from twitter they need to learn to swim. It is important to share opinions and begin discussions in order to learn and grow. I think it is time I put on my armbands and go for a swim also. If you have read this and have anything to add please find me on twitter and join me in discussion 🙂 5j16MsDunne is my twitter name I look forward to hearing from you.

Working Together

This week I have been introduced to the world of Twitter (I’m a little bit behind I know). I am trying to use my newly activated twitter account to connect with people involved in education from all over the globe in order to learn something new, gather resources and maybe hear some free advice. In return I hope to be able to contribute my own resources and offer any advice I can give as a newly qualified teacher.

Today I came across the picture below and I thought it summarised my new quest perfectly. We all need a little support now and then and it is nice to know there is a whole world of it out there. On that positive note I am off to explore the world of twitter. Happy Wednesday 🙂