My photograph of daisies from car-free Inis Bofin, off Co Galway.


Summer 2019 Update







Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students |

A Member of The Tutors' Association




I came late to teaching.  After over 25 years as a personal secretary, personal assistant, and an office manager, I changed direction, and studied Montessori Teaching and Supervision.



Having started with 2.5 to 6 year olds, I changed focus, due to a chronic migraine, and now tutor second level students, usually on a one-to-one basis.  Dr Montessori's Methods are applicable to all students and teachers based, as they are, on developing self-reliance, self-confidence, self-directed learning, respect, Grace and Courtesy, and consideration for others.


The following was current when Dr Montessori wrote it in the mid-20th Century, and it shall always be current, because children and young people will always have the same needs, wherever they are in the World.



"Education demands, then, only this:

 the utilization of the inner powers

of the child for his own instruction."


 ~ Maria Montessori




Working with young people is always totally engaging and energizing.  It opens my mind to new concepts, broadens my vocabulary, and my taste in music and film!


I have learnt a crucial lesson in relation to the importance of certain people in a young person's life.  If a young person is acting out of character, or is unusually quiet, a friend moving away, or leaving their school, or the young person himself moving home, could be the cause ~ having an enormously disruptive effect on a young person's life structure.


The need for friendship is not a conversation many young men are comfortable having, and so it is not likely that this reason for a change in behaviour would necessarily be obvious to teachers, or even family.


Clearly, a change in the circumstances of friends, or oneself, are centrally important to a young person, and how he locates himself socially.  I now know to be aware of another possible reason why a student has had a significant change in demeanour and behaviour.


I enjoy greatly my work as a voluntary tutor with the educational element of An Síol, a Community Initiative, based in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7.  I attend our Monday evening sessions, during term time, with great enthusiasm.  I revel in seeing my Student grow in confidence, week by week, starting to introduce her own ideas, interpretations, and suggestions to how we should approach our work.


There is enormous satisfaction in seeing a Student blossom, as she becomes aware of her potential and capabilities.  Each new academic year brings new subjects and, of course, a new Student ~ with all her hopes and plans, and our job together is to do our best to get her where she wants to be.



I have also had the pleasure of working with groups of second level young men, doing intensive study sessions, plus individual sessions with young men working to get back into education, or making the extra effort to stay in second level. These study sessions are organized by Conor Casby of Dublin1&7SCP, which covers more or less the postal districts Dublin 1 and Dublin 7, and is a  School Completion Programme.


The enthusiastic, open-minded, welcoming attitude of the Students is refreshing, and makes these  most enjoyable experiences.  I certainly learn more from these charming young men than I teach them!


Working on an intensive basis, one-to-one, with a Student wishing to re-enter education, his popping ideas made every day a brand new experience. Working with him was great fun and exhilarating, waiting for yet another perspective, another reason why, or why not. It was like being plugged into the mains ~ I can still feel the buzz!


Working so intensively,  for two hours at a time, I realised clearly some of the various pressures on young men, and how deeply important good friendships are to them.


In 2017, approximately 9,000 students did not complete second level education.



Every hour I spend with young people

teaches me something new.







My photo of the mauves, violets, pinks, cerises, purples, lavenders, olive greens,of the Maple in Autumn Glory.








I am driven by a strong interest in and commitment to every aspect of the care, welfare, and education of all our children, young people, and those of us who missed out on education the first time around.  


Please see my website,, "Education Matters",  for new and constantly updated Posts on all aspects of education and the related matter of the welfare and well-being of our children and young people. My LinkedIn site gives an idea of my day-to-day work, the groups and organisations to which I am affiliated, plus my previous experiences in education and other spheres.


I am committed to a social and family support for all children and young people, in an holistic environment, where parents, guardians, carers and teachers, join to support and encourage each other in promoting the best interests of every child, every young person, and everyone who is returning to education.



At the declaration of our Republic in 1916, a promise was made to "cherish all the children of the Nation equally".  It is a laudable ideal, and we have a very long way to go to make it true.


