Staff Spotlight - Niamh Walsh
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to J6 teacher Niamh Walsh about her teaching career.
What got you interested in teaching?
My younger brother is autistic, and he attended a special school. As a kid I was always in and around his school and in model social groups, and I was always working around teachers and teaching things. So I just kind of grew up teaching, and that was a big factor. I didn’t necessarily want to be a teacher right from the start though; I knew I wanted a job where I had a lot of flexibility in what I was doing, where I could follow my own interests, and where every day would be a little bit different. My aunt suggested that I consider teaching and so I did a placement that I really enjoyed. I put down teaching at the Froebel College of Education as my first choice course, but my second and third choices were International Relations and Politics. I went to see a few different colleges but they didn’t really speak to me and so that was that! I could have easily ended up going down a different road and I may not have had the calling that some people get, but I really enjoy teaching and I don’t regret a thing!
What makes teaching exciting for you?
I mean, you really never know what’s going to happen next in the classroom. You can go in with the best lesson plan in the world, and then have to throw it out the window because it’s not right for where the kids are at; you might have to reteach something, or move ahead, or even end up in a really interesting conversation about something else. The other day we were talking about Charles Parnell during a history lesson, and we somehow went off and down another road and started talking about leprosy! It was a very productive lesson and an interesting discussion.
Why did you choose to teach at Alex?
I was very drawn to the Froebel ethos in the Junior School, especially since I’m Froebelian-trained. I love that it’s all child-centred, learning through play, and all of the wonderful things that my training was grounded in. One of my college friends worked here as well, and she loved the place, so when she mentioned that there were some jobs available I jumped at the opportunity. I came in and met Avril, and honestly, you could write 5 AlexPresses and still not say enough good things about Avril and her work in the Junior School!. I love the group of teachers that we have in the school as well. Everyone’s just so supportive and so welcoming, and it’s just a lovely environment to be in.
How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19? Is there anything you’ve changed that you’ll keep doing going forward?
I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy online teaching, but to be honest with you, I did! It was nice to do something completely different from the norm. I also found that it actually made me a better teacher because during online learning you have to be so clear with your explanations and your demonstrations. Like, you can’t show someone something one on one like you normally would in a primary school, and students can’t show you what’s going wrong for them as easily. I found that in my own practice that it actually improved my teaching.
I’ve always been really interested in tech in education, like using Seesaw and Google Classroom, and I really enjoyed using that during lockdown. Using these platforms helped keep the classroom community alive by letting students comment and like each other’s work, and I’m definitely going to keep using these going forward.
What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?
I don’t know that there is one highlight, exactly. In primary schools, you see someone get something, or if you see someone that’s been struggling with their confidence then stand up and make a speech at Assembly, it’s those kinds of little moments that are highlights for me.
One highlight this year, in particular, has been working with my J6 class; the class I have now is the class that I started with in Alex in J1. Working with them again and seeing how much they’ve matured and developed their confidence, and are getting ready to go on to the Senior School and towards their adult lives, that’s been really lovely.