I have recently returned from a fantastic six weeks working as an Árdchinnire in an Irish college in Inis Oírr.
I had worked there last year as well, so I returned feeling slightly more confident in myself and my ability to work well with the students.
I was incredibly lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with the most wonderful students.
They were a lovely bunch of young people to work with, and they made my job so enjoyable. I genuinely looked forward to going in to work every day and working with them to the point where it really didn’t feel like ‘work’ at all.
One of the best things about working around young people is that they have an infectious and seemingly limitless energy that always puts you in a good mood, regardless of whether you’re having a good or a bad day.
Even if you start the day in the worst mood and feeling as though you have no energy whatsoever, the students, full of energy and enthusiasm, never fail to put a smile on your face at some point during the day at least.
Their energy and positivity can’t help but rub off on you. The very nature of the job itself, whereby you constantly see students learn and exceed their expectations in just how much they can achieve is the most incredible feeling and it truly is a privilege.
However, the part of the job I found most difficult this year was saying goodbye to all of the students once the course had finished.
I had gotten to know all of the students so well and I had many great memories with them after having worked with them so closely for three weeks.
I found it so, so difficult to say goodbye to them after three weeks in the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t ever see the majority of them again. I honestly don’t know how teachers do it when their sixth year students graduate and leave school; it must be so hard.
However, I wish all of the students I had the privilege of working with every success in the world with whatever path they choose to take in the future.
I’m sure I had absolutely no role whatsoever in helping them work out what that path is. On the off chance that I had, however, I would have achieved one of my main goals of returning to work with this Irish college in the first place.
I suppose that’s the main aim of every teacher out there ultimately; not quite to show them what the right path to take is in life, but to show them that there are dozens of different ones.
You hope, as a teacher, that you have equipped them with the skills and knowledge to follow their passions in life and achieve everything they set their mind to, regardless of whatever obstacles life will no doubt throw their way.
In many ways, young people represent the future of this country. Based on my experience thus far this summer, Ireland’s future has never been brighter.
There was also a rather refreshing enthusiasm amongst the students for the Irish language. For those who still insist that the Irish language is dead, I would entrust it in no better hands than those of the enthusiastic gaelgóir’s I worked with this summer.
There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the status of the Irish language in society, but I definitely came away from Inis Oírr with an increased sense of optimism that the situation isn’t actually as bad as it is often made out to be.
I believe our young people are more than capable of playing their very important role in helping to strengthen the status and significance of our national language right across the country.
The Irish language is a living language that is treasured with an unrivalled love and affection in the gaeltacht communities in which it lay its foundations.
It now is the responsibility of the rest of us to insure that language too is treasured with equally as much love and affection across the rest of the country.
To tell you the truth, I’ve never been more confident that we are up to the challenge. Even if you just say go raibh maith agat every now and again; it could make more of a difference than you’d imagine...