All in a day's work
FIVE TO NINE in the morning and the buzz in the staffroom in Lucan Community College, Dublin, is interrupted by the sound of the bell pealing over the intercom.
Genevieve Casey goes to the library where Class Colette is waiting. As their class teacher she takes them for registration each morning, calling the roll and checking uniforms. If students are absent for two days without explanation, she will ring their parents.
Casey, a B post holder, has responsibility for the day to day running of the library and most of her classes are based there, in the big, airy room with the sloping roof. Class Colette files out. Class Callan are already waiting at the door for their double French period. The fifth years are asked to read the piece on La Guerre. Her voice is projected clearly around the room, pitched at a level above conversation but below shouting.
The next topic is violence and TV. Casey paces around the room, keeping a watchful eye. The quiet is only broken by the turning of pages, frantic scrabblings in pencil cases and the occasional sniff. The bell sounds for the end of class but for Class Colette it's time to turn to page 110 for their grammar.
Interrogative pronouns are the subject of the day. "I'll give you three minutes to do exercise 10. Don't write in your books please," says Casey. While the students are writing she sets up the tape recorder in the corner.
Taking up a large pile of books, Casey leaves the library for the language lab where Class O Direain are lining up waiting for their Irish lesson. "Dia dhiobh. Suigi sios." She hands out headphones to the waiting first years. "An bhfuil ceann ag gach duine?" The transition from French to Irish and from fifth to first year is flawless.
Casey hands the aisti back to the students, commenting on each. In any one day, she may have up to 100 different students, so just remembering their names is a feat in itself.
She puts a few useful sentences on the board "Is iad na h-abhair ata a, dheanamh agam na. This will be a useful sentence right up to Leaving Cert." She puts in the tape and after a session on timpisti agus dainsear, the students have a five minute test.
There is a break from 11.00 to 11.10 a.m. and Casey has time to take a few sips from her cup of tea before returning to the library for an Irish class with Ferguson, a fifth year class. She plays a passage on a tape and asks the students what it is they should not do? "Leave a blank." "What does a blank guarantee? . . zero marks."
After Ferguson's Irish lesson, Casey has a free period. She uses this to have a meeting with the two FAS workers, Elaine Harman and Terri Byrne, who have recently been appointed to the library and with Mai McAtavey, the teacher who has responsibility for the library budget. Lunch break is divided between canteen supervision and library supervision. The library is inundated with students at lunch time and the noise level rises as little groups break into discussions. It is anything but restful.
After lunch, Casey has her "own" class, Colette, for an Irish lesson. She gives back their notes on Gabriel Rosenstock's poem, Tellifis, and explains to them how to discuss the poem under headings such as udar/file, na priomhcharactair and na teamai.
The final class of the day is in room 19, which has three broken windows, courtesy of vandals the previous night. Jack Harte, school principal, explains that this is only the second incident of this nature in the 10 year history of the school.
Newton is a third year class, which will sit the Junior Cert exams this June. The lesson centres on a party and Casey points out that the vocabulary they are learning is essential if a party comes up on the paper. After going through typical French snacks, it is time to play a tape of Section A of the 1993 exam paper. Students are reminded that the format will be the same this June.
Three twenty p.m. and Casey has finished teaching her last class of the day. Time to give her voice a rest.
She had planned to do some work on student exchange programmes but another teacher approaches her about a problem with one of the students in Colette so the exchanges are deferred.