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Padraig Parle is working as a Special Needs Teacher in the Catherine McAuley school in Dublin. He did a BA in Fine Art from DIT and followed this with a H. DIP in Primary Education from the Froebel College of Education in Blackrock. He teaches a class of nine children with a learning disabiltiy in the area of reading.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
After school I studied Fine Art in DIT Mountjoy Square, where I achieved my BA. While it was an enjoyable and fulfilling experience it is not a degree which prepares you for a specific job as such. In the year after I graduated I worked as a substitute teacher for a few months. While it was something I hadn't really considered before as a career path, I found I was suited to it. While it is quite entensive, the school day is short and gives me time to concentrate on my art too.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
Describe a typical day?
Up 8am. Cycle to school. I have a class of nine children. I teach English and Maths til lunch time, then Religion and the rest of the Curriculum in the afternoon. Our school is in the city centre so we have numerous trips, museum visits, cinema trips. We are very involved in Art, Sport and Drama, and we go swimming also. We finish at 2:30.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
I am responsible for the nine children in my class. Children with a Specific Learning Disability in reading are referred to our school. We keep them for two years. In that time we try help them catch up with their peers.
In a large classroom, children with problems can often get lost and left behind. In our school they are given lots of special attention in a small class of nine children. Work is set at their level and they almost always thrive in this environment. They learn reading through many enjoyable games and activities, one to one and small group learning, and they always gain in confidence as they progress.
We set specific goals for each child in our class when they arrive in our class in September. We write down and measure these goals in something called an IEP (Individual Education Profile). In this way we can measure their progress and highlight and target the areas in which they struggle
What are the main challenges?
Each child is different and has his or her own difficulties. In a class of nine their may be as many as nine dramatically different levels of reading/ writing/ spelling ability. Knowing at what level to pitch a lesson can be challenging. This is why we practice a lot of group work/ games and learning activities in this school to meet the needs of the children, and ensure they are working within their own abilities while still being challenged and motivated
The children in this school enjoy a small teacher pupil ratio of 9:1. As a result teachers get to know the pupils a lot better and see progress a lot more clearly. Also, with small numbers, you don't have to be so strict and can have quite a relaxed classroom atmosphere. It is also cool to know you are making a real difference in peoples lives.
What's not so cool?
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I am patient and I enjoy working with children. It is nice to know there are people depending on you and that if you do not show up for work you are missed. It is nice to know you make a difference in peoples lives and give them a positive school experience.
Specifically I bring my artistic experience to the classroom and try pass that on to the children. I also coordinate collaborative art projects in the school. Every teacher has their own specific skills in life and it is nice to be able to implement mine in school.
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
What is your education to date?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The H. DIP was extremely intensive. It basically crams a four year degree into an 18 month course. However I would recommend Froebel College for anyone considering this path. It is based on continual assessment, and it is very child centred and practical. Almost every thing I learned there could be used in the classroom. It prepares you very well for the classroom.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
As a working artist teaching allows me a lot of time to pursue my painting. In the last 5 years I have had time to prepare 4 solo exhibitions - something which would be immpossible in almost any other proffession.
You will never be "rolling in money" as a teacher, however it allows you to have a very comfortable standard of living and the time off to travel and pursue other interests. Also it is a rewarding profession as you get to make a difference in childrens lives, and in the current climate of instability it is a very secure job
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
What is your favourite music?
What is your favourite film?
What is your pet hate at work?
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
If you are considering a career in this area - try get some experience in the area to see if you like it. If you have a degree, sub for a few days. If you are doing your leaving cert. etc. go to your local or former school and ask the principal for a chat or to help out at a sports day etc. to get a feeling for whats on offer