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19 July 2017 Update







This is a Personal Musing on

the end of the School Year

and what that can mean for

Teachers, Everywhere.




Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students | A Member of the Tutors' Association



Some of the details of school classes and State Exams are particular to Ireland.






Many Teachers felt they

Just Made it to the Last Day ~

Year End is always an enormously busy time!





Parents / guardians / carers always want to contact teachers for end of year review meetings  to discuss their off-springs’ progress, and looking for advice on finding extra tutoring over the Summer break.  This is very time-intensive work, and teachers rarely get sufficient notice to plan the work sensibly, certainly not within their official work schedule.


Clearly, an in-depth meeting with every set of parents / guardians / carers of class students is not possible in the last month, or so, of Term.  If teachers (possibly new teachers) had reached the end of the School Year without knowing how this business is supposed to be managed, they should always ask for advice from the most experienced teachers in the School.


Especially given the situation of newer teachers in Ireland, viz-a-viz payment levels and fixity of tenure, their more experienced colleagues will WANT to support them.


Plan for things to be different Next Year.






Teachers should be advised at the beginning of the School Year on what are the School's Rules regarding accommodating any meetings, including Parent / Teacher meetings, and what is the maximum duration recommended for such meetings.  If no Official School Circular is made available at the start of the academic year on the subject, teachers should request a copy of the School's official position.


I believe P/T meetings should only be held on the School premises, and for a maximum of 15 minutes, unless the matter is discovered to be urgent and very important.  Please see the following Post for suggestions on managing your time, including time spent on meetings:

TEACHERS ~ Caring for Yourself, Your Students, and Reducing Stress.



Equally, teachers should know if ad hoc written reports requested by parents / guardians / carers, are required or optional, how many is the maximum allowed, and how many official written reports are required per student, per annum, plus how much notice the teachers may expect to have.





Teachers at Second Level, especially those teaching Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate (Last Second Level State Exam) students, give up a great deal of their personal time supporting and giving additional tutoring to their students.


They are outside the Exam Halls, after the end of the official School Year, waiting for their students to come out, and to offer care and attention, as students go through Exam Papers, question by question, possibly in tears.


These teachers do not invest their personal time and emotions in the welfare of their students to benefit their careers.  It does not work that way.  They do it because they have a vocation to TEACH ~ to share an enthusiasm for ideas and types / ways of thinking.





Children, young people, and all students, like to know how things are, and how they shall be.  They like structure, and they like the security of knowing what will happen to them next year. 



If they are going into 4th Class, that means they will have Mrs Shaughnessy.  An older brother or sister probably had Mrs Shaughnessy during his / her career in that particular School; the younger student will have heard the stories, good and bad, and will have a reasonably clear idea what being in Mrs Shaughnessy class shall be like. In this scenario, there is a sense of engagement with the local community over decades, and even lifetimes.  If the local school is an integral part of the community, teachers know many children from families as they all make their way through the education system.  Teachers who are known in the community are frequently approached by parents for advice on how to manage a situation with a teenage son or daughter.  The teacher would probably have taught the young person, know the whole family, and would be better able to find a solution to a hiccough, than going through official channels could.


When my sisters, brother, and I attended National School, some of the teachers and sisters (nuns) who had been there in our mother's day were still there.  Our mother liked the sense of continuity.





Most junior school teachers have some level of duty to clean their classrooms before they have finished their year’s work.  This cleaning usually takes place over two days or so, after the last official school day of the year.  They do not get paid for this work.  Indeed, in Ireland, they have to pay for mandatory courses during the Summer break from their own resources.  There is no reimbursement.


Many teachers display highly valued posters and exhibits which they have gathered over years, and are very anxious to make sure they take them home safely.  Then, the rest of the work has to be faced.


SOME TEACHERS engage the assistance of their offspring to help with packing away this personal material, and other jobs. This widespread habit appears to be ignored or unnoticed by school principals or vice-principals.


WHO ASKS if these young people are covered by the School insurance if there is an accident?  As with many such situations, these types of questions frequently only arise when something unfortunate happens ~ when it’s far too late.   TEACHERS! ~ cleaning your classroom is a tiring, messy, boring, long job, and it is very tempting to bring in help from home.  PLEASE rethink this idea.  It is not fair to your offspring, and it is running risks with their Health and Safety.


As with other matters teachers may wish to bring to the attention of the School Management, professional cleaning assistance with end of year clean-up might be a good addition to this list. I do realise there would be little expectation of a positive response, but the matter should be LISTED OFFICIALLY, as a matter of Health and Safety in relation to teachers' welfare.



Teachers may also be responsible for returning equipment to the caretaker or to a store cupboard for sake-keeping over the break.  PLEASE always remember ~ NEVER risk your back or, indeed, any other parts.  LIFT NOTHING!  Pain and injury may only develop later and may not be directly attributable to cleaning work done at the end of the School Year, on School premises.  

If objects have to be moved, you need to book whoever’s job it is to do this, as described in my Post: 

"TEACHERS ~ Caring for Yourself, your Students, and Reducing Stress".


PLEASE take care of yourself and anyone else you involve in work in your classroom.


Teachers Cannot have Bad Backs!






The whole matter of teachers’ fixity of tenure, or contracts of employment, has changed over time.  For many teachers, the last couple of months of any given school year are always spent attending interviews for jobs in other schools starting the next Autumn.  

No-one new to teaching seems certain of his or her place.



Please see my Post, INTERVIEW SEASON, YIKES!!! While older, long-term, teachers may be more secure in their jobs, newly qualified teachers may have to go through a re-interview for the job they have just carried out for the previous school year!


They may have started looking elsewhere months before, with friends everywhere primed to let them know of job opportunities, whenever and wherever they pop up.


This level of uncertainty is not good for teachers, their students, or the overall atmosphere in any School.  This lack of a sense of security may seem to permeate the very brickwork of a School.


After a few, frequent, moves, it MUST be more difficult to CARE, and to spend all the extra hours on Eid al-Fitr, Rosh Hashanah, Hallowe'en, Christmas Play, New Year, and School Concert preparations; designing and making, and practising with the students, when one does not know if one will be around for next year’s productions.


Of course, this situation, which varies from country to country, is very stressful for all teachers. 



AS A PERSONAL COMMENT, I believe a lack of job security in the teaching profession it is a bad policy in relation to the welfare of all students, at every level, as well as the mental health and stress levels of all teachers. Teaching is well-known for being a high risk profession viz-a-viz stress. Not knowing if one shall have a job the following Autumn, is a hugely weighty addition to the personal stress of 'nomad' teachers. 


Cannot Departments of Education see what damage this situation causes to any nation's education?  





If a school principal and his or her senior colleagues do not know who will be teaching in their school during the next scholastic year, as this shall depend on vagaries of School finances, Department of Education subventions, which in turn depend on levels of enrolment, there must be a soul-wrenching element of uncertainty. 


What school principal could wish to lurch from year to year, not knowing potential staffing levels, or who may fill what positions in advance, with good time to plan preliminary timetables and schedules?


Is it any wonder so many school principals retire early on health grounds, resulting from physical and nervous breakdowns?



These comments are based on my observations and considerations, and on information and stories teacher friends from all over the World have given me.



There are many systems, some of them almost impenetrable, but a common thread is a sense of job insecurity experienced by teachers, and a lack of respect for the work done by teachers in their normal job, and so often in the extra hours they give their students and their schools.



Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien




I should be very grateful for all comments and opinions, from teachers, families of teachers, and anyone in the education field.


If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.


My website, www.icobrien.com, "Education Matters" is where my Posts originate, and are updated as necessary and then updated to my Linkedin site


Email iseultccobrien@gmail.com.


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.

Thanks to Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, at abstracteffectsgreetingcards.com, for kindly letting me use copies of his vivid, vibrant, paintings.





If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.  


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!


What do you think?

Iseult Catherine O'Brien