That is the word most students in Junior and Leaving Certificate will hear upon returning to school yesterday. The preparation exam, the trial exam, the practice exams – all phrases used to describe the upcoming mocks.

It is a time for students to prepare and practice the study and work they have been doing over the past two or three years (depending on their exams). What students need to realise is these set of exams are equally as important as the JC and LC. They will offer students a chance to practice and time themselves doing the questions and subjects they either love or dread.

However, this is also a time of great anxiety for students. Yesterday, the@IrishTimes released an interesting article on how some of the best behaved students are actually covering their anxiety. To combat this, here a are a few tips for students in the run up to the mocks and the time of doing the mocks.

  1. Know your timetable.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep!
  3. Make sure you have breakfast. If breakfast is something that is skipped (my students or teachers) try smoothies. You can customise them and pack them full of vitamins which will boost your immune system, espically vital with the flu and weather at this time of year!
  4. Make a checklist for each subject. For example, Junior Certificate CSPE – Students are advised to bring some colouring pencils if they plan on tackling the poster questions.
  5. Keep hydrated – bring a bottle of water!
  6. Make sure you have enough pens!

Sharing resources

Sharing resources is possibly one of the best ways to learn and build up a portfolio of lessons.

I know some teachers do not like to share which is understandable as sometimes you have it tailored to your class and your style of teaching.However, some teachers are fantastic at sharing resources and helping other teachers with resources and ideas.

A few website which are full of teachers who share ideas and resources which are free to download (for the most part) are as follows:

  2. History association of Ireland
  3. History Ireland
  4. TED Talks education
  5. blogging websites
  6. Twitter – try #edchatie or #edchat (refer to my previous blog post for specific related subjects)



Since publishing this blog – this weeks #edchatie was all about sharing!

Some amazing resources were shared and a huge amount of teachers and educators took part in sharing many web2.0 tools and resources. I will post the transcript to this blog when it is published tomorrow!


Christmas Music

Christmas Music

Many schools are beginning to prepare their Christmas Carols.

If you’re starting to prepare and unsure of what could be used here a few suggestions you may find helpful.


If you have students who are interested in pitch perfect – maybe try and encourage them to do a Christmas acapella version of Christmas classics!

Additionally, this modern twist may attract some shy singers who don’t want the limelight. Also, it will spice up the usual Christmas Carol and give an interesting twist to those Christmas Concerts and Masses.


Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

book judge

Recently, the topic of don’t judge a book by it’s cover seems to be very topical.

Everywhere we turn in today’s world we are judging how much people have and who they are friends with. This is especially true in schools when the latest phone or trend comes out. Sometimes students can feel very judged and often feel misheard as well by their fellow peers.

Thus I feel it’s important to mention in class that each students voice and reaction is important and should be expressed in the classroom.


One good example is one class were asked recently to bring in music and songs close to them. There was a huge variety of music chosen and shared within the class. However, one student in particular was reluctant to share for fear her peers would ridicule her due to her taste of music. As teachers we have to embrace all differences in the class and encourage students to be comfortable within the classroom environment.

Top ways to create a safe space in a classroom:

  • Display students work in the classroom
  • Admit when you don’t know something (within reason)
  • Read with your students
  • Follow through with Consequences
  • Smile often
  • Open the door at the end of class
  • Music feeds the soul


Thinking outside the box

I know from teaching and listening to people we are used to the more traditional style of classroom as seen below.


However, the world is rapidly changing therefore we are forced to look at how non-traditional schools are challenging educational norms. Are these schools thinking outside the box in order to better educate and equip future generations and students.

With the new Junior Certificate reforms a hot topic in Ireland currently – I thought it would be interesting to see what do the schools and education systems thinking outside the box look like?

  1. Sweden


This may not look like a school but it’s actually one giant classroom. It’s modern architecture allows for students to spend half of their time learning in an expansive glass cube called “gymnasium”. The idea behind this creative glass cube is to encourage students to collaborate with each other.

Headmaster Allan Kjær Andersen stated that “We want to have teaching where the students make research and work together in solving real problems,” and “we want to be an open school that is in connection with the outside world.”

One interesting point which really caught my attention was there is movable walls and bookshelves to create a more intimate learning settings.”It’s not enough to give them knowledge, you also have to give them a way of transforming knowledge into action,” Andersen says. “And that’s very important for us, and I think it is important for modern schools.”

2. Egalia School


The Egalia school system is founded on total equality between students. The system is made up of two schools, Egalia and Nicolaigården, which reject gender-based pronouns. Instead the students refer to each other by their first names or as “they”. It’s approach could eradicate a lot of stereotyping surrounding genders. It will be interesting to see how this affects these students at a later stage in life. It’s defiantly a system I would say is to watch in regards to their results and statistics in a few years time.

3. P-Tech

obama-education ptech

It was launched in 2011 by IBM (International Business Machines Corporation)  to provide a way for New York Teenagers into college and avoiding the usual four-year high-school track.Instead, P-TECH students complete a six-year degree. Boosted by mentorship and internships in STEM fields, the fifth and sixth years earn students an associate’s degree from the nearby New York City College of Technology, and many go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree afterwards.

4.  Netherlands – Caribbean (School at Sea)

school at sea2school at sea

Though this is a specialised school for sailing and boating enthusiasts – it’s still a six-month program for students (14-17). The school is at sea and they depart from the Netherlands to the Caribbeans and back. The aim is that they slowly take over from their mentors while on board.

5. Carpe Diem

carpe diem school

Carpe Diem is as personalized as education goes.It may look peculiar to those of used to the traditional classroom but each of these cubicles is designed for each student. However, despite it’s appearance Carpe Diem is producing results which are worth taking note of. Notably Carpe Diem-Yuma has outperformed every public school in the country in AIMS test four years in a row. Arguably it allows each students learning ability to be fully explored and reach it’s potential.

Why are they performing so well? –  Each student has their own programme and if they have any trouble with their online learning, they can turn to instructions for help. This is very personalized and raises the question of how well are students learning in classrooms where there is thirty other students present in the classroom? How much can the teacher give themselves over to each student? (Also this ties into the current tend of who looks after the teacher? Can they burn out from the amount of work they undertake?)

6. AltSchool

altech school

AltSchool has been described as a “complete deperature from traditional education”. One interesting aspect of this different approach to schooling is there is no more than 25 students in a class and two teachers – to ensure that each child gets the attention they need. AltSchool was created by a former Goolge employee Max Bentilla. His time in Google is evident with each classroom being fully equipped with not only modern but latest technology.