Please see some of my following Posts named firstly as listed on the website menu, with the proper name of the Posts following in brackets, as appropriate.  I update and develop new Posts as necessary.










Many of my Posts are aimed at helping parents, guardians, and carers, get more involved in their youngsters' lives. Child's Life Balance (WHAT ABOUT THE WORK / LIFE BALANCE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNGSTERS?).


These include encouraging more interaction with their child(ren)'s school, gaining confidence to ask questions, and to get as involved as they wish to in school life, including  HELP PARENTS, etc (HELPING PARENTS, GUARDIANS, AND CARERS BECOME INVOLVED), plus Meeting the Teacher (QUESTIONS FROM PARENTS / GUARDIANS / CARERS FOR YOUR CHILD'S YEAR TEACHER). 



Your response to any of my Posts would be welcome.






Free second level education was introduced in 1967 by the then Minister for Education, Mr Donagh O'Malley, in the face of a great deal of opposition.  In that year approximately 61,500 students availed of this new opportunity. 


Despite the high ideal of Mr O'Malley, secondary schooling is not 'free', involving as it does mandatory 'voluntary contributions' from families, and in some instances, students are not given access to a locker or space to hang their outdoor clothing due to non-payment of the 'voluntary contribution'. 



Many parents, teachers, friends and families, spend a great deal of time coming up with fund-raising ideas, purely to supply the basics for education,  eg, text books, tickets for performances of plays on the curriculum or films which are part of the syllabus.



I repeat, in 2017, approximately 9,000 students did not complete second level education.



In this current year, 24 per cent of working class students gained higher level education chances, while 80 per cent of middle class students gained the same education chances.



Mr Joe Duffy's RTE1 Television programme, "The Classroom Divide", broadcast on 18 September 2017, gives a clear view of the different opportunities open to young people depending on their families' education background, income levels, where they live, and a still current eugenic-type notion that some types of young people just haven't got what it takes. 



60 per cent of families get into debt trying to support their youngsters in third level education.  Travel, accommodation, and living costs are enormous, and most young people work at weekends and sometimes also in the evenings to help bridge the gap. 



These young people are over-tired  and frequently don't benefit fully from the opportunities of joining societies and sports clubs, making friends on a broader scale, and developing a network where they and other students can help each other in their free time.







From demonstrating skills to the youngest children, via Dr Montessori's Methods, to encouraging children and young people to express their feelings through various media; to the constant support and encouragement of them in developing self-reliance, self-confidence, and a sense of self-worth; I have found great satisfaction and enjoyment. Unfortunately, a constant migraine since 2009, made teaching in a Montessori School setting impossible.  However, I have found tutoring young people, and it is my joy and vocation. I am a lucky woman.


My commitment to the Universal Right to Education includes support of NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency, which is an organisation aimed at encouraging people to make a decision as adults who, for whatever reason, did not get a chance of an education in their younger years. NALA lobbies for access to education, advocates the rights of potential students, promotes 'Plain English' and, through their television advertisements, highlight the possibly hidden needs of many adults while helping them to choose to sign-up to a second chance at learning.




My deeply held belief is that all school schedules, work practices, management systems, all State teacher training at junior and senior level, and any planning for the future of a school, should be designed around the 'Best Interest of the Child / Student'.  This is based on Dr Montessori's ethos that all we do as teachers is done for the "best interest of the child".


My Post, Student Leads Work (THE STUDENT TAKES THE LEAD DESIGNING WORK PLANS, FIRST PRINCIPLES) details how building self-reliance and self-confidence in a student, on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups, helps her or them build resilience, and develop the confidence to rely on her or their own insights, and learn to argue a stance, calmly, with clear language, using relevant examples.



I consider that anyone who has a connection with the education, and the care of all our children and young people, should feel that they also have the support of others. I know there are times when people involved in education can feel overwhelmed and very stressed, and may feel distress at the circumstances of some of their students, and the considerable efforts some of them have to make to get to school at all.



