The reason I chose to put myself forward for the peer tutoring was twofold. Firstly I felt I was well experienced and well suited to the job as I had previously worked with special needs children during my 4th year of Belvedere College. Secondly I was eager to put myself forward because of the many regrets I have had in Belvedere regarding the social inequality work that the college is involved in. Knowing the experience would be challenging and somewhere outside my comfort zone I vaulted into the task naively, not knowing what to expect. It is good to get the opportunity now to make an analysis of my experience in hindsight.
My initial thoughts were extremely naive and thoroughly wrong. I had visions of standing alone in front of a class of 20 or so young pupils spelling the name ‘Mr. Lawless, on the board in white chalk. The reality was indeed different.
My first day is easy to remember. Ciaran Grace and I waited in the reception, nervous, not knowing what we had signed ourselves up for. Paddy on the other hand was calm; casual he was the veteran among us. Paddy told us of what to expect, difficult children, under privileged school and social problems.
We were assigned classes I volunteered myself for the language lab while Ciaran opted for the 3rd class and Paddy left with the rebellious 5th class I met with the head of the language lab, a gentleman by the name of Mr Mc Carthey. He showed me the programme of events and explained how the children were thought. He told me about different pupils, their situations, some only having arrived in Dublin a week with no more English than “Yes” and “No”. These were to be my pupils for the coming weeks.
I established my timetable. At around 11 o clock I would assist the Baby infants teacher, (who’s name escapes me), gather the hyperactive children, help them zip up their coats, pull them apart, tell them what age I was(several times), and inform them on how I got so tall on which I replied with the old cliché, “Eat your greens!”. At ten past eleven I would accompany the children to the yard. Yard time was great fun, watching the kids go pure insane. A boy would emerge with a ragged half deflated football and be smothered by his school mates. I sometimes felt sorry for the ball. I of course was the non-bias arbitrator of this pandemonium, (although in later weeks I saw myself become as competitive as the children). Yard time was great I met many characters who spoke there mind, no niceties’ were observed they spoke there mind. They looked to Ciaran and I as Gods! Myself and Ciaran were the big brothers although I saw myself adopt the persona of an 8 year old boy. A certain junior infant’s student, Benny attached himself to me. I presume he was from Japan but I cannot say for sure. He hadn’t a word of English yet had a keen knowledge of martial arts which he insisted of demonstrating on me.
After yard was the language lab for approximately 45 minutes. Here I helped Bulgarians, Romanians and Polish learn English. The language lab offered a foundation of English to the pupils. I helped the children with vocab, e.g., things you might find in a bathroom, garden, toyshop and in later weeks I dictated to them for tests. The children’s predicament was unfortunate. The children could not understand what was going on in their classes as they were thought threw English, the pity was that the children were extremely bright yet without English they could not learn to the full extent of their Irish school mates.
I worked mainly with a 6th class pupil named Toscho who was from Hungary. Mr Mc Carthey believed he was dyslexic, saying he had difficulty with Hungarian. I cant begin to imagine what it was like trying to learn a new foreign language when you sill cant read your own. Toscho was 13 but had the reading level of a 5 year old according to Mr. Mc Carthey. Toscho is supposed to be going to secondary school next year.
I was very fond of Toscho his perseverance was admirable beyond measure. There is one thing that will stick with me from working with him. During the 6/7 weeks I worked one on one with him I would always point to the illustration of “pipes”, a word that he had difficulty in pronouncing. Each week he would say it wrong and forget my correction. “Peepers” he used to say. On the last week, (cliché I know!), I followed routine I pointed at the pipes and he muttered out a perfect pronunciation. I was proud, he was ecstatic.
Peer tutoring was really great although also exhausting. It was bizarre coming back for the last 4 classes on a Tuesday and being a pupil, complete role reversal. Thanks so much for the opportunity that was given to me it was a great experience.
David Lawless RL
Peer Tutoring Programme – Poetry
During Poetry and Rhetoric Religious Education, students have the opportunity to participate in a Peer Tutoring Programme in primary and secondary schools in the local area.
As part of Poetry Religious Education each week we had a three class period devoted to whatever module we chose. So while the majority of students were in classroom learning about courses such as Justice and Faith, Religion and Science and Explore: Ignatian Spirituality, a select few were thrown into the deep end, into a number of inner city primary schools.
My experience of helping out in St.Vincent’s Infant Boys School was great. I had a past experience in the school from Transition Year Community Care, so the environment of the school wasn’t completely new to me. St. Vincent’s is a school on North William Street for boys aged four – seven. It is a school which is in an underprivileged area. It is a school that provides excellently for the varying needs of its students.
On the first Thursday we were warmly greeted by dozens of hyper, small boys eager to play some games. We were each assigned a classroom with about twelve boys. All the boys were young so it was great fun, even the more difficult tasks, such as helping with reading and writing. The more difficult tasks while they were fun were very rewarding, to see the young boys making some real progress was fantastic.
A class that I spent a lot of time in was junior infants in which there were eleven boys. This was particularly challenging as I was working with the boys so early on in the year (September) and they were so new to this strange idea of school! Helping the boys with the elements of reading, games, jigsaw puzzles, “beautiful” singing and well, I guess I could call it art, were all equally enjoyable and rewarding. Outside of the classroom there were plenty of other things to be done, such as sitting with the children while they ate their lunch, which for some was provided by the school. This was a really fun thing to do, and there was some heated discussions on Pokémon cards and who could draw the best cat.
Going down to St.Vincent’s Infant Boys School each Thursday morning was the highlight of my week, I always looked forward to helping out and having a laugh with the kids. I think Peer Tutoring as part of Poetry Religious Education is a great programme, not only because it gives some of the students in Belvedere some perspective on things and some valuable experience in a primary school. It also lets the boys in St. Vincent’s know that people do care and want to help them out, which they may not always be reminded of otherwise. I had a great time during my nine weeks in St. Vincent’s and I believe more students from Belvedere should be given the opportunity to take part in the programme. Cillian Byrne
“I would like to express my appreciation for the support from Belvedere College SJ for the mission of JRS ‘to accompany, to advocate and to serve’ the cause of asylum seekers, refugees and forcibly displaced persons in Ireland and throughout the world.” – Eugene Quinn, National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland