I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a good college friend of mine and fellow teacher, Eoin Walshe. He recently took a full time teaching position in England teaching music, religion and humanities. Like endless newly qualified teachers in Ireland he had to search across the Irish Sea for any teaching opportunities. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experience so far. What does he enjoy? What does he miss? and what has he learnt? It is important to note that whilst this interview reflects the current issues in todays teaching climate all the information provided is based on personal opinion at this current time.
What made you decide to teach in England?
My original plan was to apply for Jobs in England for Interview experience and to get familiar with the interviewing process, which is something you don’t get to do in Ireland in today’s climate. The interviews in England however are easier to come by. I thought this would prepare me for any interviews that might come my way in Ireland.
What factors led to you accept a teaching post in England?
The opportunity to work full time in a vibrant part of south London was a big pulling factor. However getting the chance to teach both my subjects Music and Religious Education plus humanities in this particular school was the biggest incentive to go across the Irish Sea. The opportunity to teach all of my subjects in Ireland I believe is next to impossible. Also getting to teach all my subject areas so early in my career is a major advantage. Having a stable income was also important.
If given the opportunity would you go back and teach in Ireland?
Yes without question mainly for personal reasons, its home. There is a certain spirit and atmosphere within Irish schools that is unique to our emerald isle. However, professionally the educational system in England provides great opportunities for me at this stage in my career and it is more innovative and cutting edge compared to Ireland.
What do you enjoy about teaching in England?
I do enjoy teaching religious education in such a diverse culture. When teaching about world religions for example having students from multi faith backgrounds keeps me on my toes and this has ensured my continuous professional development and presents an ongoing welcomed challenge.
The positive aspect of teaching music is the endless resource available to both the students and myself. For example every student desk has a computer and midi keyboard, endless supply of instruments, multiple practice rooms and recording studio. Every music teachers dream. This also presents a unique challenge and gives me the opportunity to develop completely different classroom management skills when including all these resources in a lesson plan.
The opportunity to teach humanities is also enjoyable. Teaching humanities provides an opportunity to rekindle a subdued interest in subjects like history and geography and a canvas on which to paint strong cross-curricular links between history geography and religious education.
Do you think the Irish educational system can learn from our neighbours in the UK?
Whilst it is still early days for me to give a comprehensive appraisal there are certainly features of the UK educational system that could be incorporated into our system back home. However saying this there are also certain issues where the Irish system could avoid. For example Ireland at the moment are developing the new Junior Cycle. I would urge those who are responsible for the development and implementation of the new Junior Cycle to critically evaluate the positives and negatives of several corresponding features in the UK system.
A practical example of this would be instead of allowing time for the planning of creative and engaging lessons the vast majority of out of class time is spent uploading data and completing tedious paper work. While the concept of keeping the students and their parents involved in their own education progress is excellent -who the primary beneficiary of what often feels like a show/façade of data, statistics and lead table competition is questionable (The Student? Or the Gove?)
Would you miss the emotional support of family and friends when teaching in England, especially being a newly qualified teacher?
On a personal level of course I miss my fiancée, family and friends. However, professionally I am very lucky to have a strong support system within the school I work in. Also the benefits of online communication with my support system back home have been invaluable. It is a great test of character both professionally and personally. It has made the transition from dependant student to fully independent professional a lot easier.