Teachers can feel conscious of being on display at all times, open to comment and criticism from colleagues, students, students' parents or carers, and any passing person with a view to air. This is a constant pressure which is added to by the performance assessment, which while necessary and required, is an additional pressure.



Please see my various Posts, aimed at starting a conversation with anyone who has an interest in Education, in its broadest sense. If you have a view to offer, I'd be glad to hear about it.



Please see my Post, Teachers' Notes (Teacher ~ Caring for Yourself, Your Students, and Reducing Stress), for suggestions on how to help maintain good mental and physical health, and reducing stress levels, as a teacher, plus how to manage your working life to best suit you and the well-being of your students.






 Copyright: <a href=''>konradbak / 123RF Stock Photo</a>







There is so much fascinating research, coming from the United States and various EU countries, all showing the long-term benefits to children (and their mothers) if a mother receives district nurse support from the first trimester of pregnancy onward. Tested at two and eight years, and later on in second level school, the children born with such an early assistance, show significantly higher intellectual and social attainments compared to general expectations, with a markedly superior than normal long-term attendance at education. Women who received this support are likelier to have fewer pregnancies, and so reducing the health risks associated with pregnancy, and benefiting their long-term health.


Equally, it has been shown, time after time, that early years educational support of children, from around two years onward, gives these children, especially those from less affluent backgrounds, a significant boost in their intellectual, cognitive, and social development.


All these welcome benefits for children through to adulthood, also save the Exchequer considerable sums in the longer term in relation to social welfare payments made, in a reduction of drink and drug rehabilitation services required, and the accompanying health care costs. People from poorer and less educated backgrounds are likelier to suffer poor health, and to live shorter lives.


However one wants to view the societal benefits, either fulfilled children and young people, or as financial savings to the State, surely we should all be calling for these interventions as a basic right, in the effort to give our fellow citizens, of all ages, a chance of the best possible opportunities, and the best quality life possible.


Your views on this matter would be very welcome.






Photo of tree in Stroud Museum's Garden, England.









I have always known of the disparity of opportunities and treatment experienced by students from their first day at school, to their last.  I saw it in my day, decades ago; and squirmed at the brutal humiliating way SOME of my classmates were treated by the nuns, only, in our junior school.  The vulnerable students, those whose parents were unlikely to complain, were fair game. We were all beaten frequently, again, only by the sisters in religion.



However, what is really depressing and frustrating,is that I still hear young people being barked at by YOUNG teachers as if they were privates on a barracks square, rather than young people, open to learning, sitting right next to these teachers.  


Who ever gave these teachers the notion they have permission to speak loudly to ANYONE in this ignorant, humiliating, and derogatory manner?


Is there not a portion of the 'teacher training schedule' where the student teachers are shown the proper, respectful, and engaged way in which to speak to their pupils?


I had hoped that the way teachers speak to students would have changed in the  forty-plus years since I left school. Indeed, I find that many students have no expectation of consideration from their teachers; and that the exceptions are those who are remarked upon.



I have always wondered why some people remain working as teachers when it is clear from their constant irritation, and lack of interest, that teaching is not the best profession for them and their skills.  Do people just get stuck in the job, with the pension to come, as the only light in the back of their minds?


Imagine how much happier an unhappy teacher could be, if he or she was helped to find a new profession, with assistance in sourcing training or retraining, and with time and support from schools and the unions.


How much happier these former teachers could be; how much happier their families could be; and how much happier their former students and colleagues would be.



Consider the drop in levels of negativity ~ in classrooms, homes, and staff rooms, all over the Country.



It takes courage to change career from what is seen as the safe, pensionable, profession of teaching.  Are the teachers' unions prepared to take the initiative, and help their members restart their lives?   A short-term reaction might be "what union would actively help members leave their jobs and thus their union membership?"   The answer should be, "any union which cares about the general welfare of its members, and the standards of teaching and pastoral care prevailing nationwide".



I do not expect a rush of permanent exits from school gates!


