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20 March 2018 Update












Are You Preparing Yourself for the

End of the Scholastic Year?







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.








Beware the Light!! Youngsters at Risk on Smartphones!!

Reproduction of vibrant painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, neildouglas09@gmail.com. Courtesy of the Artist.








Please read the following Posts for your own information and  in preparation for suggesting it to your students ~ BEWARE!! BEWARE THE LIGHT!!, YOUNGSTERS ARE AT RISK ON THEIR SMARTPHONES & ONLINE!!.  This is a subject of enormous importance, affecting the vast majority of families to a greater or lesser degree: there seems to me to be a determined attitude on the part of some not to face the topic at all.  


If you decide that having your students spend a week with a minimum or preferably no use of their electronic devices would be a beneficial exercise,write to all the parents / guardians / carers (PGCs) early in your planning, to let them know what you wish to do, why, and request their support of the undertaking.


When you have made your preparations, please give your students plenty of notice of what you plan.  You can help your students from as early as six years, and younger, to reduce their use of online or electronic devices significantly, now, for at least the period of one week, even the youngest students shall be surprized how very difficult they find this self-imposed 'deprivation'. 



I suggest you have a 20 minute chat each day with the younger students during the week of abstinance, to find out what part is most difficult for them, let them compare experiences, and wind up each session with encouragement.   Students from eight to ten years and upwards, could keep a daily audio or bullet point diary for the period, describing their difficulties in carrying out the exercise, listing the expected and unexpected consequences, and if they realized the exercise would be so difficult.  It is worthwhile spending at least this much time discussing this topic with the younger students ~ they may be very shocked and surprized at how much they miss not having their devices available all evening, and at other times of the day.


A detailed diary giving each student's new perspective of their usual activities, and any changes in their sleep pattern over one week, should be a very useful exercise for everyone, including you. 


For the period of this exercise, you may wish to put in place different types of work, so that your students shall continue with their studies but using other methods.  For State Exam second level students, have a range of off the syllabus books to encourage reading around the curriculum, which will give insight and broaden their understanding of the curriculum.  As there will be a range of books read over the period of a week, all students could be asked to prepare a 20-30 minute talk on the book they read, as an exercise in precising work, and also in addressing a group on a new topic.  Ask the students to prepare their talk bearing in mind questions may come from fellow students.  The reading and question sessions could be held a few times a week and the whole class should be finished their presentations within two months.


Gather a selection of books from the School / College Library for your particular subject(s), and have a list of other books widely available in Public Libraries.  Give the student as wide a range of books as possible to choose from, and to avoid any book being read by more than one student.  The benefit for the students of reading text from a book and keeping simultaneous written or audio notes of ideas they consider particularlyinteresting, novel, radical, useful, plus keeping a note of the requirements for a bibliography, is that they shall be reading a book actively, with the intention of mining it for every nugget.  Passive reading is an easy habit to get into to,and we all need to fight against drifting through a book.



Many of your students shall be facing exams, and even if they are not State Exams or end of college year exams, they shall still experience high degrees of stress, heightened by expections.



Holding a few period-long written examinations in the classroom, without prior warning or preparation, is an excellent way to help students get used to the experience of exams.  Have the written work handed up at the end of the class, and over a few days work through the papers, noticing where students had difficulties.  A lack of information is not what you are looking for, initially. 



You need to find out if your students know how to face exam situations.  It's possible your class has never faced a serious exam, and none of them knows how they would perform.  Once you have examined the papers from the first written 'exam', and returned them, discuss with the students what elements seemed most difficult, and ask if any were surprized by marks or remarks you gave for particular sections.  You and they need to know this well before the Summer exams are upon you ~ explain this to your students.  If you and they can discover their most common errors in facing an exam situation, you and they can work together on eliminating those errors.  To lose marks over basic grammar, spelling, or sentence or paragraph construction is a dreadful waste of an opportunity.



We don't have to like an exam system that is so reliant on one or two written exam papers being the main test of a whole school career.  We do have to accept the systems presented to us, and try to find the most user-friendly way to approach them.  If students can be instilled with confidence and self-belief, it will help them in any exam, and especially if they hit an unexpected obstacle.  Practise and resilience - which they will have developed - will seee them through obstacles.



Working with your students about the quality and quantity of informationrequired to answer adequately an exam question is a different skill, which shall also need to be accommodated.  If you present your students with a series of Work Plans to help them manage the work load expected of them, you shall be giving them the best chance to manage their time wisely, and reduce their stress levels.



Please see the Posts, THE STUDENT TAKES THE LEAD DESIGNING WORK PLANS / UTTERLY FOCUSED ON YOUR EXAM NEEDS, DO NOT LET ANYONE DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR PREPARATION PLAN.  You may find some useful ideas you could adapt to your circumstances.  Please do so with my pleasure. 



The latter Post is designed to help students to get into the practise of answering exam questions, so that they can eliminate as many errors as possible, thus giving them the confidence and time to deal with the actual questions in a real exam setting.  Many of the usual pitfalls are listed, to assist students in getting into the practise of using correct grammar and sentence construction.



If one doesn't have to decide whether to use affect or effect, because that's been settled in advance, one saves time when answering questions, and keeps one's stress levels as low as possible.  Everytime one comes across a situation one has faced and decided upon, the confidence level rises.




Children from the age of around six years up to adults all need to be protected and learn to protect themselves from cyber-bullying, and online 'virtual physical assault' which feel no less real than the real thing.  










Best of Luck!

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.


Please let me know what you think of my ideas.  I'd welcome any suggestions and, of course, you'd get an acknowledgement beside your idea if included. 


Email  iseultccobrien@gmail.com.


I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.


LinkedIn https://ie.linkedin.com/in/educationbelongs2all







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!








Send me an email when there is a follow up






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 ~




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: 





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