Clare Grealy has over 26 years experience teaching Irish to Higher Level Leaving Cert students and has been teaching full time at the Institute for the past 15 years. Clare has assisted in researching the Irish language and has helped in the translation of a number of texts into Irish. She is a regular contributor and advisor to radio programmes in the lead up to the Leaving Cert exams and is also one of the authors of the 2015 Exam Times supplement, published by the Irish Times.
As a teacher for the past 26 years, I have witnessed a huge amount of change. Every year brings something different, which is part of the joy of teaching – no two years are ever the same so teachers are constantly innovating and adapting to meet the evolving needs of students.
2020 will be forever remembered as a year that posed unique challenges to students and teachers alike. As a teacher of Irish, I had been preparing my students for the Irish oral examinations when it was announced that the oral exams would be cancelled because of the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 virus. This was a difficult decision for the Department of Education to make and for many students and teachers to accept but it meant that the focus now moved entirely to the written examination.
In order to provide the best possible levels of support to our students remotely the Institute decided early on to livestream classes according to the school timetable. This would give students a sense of normality – they could remain focused on their work and preparations for the Leaving Cert from the safety and comfort of their home whilst continuing to receive tuition and support from their teachers. For teachers this meant delivering classes in a virtual classroom space – something that I had not done previously.
I didn’t know what to expect from online learning, particularly as interaction is such an integral element of language tuition. However, my experience has been quite positive. My students have been extremely well prepared and eager for their classes. They can and do continue to ask questions and they have shown incredible resilience in the face of all they have had to deal with over the past number of weeks. I would like to pay tribute to each and every one of them for the mature attitude they have displayed and their commitment to their studies. I wish only the best for them all and will continue to support them over the coming weeks and months.
These words from Clare highlight that the need to adapt to change can come at any point, and that with resilience and an open mindset we can overcome any dramatic change that lies ahead of us. It is through the network of support we have and the adoption of new ways of doing what we are doing that we will overcome any challenge.