Staff Spotlight - Niamh Luskin
Gach Aoine bíonn ball dár bhfoireann le feiceáil inár Spotsolas Foirne! An tseachtain seo, labhair muid leis an múinteoir Gaeilge Niamh Luskin faoina gairm bheatha mar mhúinteoir.
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Irish teacher Niamh Luskin about her teaching career.
Why did you begin teaching?
So I always wanted to be a primary school teacher when I was younger - I always thought it was such a powerful job to stand in front of the whiteboard and use the projector. When I was 10 years old, I asked my mum to buy me a whiteboard for my bedroom and I used to make my younger brother and my older cousin attend “school” in the evening times. I would do Maths, English and Irish with them in my bedroom and it involved homework; my favourite part was the corrections I would give them in red pen and putting a fancy signature on it. So from a younger age I definitely always wanted to be a teacher. The reason I chose secondary school teaching in the end was because Irish was my favourite subject in school, and I wanted to focus on this subject in college and in my teaching. I think that influence came from my grandparents because both of my grandparents grew up with native Irish speaking backgrounds based in An Spidéal and Corr na Móna in County Galway. I felt that I’d invested a huge amount of time into Irish over the years, and I wanted it to be a part of my daily life and in my work life, as well.
What makes teaching Irish exciting for you?
There’s a lot of elements that make Irish exciting for me; I think the main one is that it’s not just bound to the four walls of the classroom or school in general. I think people sometimes think of Irish and they relate it to the endless grammar and instructions of the Irish listening work paper, “Léigh anois go cúramach ar do scrúdpáipéar..” Irish is so much more than that. For me, Irish is a unique gem of a language. It differentiates us from the rest of the world and we’re the only country lucky enough to possess it as our native tongue.
People can sometimes find the Irish language intimidating to study and practice - what would you recommend to those looking to practice their skills, whether in the classroom or in daily life?
I think that intimidation roots from the fear of the language itself sometimes because people lack confidence in Irish. Sometimes people feel a lot of pressure to be fluent in Irish because they’ve been learning it since Junior Infants. My recommendation would be to just practice your oral and aural skills inside and outside the classroom. You could listen to the Irish segment of the news in the car, have a chat with your teacher as Gaeilge, and have the pride and the confidence to use the language on a daily basis. For me, fluency is not something that happens overnight; it involves practice and consistency. I always felt that a language can be similar to music in a sense that the more times you listen to the song, the more familiar you are with the lyrics and the pronunciations. As a student I spent a lot of time in the Gaeltacht when I was younger and this definitely changed the idea of Irish completely for me and made me appreciate it a lot more. When I look back on it now, it’s definitely an opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for. My parents would send me to An Spidéal in Galway for three weeks and when they would collect me after I would always be crying because I didn’t want to leave. It gave me the confidence and encouragement to improve my Irish because it incorporated everyday routine, activity and chores, and your schoolwork all in Irish. So that’s what made it really exciting and fun for me, and looking back now it was a valuable and treasured experience because it also allowed me to experience the other various elements of Irish through music, culture and traditions. I really would recommend spending time and immersing yourself in the language in an area where Irish is so alive.
Why did you choose to teach at Alex?
Though I originally hail from County Mayo, Dublin has always been a big part of my life. Every course I put on my CAO form in Leaving Cert was based in Dublin so no matter what course I chose, I was going to be in the capital. I chose to teach in Alex because it’s renowned for its academic excellence and that’s something I hugely admire. When I arrived here first I really admired and was impressed by the warm welcome, facilities, and the girls’ positive attitudes towards learning. It didn’t take me long to settle in, and I’m really grateful for the strong Irish Department that I work with. They welcomed me with open arms and they continue to support me in every way possible. It’s a great feeling to work with people who have the same grá for Irish as myself and now that I’m in my second year here, I’m really enjoying my time teaching here and I couldn’t think of a better place to teach in.
How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19?
Before the first lockdown happened, I would have considered myself to be very good with technology. However when we moved to online learning, at first I felt like a toddler learning how to use Zoom and it was very overwhelming. After a few weeks I definitely became more comfortable with this new domain of teaching and I find that with online teaching, preparation is key. For my online classes I find I’ve about 10 tabs open on my laptop just to ensure there’s no delay in my lessons and there is that sense of consistency and normality to my classes as well. It’s amazing how both students and teachers in Alex have adapted so professionally to online learning in the last year, and I’m very thankful that Zoom has offered us the ability for Irish to still partake in the various elements such as aural, written, and oral work. It’s still a very normal sense of a classroom on Zoom.
What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?
For me the highlight has been the rapport you create with the students every year, and the appreciation that the students have for teachers. Every year you’re witnessing growth in students as people and learners, and you see these students mature from one year to the next. I also find that the gratitude that students display at the end of the term and end of the year reminds me why I chose to teach and how rewarding my job is. When I was a student, I knew the type of teacher that I responded best to was the teacher who always encouraged me and who believed in me. So my goal as a teacher is to adapt that same persona and to create a positive and passionate environment for my students, because I strongly believe that with encouragement comes confidence.