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Teaching in an Era of Change              

By Geraldine Nolan and Bríd O’Donnell


The changing nature of education poses many challenges to the teaching profession today. Contemporary society is undergoing a range of profound changes, the impact of which indicates that we are in a new era of civilisation. The teaching profession is key mediating agency for society as it endeavours to cope with change and upheaval.  Here in Ireland  we are well-positioned to cope with the changes. The image of the teacher’s role is much higher in Ireland than in many countries.

Within schools significant improvements have been made in areas such as the provision of school libraries and ICT equipment. Other resources include telephones, fax machine, photocopier, access to email and the Internet.

A New Curriculum is currently being phased in, which emphasises oral language and active learning which in turn presupposes the motivation to learn.  Science, History, Geography, and Environmental Studies are now being taught from Junior Infants, unlike the 1940s, where schools only began teaching these subjects in the Middle Classes. However, in Peterswell in 1908, (as evident in the Progress Record of 1908 )
The schoolteacher taught elementary science – leaves roots, flowers and their functions.

Our school nowadays has frequent visitors and a support system in place. For example, Heritage and Art Specialists, Visiting Authors, Music and Singing Teachers, Coaches for Basketball, Football, Hurling and Tag Rugby, Annual Swimming Lessons, Parenting Courses, Book Fairs and Annual Tours.

In contrast in the 1940s everything was the sole responsibility of the Schoolteacher. His only visitors were probably the Cigire, the Priest and the Bishop.  There was no such thing as ‘Text-a-Sub’, children had to stay at home, often for long periods of time, if a teacher was ill. However, one of the perks of the job was having your laundry done and having your meal partially cooked under the Subject of Cookery and Laundry ! I’m sure they looked forward to their boiled bacon and cabbage, rice, cornflour mould and baked haddock!