Week 3

Professional Blog
5th February – 12th February

For my university study here in Nijmegen I am enrolled as part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Education Today’ programme which we undertake in the Teacher Training College at PABO which is a faculty of HAN University. In Stranmillis we are used to having the Erasmus students in our classes but this is not the case on the TET programme. Our class consists solely of 30 Erasmus students from countries all over Europe. In some ways it is relieving to know that all our classes are in English and given that this is our mother tongue we have no excuse not to understand, but it also means we do not get the opportunity to interact with the Dutch students in the college apart from social events.

Classes are now in ‘full swing’, having a maximum number of three days class per week so far! This will soon change when we start placement which we will have for 2 days a week also. The first class of the day begins at 8:45am, not a good time when we have a 30 minute cycle to get to university. It may be a good way to get us used to the early mornings; apparently schools open at 8:15am in the morning!

University life is in some ways very similar to home and in other ways remarkably different. Teachers are called by their first name and like home there is a very open relationship between students and teachers. They are willing to help and answer any questions we may have. I have noticed that they dress very informally and in my opinion this adds to the relaxed atmosphere that is fostered in all classes. On Friday afternoons the ‘PABO pub’ opens and this is a place where teachers and students go and socialise together after classes. Given the reactions from most of our class they had not seen such a sight either. I could not imagine all the Stranmillis students and lecturers heading to the union on a Friday afternoon to relax and socialise after classes. It made me think about our lives in Ireland and in a sense it reflects the busyness in our lives and attitude towards university. We all rush off after class whereas the Dutch seem to view this as an important part of everyday life spending time with educators and fellow peers in the positive atmosphere of the university.

So far we’ve had classes on Children’s rights and Diversity in Education. The main aim of these classes is to develop a better understanding of this dimension of education through sharing our experiences in these areas and learning from others. We have had no lectures so far and to my knowledge I don’t think there is even such a place as a lecturer theatre in PABO. In these classes we have taken part in a lot of paired and group work, sharing and discussing and reflecting and concluding activities. I have really enjoyed these classes as they have been highly interactive and there has been a sound sense of supportiveness where all opinions are welcomed and fostered.

From my participation in these classes it has made me realise how important it is for children to be fully engaged in their learning, working with others to construct meaning within a positive and supportive environment. For me Johnson et al (1991) sums up the environment in which learning should take place. They say learning is a social process that occurs through interpersonal interaction within a cooperative context. Individuals, working together, construct shared understandings and knowledge. From my teaching experience I have seen that this is the case in Northern Ireland and is evident in the majority of classrooms that have embraced the Northern Ireland Curriculum. Through my participation in these experiences already I can see how I have been challenged in my thinking, gained confidence in sharing my opinions and learned from others in order to construct a better understanding. Essentially this is what I aspire to foster in the learning environment I will create as a teacher. As the Northern Curriculum (2007) states, “children learn best when learning is interactive, practical and enjoyable”.


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