Friday, October 26, 2018

Michael D, he’ll do for me

Today I voted for Michael D Higgins to be our next President of Ireland. I didn’t vote for him in 2011 (I voted for David Norris), but am more than happy to do this time. He has been an excellent President in my view - more of the same will do for me. Like many people I am fed up of the circus that the nomination process and the election has become. Election Yes, celebrity candidates No. I really hope the next one in 7 years time is between politicians - back to normal.

He also wrote a letter to my Mum and Dad to congratulate them on their 60th Wedding Anniversary - you can’t get more presidential than that!!!

Image source: Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

From Hedge Schools, to Blue Schools, to Prefabs, to Western Building Systems #education

Me in National School 1964.
A few weeks ago I wrote about hedge schools and blue schools - 200 years ago - education facilities looked a lot different!. I also wondered what teachers from 200 years ago would think of educational facilities today. They say that if you take a person from hundreds of years ago via a time machine to today, there are only two things they would recognise: churches, and schools. Today, our new Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, has warned that More schools are set to close amid safety concerns, following revelations that Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan, has shut 18 classrooms this week due to "structural issues". 42 more schools are to be inspected. This of course is severely disruptive to students and teachers alike. No one wants to work in an unsafe environment, and shame on the builders, Western Building Systems, if they have constructed an unsafe school that puts our children in any danger.

Health and Safety didn't really exist when I started in Carnew National School in 1964. The school was built in 1958 and was still very new at the time. While no one obviously made our classroom unsafe, it was probably state-of-the-art for the 1950s. This building still stands today, though has been greatly extended. I spent all of 2nd and 3rd class (1967 to 1969) in newly added pre-fab buildings. I do recall them being cold, but I don't think my education was affected by being in an inferior building. Less than 100 years ago, some pupils attended school in their bare feet - see photo below from Carnew Historical Society's Gallery page (I'm guessing from 1920s or 1930s):

Image source: Carnew Historical Society.

Children can be educated anywhere. It's a shame that we have to close schools because of "structural issues" - that's what we get for using the lowest bidder. When we think of what many students had to endure in times past, it's a wonder that any education took place at all. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

60 Years Ago Joe and Phil were wed

On Wednesday October 22nd 1958 my mother and father, Phil Byrne from Gorey and Joe O'Loughlin from Carnew, were married in Saints Alphonsus and Columba Church in Ballybrack, Co Dublin. The celebrant was my father's uncle - Monsignor Charles Hurley (also parish priest of Ballybrack at that time). Today they are celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

A Diamond Wedding Anniversary is a rare thing - my parents must be as old as the hills! As people are marrying a lot later nowadays, if at all, I think that it will be a rarer event in peoples lives. The O'Loughlin family will be celebrating this remarkable achievement next Saturday when Joe and Phil's family, neighbours, and friends will get together to raise a toast to this remarkable couple.

1958 was a dreary time in Ireland, it was made even drearier in October 1958 as the whole place was in mourning after the death of Pope Pius XII. Emigration was rampant - most of my Mum's family missed the wedding as they had sailed for a new life in Canada just months before her big day. I'm sure they could not have even imagined what the world would look like 60 years later - my Mum and Dad are probably reading this post on Facebook! 1958 was brightened up for the O'Loughlin and Byrne families on Phil and Joe's big day -  may they have many more for us to help them celebrate!

To sing us out, here is the Emerald Folk Group from Wexford singing The Golden Jubilee about a couple celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Just substitute the words "Diamond" for "Golden", "Phil and Joe" for "Kate and Pat", and the number "60" for "50" - and sing along!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Torrid Time with On-line Assessment #vlog11

Oh dear - I tried an on-line test for the first time last evening which did not quite work out as planned. Here's my reflection and some thoughts on this...

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Hiccups and Reflections on On-line Teaching #vlog10

Week 4 has now passed - a third of the way through the semester. Hiccups are still happening and causing me some frustration. here are some reflections on last evening's class...

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

200 years ago - education facilities looked a lot different! #BlueSchool

Last weekend while driving from Carnew (in Co Wicklow) to Camolin (in Co Wexford) I came across an interesting set of ruins at the side of the road near Askamore, and stopped to see what it was. It turns out that these ruins were the remains of what were termed as "Blue Schools" - only about a metre high wall remains if what was once a two-roomed school. A sign at the site tells us that this was one of five schools in the parish of Askamore. In 1825 there were 36 pupils attending this school - 34 Protestants, and 2 Catholics. Some of the other four schools were "hedge or pay schools" - in all there were 230 pupils attending the five schools. The one below is called a Blue School. These were intended for poor and/or orphaned Protestant children - this one was built under the patronage of Earl Fitzwilliam of the nearby Coolattin Estate.

I stood on the walls and wondered what it must have been like for the 36 pupils attending this school. Their teacher was Mr James Hall, who earned seven pounds (£7) a year. The school cost fifty pounds (£50) to build - very simple construction as you can see below.

I wondered what the classroom looked like in 1825 - did the pupils have seats and desks? Did they have paper and pen, or did they use chalk and slate. Was there enough for everybody? Did Mr Hall have a modern blackboard (which was only invented in 1801)? Certainly the conditions would have been very crowded, but these students were lucky to have a roof over their heads. Did any of the 1825 pupils go on to greater things? Who knows!

Certainly, education in 1825 was a lot different. Compare this to an article in yesterday's Guardian newspaper where Donna Ferguson writes (quoting a teacher): "I will never return to teach in England" as up to 15,000 teachers in England are "snapped up overseas each year, driven away by the stress in British school". I do not wish to belittle the lot of teachers, but many cite huge workloads, low pay, stress and other health issues, long hours, and better opportunities abroad. I wonder what Mr Hall would have thought?

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Further Reflections on On-line Teaching #vlog09

A quarter of the way through the semester - some further thoughts and reflections on my experience of teaching an on-line module for the first time: