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Alexandra College

Staff Spotlight - Aideen Corr

Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Deputy Principal Aideen Corr for a special feature on Christmas at Alex.

 

What brought you to teaching, and why did you choose to teach at Alex?

Teaching has been in my blood; my dad and nanny were both teachers. When I started university I actually started out saying I wasn’t going to be a teacher and I wasn’t going to do Maths because of it, but that clearly didn’t work out. I did a Science degree and specialized in Maths and Maths Physics.  When I was doing a postgraduate course in Maths I was offered a position tutoring undergraduates in Maths, and that’s when I got the bug. I loved translating the lectures into ordinary English and helping students to understand the complex concepts. At that point, I changed direction, trained to be a teacher, and just loved it. That all being said, everyone else around me knew I was going to be a teacher, it just took me a bit of time to realise it. As for joining Alex, it was my first interview and my first job, and within three months it was very clear that being here in Alex brought out the real me.

Once I started teaching maths it was very much second nature; what I found most rewarding was the relationships that you build with students and empowering them with confidence so that they begin to flourish in subjects that they might not have thought they were capable of. My area was Maths and Applied Maths, and I always took it as my challenge to really connect with the students who didn’t think that they liked Maths or even could do it. Once you get that confidence in them, you can see them just take off and fly with it. Then after my first year in Alex, I was asked to be a form tutor, and that was the most special job that I have ever had. The role of a tutor within the school is something that I feel very passionate about because they’re a key person in students’ College lives. Through conversation and engagement, you can really bring somebody on from feeling like they aren’t able to shine, to make them realise that they have a place within our community. It was my role as a tutor that really brought me on to becoming Deputy Principal in the end. I had been a bit nervous at first that I would miss having that relationship with students once I wasn’t teaching, but being Deputy Principal was really the next step on from being a tutor. I’ve always loved being on the ground and being someone that students can talk to, help them work through anything that might be going on in their lives and come out the other side as a better version of themselves.

 

Why do you love Christmas at Alex?

As a person who has always valued kindness, it is natural for me to love Christmas.  The festive season is a time for giving, receiving, being extra thoughtful and just has love at its centre, I believe.  It is the same in Alex.  Where we have been in class or tutor groups throughout the year, the weeks up to Christmas bring us back together as a community.  Charity work like the hampers and Alex Women’s Charity (formerly the Alexandra College Bursaries Charity) fundraisers remind us of our duty in Alex to mind those less fortunate than us. The whole ambience and spirit never fail to lift me, I think it is the most positive season and fits perfectly into all that we are, and do, in the College.

 

What are some of the traditions that have been passed down through the years at Alex?

There are so many different traditions that we share in Alex around Christmas time, and they all come back to community, kindness, and fun. During the month of December, we light the advent wreath during Assemblies. A different member of the student body lights it each week, and it brings the girls back to where the founders of the school came from.  There’s also a group of Transition Year students that run our Christmas Hamper initiative for the Alex Women’s Charity and St. Vincent de Paul, and they collect hampers from every form class in the College. Secret Santa nearly takes over the College in the last few days of term, and it happens from form level up to the full years, and the staff have one as well. It’s a very special moment because you’re buying a gift for someone that you maybe haven’t considered buying a gift for before, and there’s a great sense of fun there.  Our boarders always celebrate a  Christmas dinner together.  The atmosphere is amazing.  One big family together having dinner - Santa comes to Res with all sorts of goodies.

The biggest tradition is definitely the Carol Service, which is the finale of our Christmas traditions and marks the end of term. It’s a very special event and I know I am biased, but I believe it is quite unique.  Students from the Senior and Junior Schools, staff, parents and guardians gather in the Concourse to celebrate Christmas.  The roof is raised by everyone singing together.   You can feel this sense of belonging to a huge community from the depth of your soul.

Christmas is a special time of year for our 6th Years as well; each year, we put up a Christmas tree in the Concourse and a very special Christmas bauble that represents their year. The Head Girl always places the bauble on the tree, and it’s a very special moment for the girls. The year also puts on a coffee morning for the staff at Christmas, and there’s a lovely atmosphere all around. As I mentioned, the Carol Service is all about connectedness and community and is an emotional landmark for the girls.  It enhances their sense of belonging to the wider Alex family.

 

What has been your favourite Christmas moment in Alex?

My favourite moment is during the Carol Service every year; there’s a build-up through the spiritual service,  all of the amazing music and the absolute finale is when the orchestra starts playing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. The feeling that comes from your heart and soul of being all together, celebrating together, and then we’ll go off and celebrate with our own families but still come back and be part of this big family ourselves, it's very emotional. Then once that’s finished we go straight into singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas; the tradition is that everyone sings it together first, then staff and parents sing it to the students, and then vice versa. It’s an overwhelming and uplifting experience.  It’s extremely precious, and I think we’re all looking forward to being together again in the Concourse when it’s safe to do so and wish each other a Merry Christmas in person.  So on that note, I would like to wish you all a very happy and safe Christmas.