The Tortoise and the Hare: Concerns in the new Junior Cycle Student Award


Before I begin I would like to highlight that I am a newly qualified teacher currently studying a Masters of Education in the hopes of finding a teaching job in Ireland. I am not a journalist or a professional writer.  The opinions express in this post are all my own. I am no expert in politics I am yet to join a teachers union and my first love is always my interest in Education.

Recently teacher’s unions in Ireland have announced that if the concerns of many teachers surrounding the new Junior Cycle Student Award are not addressed they will stop co-operating with the Minister of Education.  Since this announcement I have seen and read many articles online outlining the main concerns of teachers and explaining why teachers around the country are awaiting the arrival of September 2014 with great anxiety and caution. Each newspaper, online journal, twitter post and facebook status was followed by the expected “Teacher’s are always complaining”, “Teacher’s have it easy three months off for the Summer along with Easter and Christmas Holidays”, “Teacher’s constantly complaining damages the profession”. It is not my intention to delve into any debate with these individuals who seem to be over looking that teachers concerns are not for their jobs, it is not over pay cuts and it is not over working hours. The main focus of this announcement is our students and preserving the high standards of education we have within Ireland.

I was first introduced to the new Junior Cycle Award in college and I sat in the exam hall in my 3rd year exams answering a question based upon implementing the new Junior Cycle Award. My first reaction was “this is fantastic, finally moving away from root learning”. As a student continuous assessment was my forte. Projects, portfolios and group work were always the area that allowed me to show my creativity. The exam at the end of the term was my downfall. I could never perform to the highest of my ability.  So as you can imagine, as a teacher in training and a CA enthusiast the new Junior Cycle sounded like the perfect solution.

However, as I studied the new Junior Cycle as part of my education module the cracks began to show. My main concern is the removal of external examiners.

External Examiners

The new Junior Cycle will see external examiners removed and replaced with internal continuous assessment carried out by schools. The minister and department of education have stated that there will be guidelines and mock papers for each teacher to follow when correcting and assessing students work. This I feel is not enough. Removing external examiners can make it impossible to regulate, compare and preserve standards of education throughout the country. For each student to get a fair and equal award external examiners with a neutral perspective are essential. Many have said that the whole world today operates with internal inspectors and assessments and to a certain extent they would be right. However, I say yes to both. Keep internal inspections but also use external examiners to make sure standards are upheld. Internal inspectors know the students, they know how hard they work and they have worked with the students throughout the year and want each child to succeed. However, an external examiner can uphold standards and make sure assessment guidelines and protocols are being kept.

As a teacher I do not want to undermine or damage the teaching profession by what it seems to be “complaining” by many in the general public. I want to preserve the teaching standards and keep these high standards of education within Ireland. I want my future students to have the best education I can give them and in its current state I do not believe the Junior Cycle will be able to provide the standard I and everybody else should expect within our schools.

There are those within the teaching profession who stand behind the Minister and urge him to stand strong when implementing this new Junior Cycle Award. They believe slowing the process down is not the answer that Teacher’s, good teacher’s are the key to implementing this new Junior Cycle. To those individuals I thank you for your show of confidence in the teaching profession but I would also like to remind them about a certain Aesop’s Fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

”That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

”Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race.

Moral of Aesops Fable: Plodding wins the race.

Now picture this story:

The Minister and department of Education along with other education professionals were once boasting of a new Junior Cycle Student Award. “move away from root learning, promote creativity and great opportunities for students to experience new subjects and all to be put forward and implanted as soon as September 2014…it cannot be beaten…the sooner we start the better”. Now some teachers said quietly “we accept this challenge….but we think we can do better…we don’t think implementing this new Junior Cycle as soon as September is the right way to go…let’s slow down and make it right first the first time around”. The department and minister said “Is this a joke?” “The new Junior Cycle will be in place by September 2014…and we will adjust as we go” So the teachers and the minister decided to race. So a course was made and the race began. September 2014 arrived and the minister pushed ahead with the new Junior Cycle but stopped along because education standards had dropped and internal assessment was not being regulated, the capacity of schools to implement the new Junior Cycle programme in the wake of a litany of cutbacks, and there was a rise of inequalities between schools.” The department of education looked up and saw the other teachers who amongst themselves implemented a Junior Cycle that addressed and dealt with many of the cracks that began to show early on had reached the finish line.

Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race. Fix the problems now listen to the concerns of the teachers and together we can all win the race…..and give the prize to our students.


Part 2: Nuremberg and Anne Frank lesson plan

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will examine the effects of discrimination on one Jewish family: The Frank Family.
  • Students will explore and examine the inside of the Annex where the Frank family stayed in hiding.
  • Students will read an extract from Anne Franks Diary.
  • Students will know what happened to the Frank family during the Holocaust.

Students will watch a quick video to reinforce what they have learnt in previous lesson. They will then engage in verbal questions and answers on the topic of world war two and discrimination against the Jewish community. They will identify who the Frank family were and what happened to them during the war. Answers will be written on the whiteboard.

Annex tour and Diary entry 10 minutes

Students will take a tour of the annex online. They will identify the rooms where the Frank family lived. They will take a closer look in the room of Anne Frank. They will then read an extract from Anne’s diary. The extract will highlight how Jews were discriminated against in Holland and it will also help the students gain a better understanding of who Anne was and what her personality was like.

Discovered and Arrested 10 minutes

Students will watch a video describing the events of the Franks family arrest. They will be given a worksheet related to the video. Questions must be answered during the video. When the video has concluded students will read out their answers.

The Fate of the Frank family 10 minutes

Students will watch a second video extract portraying the further discrimination faced by the Frank family. The video will describe life after living in the Annex and how the family were separated and never saw each other again. Students will answer questions on a worksheet related to the video. Answers will be read out at the end of class.

Anne Frank Worksheet

Nuremberg Laws and Anne Frank Lesson Plan

Introduction Exercise

Have students draw a circle, divided into six or eight sections. In the center should be the student’s name. Each section should then be filled in with a different area of importance to the student. Examples are: my pet, hiking, girl or boy scouts, my church or synagogue, school and, my best friend. After the students have completed their circle, discuss which areas would have been denied to them because of who they were. The Nuremberg Laws resulted in the eventual loss of identity of each victim by systematic denial.

Case Study of Nazis and Jewish families in Holland

Read article that portrays life in Holland for Jewish families. Explain that Jew’s could not own pets or bicycles. They also had a strict curfew to obey. Nazi Youth was the only youth organization allowed. Synagogues were destroyed during Kristallnacht and finally many friendships between Jews and non-Jews were torn apart (often from fear of being associated with Jews). Friendships were also destroyed between those Christians who supported and did not support the Nazi regime. Reference the Nuremberg Law’s for more restrictions. The Nuremberg laws were passed on September 15, 1935. Nazi Germany instituted a series of laws designed to make freedom increasingly difficult for the Jews and to restrict their freedom.

Nuremberg laws worksheet 2 Nuremberg laws worksheet

Answer Questions on Article.


Introduction to Anne Franks family living in Holland. This video will be used as a Case study on how the Nuremberg laws affected one Jewish family.

Instruments of the Orchestra: String Family

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will know the different string instruments of the orchestra.
  • Students will be able to identify each string instrument through visual and audio examples.
  •  Students will complete worksheet based around the string instruments of the orchestra.

Strings 15 minutes

Power point on the string instruments accompanied by audio/visual examples of each instrument. Students will take down key bits of information down about each string instrument in their music copybooks.

Violin features 10 minutes

Show students a violin. I will point out the features of a violin. Students will then be able to play and examine the violin and bow within class. They will know features such as: Strings, tuning pegs, chin rest and f holes.

Worksheet 15 minutes

Students will find each string instrument within the string family in their Bravo books. Using information they have learnt in class they will write a short description of each instrument on a worksheet. The worksheet will then be completed for homework. They will also be given a diagram of the violin on one of the worksheets. Each student must work individually and label each feature of the violin.

Phase 4 Videos

Students will watch videos on all the string instruments. Each video will be accompanied by questions allowing students to identify instruments aurally and visually.

Mario on the violin:

Rolling in the Deep: Cello

Mario: Cello

Lady Gaga: Viola

Mario: Double bass

Did Darwin Kill God? (Lesson Plan)

Did Darwin Kill God? (Lesson Plan based around Conor Cunningham Video)

Learning Outcomes:

• Know who Darwin was and what he was like.

• Understand why some people at the time found his ideas threatening.

• Realize that people can change the world by big ideas.

• Explore why Darwin is considered significant today.

• Identify what is worth knowing about Darwin and why.

Who is Charles Darwin? 10 minutes

PowerPoint on Charles Darwin. This power point will show images of who Charles Darwin was, provide a brief history about him and his book Origin of Species. It will highlight how he was reluctant to publish he book on Evolution, as he knew the church would hold serious objections.

Discussion questions:

Describe how Charles Darwin used the scientific method to develop his theory of evolution.

What were some of the influences on Darwin as he developed his theory?

Why was Darwin reluctant to publish his theory?

Biblical fundamentalists 10 minutes

Outline and describe who Biblical fundamentalists were. Emphasis that they believed the Bible should be understood and translated through “literal” means.

Explain and discuss the term Literal.


Who were biblical fundamentalists?

What does to translate something literally mean?

Do you think their approach was correct?

Compatibility 15 minutes

Explore the idea of Ultra Darwinists and how some believe it paved the way towards modern atheism. Investigate those who say that both the theory of evolution and the belief in God are completely compatible i.e. that Darwin’s theory isn’t atheistic in the slightest but instead coherent with what is said in the bible.


Charles Darwin Worksheet

Google Docs for College Students and Teacher’s

As a recent college graduate I remember all too well the stress and on going panic of college assignments, essays and preparing lesson plans. There were two things I depended on to get my work completed….my laptop (or computer) and my USB stick.

Our worst nightmare was having all our work complete and ready to print out when suddenly the computer screen goes blank, your work disappears and that ultimate feeling of doom and gloom sets in. You hide your head in your hands and fight back the tears. It has happened to all of us at some point throughout our college days.

If you are looking for a way to put Microsoft documents and USB sticks behind you why not try Google Docs out!

Google Docs put simply is an easy to use online version of Microsoft Office with some extra unique and exciting features! Google Docs allows you to create word documents, power point presentations and spreadsheets and store them online. This means that you can access your work on any computer that has internet access. Allowing you to eliminate any fear of your laptop or computer suddenly crashing along with all your work.

Benefits for College Students

  1. It’s free! If you are a student who has a Gmail account or a email address. You already have access to google docs.
  2. Prepare essays, power points and continuous assessments on google docs and access on any computer anywhere (as long as you have internet access). This is great for any students who do not own a computer or for any students who don’t fancy carrying your laptop around college all day.
  3. Saving in the Cloud: Writing important essays in Google Docs allows you to access assignments and papers from any computer, anywhere. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stuck in the library without my laptop, or only have my smartphone handy. With Google Docs, it doesn’t matter, because all of my assignments are stored in the cloud, meaning I don’t have to be attached to my laptop to get work done. This could save your sanity if your computer crashes and luckily, there will be no need to panic, because you know your work is tucked safely in the Google Docs cloud, instead of your dying hard drive.
  4. Preparing a thesis? Instead of attaching a copy of your work in an email and receiving feedback from your lecturer in a separate email why not use Google Docs sharing features? This allows you and your supervisor to exchange notes by interacting online also enabling your supervisor to type in their own notes on your thesis allowing you to edit your work sufficiently.
  5. Group Work: Group projects in college can at times be a nightmare. Collaboration is often done through text or facebook messaging. Combining all the work together or slides on a power point before a presentation was usually frantically done at last minute. With google docs groups are able to work together on the same presentation or project simultaneuosly. The discussion feature is great for this. 
  6. Exam Time: most college students today are guilty of one thing: we don’t share enough and we don’t work together enough. Before exam time each year myself and a few friends would swap notes and work together with studying methods and sharing essays. However, this was done through email. Why not do this through real time? We tend to spend most of our time hooked to chat forums anyway so why not study using this technique too? Work with friends to take in-class notes on a single Google doc, allowing everyone to come away with a more thorough set of notes than they could have written individually. These notes can then be used to help everybody come exam time! 

Check out this video to see the easy to use discussion and online editing and collaboration tools on google docs in action:

Benefits for Teachers and Student Teachers

  1. Collaborative Writing: This allows students to prepare their work online such as essays and projects and receive immediate feedback from their teacher. There is also a built in research tool allowing students to explore the online world for information and provide links to it on their document.
  2. Collaborative Brainstorming: this gives the students an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts online and to contribute to the lesson. Students can use shapes, arrows, text, and imported images to build a visual map for any task. The revision history uses colors to highlight and tracks changes to any Google Doc, making it easy to see what each student has contributed to the big picture.
  3. Quiz: You can create a simple quiz with a Google Form.  Just create a quiz with a few multiple choice questions, take the quiz yourself to submit the correct answers, and pop a simple formula into the spreadsheet end to let the technology do the grading for you.  Immediately publish the spreadsheet of results and teach students how to use the find tool to quickly find their score and significantly raise the stakes to increase student motivation.  Please note: To avoid public humiliation and hard feelings make sure you require students to sign in with some sort of unique identifier that protects their privacy.
  4. Power point presentation and You Tube: Inserting youtube videos in a power point presentation using microsoft office usually means for most teacher inserting a link that they must press during the lesson. This link will then open an internet window and upload a clip from you tube. Google docs allows you to watch a you tube video without moving away from your power point presentation. It is very simple and a definite benefit for all teachers.

Check out this video to see the amazing ways you can create a power point presentation using google docs!

Google Docs in Education Slideshow:

Ted Talks Video for the RE classroom!

Beautiful video about a woman who was once voted the ugliest woman in the world on the internet now a motivational speaker.

This video can be used to teach your students about the impact cyber bullying can have on your life…negatives but also the positives. This lady turned her life around and never let her disabilities determine who she was or what she could achieve in life. Very moving and powerful watch for any classroom.

Irish Music: Sean O’Riada

Intended learning outcomes:

  • Students will be know and be able to identify characteristics of Irish traditional music.
  • Students will know the main developments of Irish Music.
  • Students will have an understanding of who Sean O’Riada is.
  • Students will know what Sean O’Riada contributed to the development of Irish music.

Compare and Contrast

Play examples of music from a collection of different eras and ask the students can they identify features of the music and what genre it is such as:

  • Instruments they can hear
  • What genre of music it is.

Play a piece of Irish music and ask students to identify features of it. They will then compare and contrast each piece. This should help them understand the main features of Irish music.

Flash Cards

In groups students will study flashcards containing words related to Irish Music and music of a contrasting genres such as:

  • Triplets
  • Orchestra
  • Electric guitar
  • Jig
  • Reel
  • Choir
  • Hornpipe
  • Rock band
  • Fiddle
  • Drone

There will also be images on the flashcards. Students must arrange flashcards in two categories. One for Irish music and another for different genres.

Sean O’Riada (Powerpoint)


For homework: Students will write down key words from the board describing the music of Sean O’Riada. They will write a short newspaper article based around Sean O’Riada and his music.