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Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Deputy Principal John O’Farrell about his teaching career. 

A man with salt and pepper hair wearing a blue suit smiles at the camera. Text contains quote from the interview.

What interested you in teaching?

As with many teachers, my passion for teaching stems from my passion for my subject, which is music. Music has always played a huge part in my life; while I was in school I really valued any music-making opportunities, and I found that I enjoyed facilitating those opportunities for others as well. Teaching allows us to share our own passions with other people every single day. For me, as a music teacher, it’s allowed me to encourage others in the subject that for many people, it’s their passion as well. All teachers enjoy encouraging their pupils to achieve their full potential. With music, there’s often a fun, exciting, and emotional element. That’s where the joy comes in. 

What instruments do you play? 

I trained as an organist, and I also play the piano. 

You have taught in both Ireland and the UK - what are some of the differences between the two educational systems that you experienced?

I’ve been very lucky to teach in some incredible schools - I’ve taught the International Baccalaureate in an international school in the UK, as well as the GSCE and A Levels in a British boarding school, and I’ve taught the Junior and Senior Cycles here in Ireland. I suppose in many ways, all those experiences have taught me that the fundamental practices of teaching never change. We are always aiming for that concept of self-actualization, ensuring we’re reaching our full potential, utilizing our strengths as best we can, and working hard to fulfil our goals. I’ve found that it’s really the values of the school that are really important in helping their pupils achieve. 

What interested you in becoming a Deputy Principal and stepping into a leadership role?

Working in a school in any capacity is incredibly rewarding work and it’s also a position of great privilege. As teachers, we can sometimes forget the fact that as we are all working towards shaping the lives of young people every single day. As Deputy Principal, I am tasked with supporting the whole school community, from the girls, to the staff, parents and the wider community. There is a huge responsibility attached to that, and I am constantly energized by the leadership opportunities I’ve had, from leading music groups in school right up to the job that I do now.

Why did you choose to join the Alex community?

I was extremely excited to be invited to become part of the Alex community this year. As I mentioned in my Assembly this week, I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed with the good wishes that I’ve received since I arrived. The warmth, kindness, and joy within the community have been evident in abundance, and the girls here are clearly so proud of their community. The values at Alexandra College of diversity, independent thinking, respect, and responsibility are very simple, but they’re no small ask. They take commitment, and they are lifelong virtues that we should all carry.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Every day poses its own highlights, for sure. As a teacher I've learned that it’s never ever about the examination results or whether my students have achieved an H1, but about ensuring that we are doing our very best to support the girls in our care. It’s a privileged role that we occupy.