Let me start this post by saying that I seem to have left my phone on a bus, so I currently have no pictures. =( =( =( Fingers crossed that I will get it back tomorrow, as we are on the same bus tomorrow that we were on today. Okay, so on with it…#
Yesterday was our last day in St. Conaire’s. I had missed a day due to being super sick on Wednesday, but I’m so glad that I was able to get back for Thursday’s activities because they were great! We started the day out in classrooms as usual. I was in fifth class with Mr. O’Brien and I was astounded at the pace that they kept! It was one thing after another, but the kids didn’t seem overwhelmed or annoyed at all. They were genuinely engaged all morning. After our break at 11 for tea and scones (again, why do we not do that in America?!), the fifth and sixth classes performed their Chirstmas production of Oliver for us. They. Were. Incredible. These kids were so talented and you could tell how much work they put into the production. We were delighted that we got to see it!
Afterward, we had lunch and then a question and answer session with the Learning Support specialists, which are the equivalent of our special education teachers. It was really enlightening to see how inclusive Irish schools are toward special needs children. The most prevalent learning disability in Ireland in Down Syndrome, followed by Autism Specturm. In this particular school, though, Autism was the biggest group. Children with special needs are pulled out of the classroom by a learning support teacher, but not for more than an hour per day, which still allows them time to socialize with their peers. I found that to be a better system than the full inclusion that many are pushing for in America, but also more inclusive than the mainstreaming that you often find in American schools. It was a great balance of allowing time for these kids to be regular kids while also giving them the support they need. It seemed to work very well for them.
I have noticed this inclusiveness throughout the whole country. For example, while I was out sick, I got the chance to watch some television and saw that certain news programs are signed by a translator in addition to being spoken. I alos noticed that the information for my cold medicine is written on the box in Braille. So it seems that more groups are accomodated here than they are at home. The only case where this is not true is in the case of physical impairments which would cause someone to be in a wheelchair. Because a lot of the buildings are very old, there is very little wheel chair access. So that’s an area of need here.
At the end of our school day yesterday, we walked outside to see the most gorgeous double rainbow any of us had ever seen. It was so much more vibrant than the ones you would see at home. It was actually also the first double rainbow that I had ever seen. If you haven’t seen one, google it! The second rainbow’s colors are inverted. It’s so cool. What a perfect way to end our school day.
We went straight from St. Conaire’s to Bunratty Castle, which was gorgeous. The stairways, though, were very VERY narrow. Like, almost terrifyingly narrow. But the climbs were worth it to see the rooms in this castle. One of the rooms was like a Great Hall were they would have held feasts and we had the chance to sit in a throne. It felt like Hogwarts. I would post my pictures if my phone wasn’t on a bus. I’m not dwelling on it. Sorry.
Anyway, we did some shopping near bunratty and then went back to Courtbrack to change our clothes and eat dinner. After another dinner at Scott’s Bar (I had missed it the past 2 nights because I was sick), we headed back toward Bunratty. I know that seems redndant, but we had a good reason to go back. St. Conaire’s principal (and former Children’s Literature Centre GA) Peter Walsh, hosted a gathering for us and all of his staff at the oldest functioning pub in Ireland, Durty Nelly’s. It was brilliant, as the Irish would say. We listened to traditional Irish music and talked about Grey’s Anatomy with some of the teachers we had worked with all week (they’re a season behind here!), and then we sang songs and laughed until half eleven (that means 11:30). It was a truly great time. I genuinely hope some of the teachers can make it out to Frostburg sometime. I’d love to keep in touch with them.
Today, Courtney, Elle, Yasi, Dr. B, and I got up early again to head to a secondary school with another former GA, Catherine O’Donnell. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but I don’t think any of us were expecting to enter an all-girls Catholic school taught entirely in Irish (try hearing a few Our Fathers in the Irish language – NOT easy). It was phenomenal to see. Catherine was so welcoming and it was such a joy to watch her teach. She really enthralled those girls! She even gave us a school tour and showed us where the girls often gather to watch the boys at the school across the street (can’t really blame them; it is an all-grils school after all). We were only there for the morning, though, because we had to get on a bus by 12:30 to head to the Cliffs of Moher, which were BEAUTIFUL. We had such a perfect day to go! It was sunny and not too windy and it didn’t even rain! I’d show you my pictures but…
Moving on then. After the cliffs, our bus driver took us around the Burren, which is a very rural area, but it’s a big tourist attraction because the landscape is so fascinating. It’s filled with rocks and giant stones, but it’s also a lot of farm land, so you may see a cow or a sheep that’s just hanging out on top of a big rock. It’s also right on the coastline, and at points, we felt like the bus might actually fall off the road and down the cliffs into the water. How thrilling!
Seriously, though, I think that when Americans think of Ireland, they think of the landscapes you see in the Burren. Very green, lots of sheep. It felt like we were in a movie or something because that’s the only place I’ve ever seens a landscape like this one.
Tomorrow, we have to get up super early to head to Dublin, which I’m sure will be an adventure. And hopefully I’ll have my phone back. =)