In 1992 I started my school life, in a colourful room full of posters, games, crayons and books. I loved it, and all this time later I still have vivid memories of that first year. I can remember drawing a picture for my teacher, Mrs. Hourihane. She kept it on the front of her desk for the entire year.
I have Mrs. Hourihane to thank, in a way, for where I am now, sitting in a room waiting for my students to finish their latest exam. Everyone can name a few teachers they had who had a positive impact on them. From an early age, I always wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, and her kind manner and encouraging presence was a major reason why. As I got older and developed a love for History, my teaching ambitions had a focus. And so my reasons for wanting to become a teacher centred around two main things: a desire to help people and a desire to share my love of history.
I did my PDE (H.Dip) in 2011, knowing full well that the job market for teachers was not at its best. Nonetheless it was what I wanted to do. I wasn't thinking about money, I wasn't thinking about job security, I wasn't thinking about promotion prospects, I was just thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and why I wanted to do it.
A series of events led to me working outside of the mainstream system. The experience has changed me, both as a teacher and as a person. Working one-to-one with young people who had been let down by the mainstream system, I was teaching both to help and to share my love of my subject: it was teaching exactly as I had always envisioned it. Indeed as I sit here I'm thinking of next year: my current Leaving Cert students will have moved on to pursue their own ambitions, and for the year that it is we here will be planning centenary commemorations for a major national historical event. History, and Help.
The future is a frightening place as well. I don't have a secure job, and the longer I stay out of the mainstream system, the harder it may be to get back into it. But moving on from where I am now doesn't feel right. Not simply to me as a person but to me as a teacher as well. I have invested in the students I teach, in the success of the place in which I work, and in the concept of teaching as an act of helping others, not simply as a job.
Am I wrong? Am I naive? Some people would probably say so. It's 23 years since I started school, and roughly the same amount of time since I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I've never been ignorant of how fortunate I am to be able to work in an area I enjoy and love. I'm still young, and still developing as a teacher. In 23 years from now, I won't be as young, but I'll still be developing as a teacher. The experience I've had working where I work has had a profound impact on that development. My experience interacting with people through History Help has influenced me as well. When I look at the future of my career, the thing I want most is to continue having these kinds of experiences. I became a teacher to help. No matter where I end up working and who I end up teaching, that is what I want to do.