I have heard about what happens in classrooms from both students and teachers.  In confidence, teachers have told me of their frustration at some colleagues, and at being fed up with the endless griping from these same colleagues in the staff room.  I had often wondered what teachers say to each other in the staff room, and how often the the subject of 'giving it all up', appears in conversation.



This is not an anti-teacher rant!

We have generations of teachers in our family, of whom we are very proud.



I just know the vast majority of students only get one go at second level schooling.  These young people deserve, and are entitled to, the best quality education possible.



If students were seen as CLIENTS OR CONSUMERS, the quality of some of the education on offer to them, would be returned as 'UNFIT FOR PURPOSE', to quote that ugly phrase.



I believe radical rethinking is required. We hear there are numerous unemployed teachers.  Surely, taking a long view, it would make financial as well as social sense to make the very necessary changes.






My photograph of mixed foliage from our garden.









I should be very keen to receive views, ideas, criticisms ~ both negative and positive ~ to my various Posts related to education, and my views on what our children and young people deserve, and have a right to expect.  Indeed, what we are all entitled to as citizens of a republic.




I believe education is not solely the job of teachers, tutors, professors, or Ministers of Education.  We all have experiences which would be of benefit to young people.  I also believe we have a duty to get involved with helping and supporting our young people using our skills, gathered over the years.  



Retired or unemployed people have decades of working and life experience, and are a great untapped National resource.



The joy one feels seeing a Student grasp an idea, the glow and the delight he or she shows, is priceless!





My photo of JFK Arboretum on a sunny Winter's day.







I admire greatly Bruce Lee, his films, his moral and physical courage, his ethos, and his writings; leading to a life-long love of martial arts films, films from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, and onto an interest in Eastern philosophy.


Any film graced by Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Zizi Zhang, Michelle Yeou, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Jay Chou is a pleasure. I love the work of Zhang Yimou.


Akira Kurosawa was one of the greatest film-makers.


Jessye Norman's rendition of Strauss's "Four Last Songs"​ is sublime. Sinatra's 'Capital'​ recordings are a joy.  Paul Weller composes with passion and care, and is electric live.  Muddy Waters and Howlin'​ Wolf are my standby men.  Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Chiwoniso, and Marilyn Monroe, inhabit my heart. Damien Dempsey makes me a prouder Dubliner!  Iarla O Lionard has the voice of an angelic bard.


David Bowie's genius and many kindnesses are immortal.


Oscar Wilde's life and work are more relevant than ever.   Jane Austen is a very spicy cocoa.  Cormac McCarthy's spare style of truth-telling scars the heart.  Claire Keegan's lyrical, pastoral, writing is exquisite. John Donne's interweaving of sacred and human love lead to rapture in his masterly twisting together of words and ideas.  Zadie Smith is wise beyond her years.  Antonia Fraser breathes history to life, as does Hilary Mantell.  I believe an intense, slow, reading of history, helps us see what's going on today. Human nature does not change. Eavan Boland's poetry is a humane history of our lives as women, Irish women, and citizens of this Republic.  Michael Tsarion has a fascinating and refreshing view of us all and our origins, from earliest times. Primo Levi wrote about and fought the pain of his Concentration Camp memories. The day came when he could take the pain no more. He is a hero for humanity.  I do judge a book by its cover, and in the process have discovered for myself some great writers, fascinating tales, and magical storytelling in poetry or prose.



I am at peace in woods and by water.


Walking Curraghacloe Beach in Winter is purest exhilaration!


The JFK Memorial Arboretum in New Ross, Co Wexford, is my Cathedral of Nature.


Hand-written letters and cards, are pleasures for a lifetime.




Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien







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.


Email, or see my LinkedIn site 


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.


I should be very keen to receive views, ideas, criticisms ~ both negative and positive ~ to my various Posts related to education, and my views on what our children and young people deserve, and have a right to expect.









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!




Reply 29.07.2016 10.44

Jillian Russell

Well done Iseult. I love your article. Delighted you are working at what you have such passion about

Latest comments

09.12 | 12:04

An excellent website Iseult with some very meaningful ...

29.07 | 10:44

Well done Iseult. I love your article. Delighted you ...