Are students in Ireland very different than students in America? Yesterday I had the pleasure to find out when I conducted a Personal Values Writing Workshop to a classs of 16 year old girls in a Dublin school. They all had lovely Irish accents which made it just a bit challenging to understand when they spoke softly.
In the course of this trip abroad, I've managed to catch a miserable cold. By the time of this workshop, my voice was almost gone and I seemed to either squeak or croak when trying to talk. Needless to say, my presentation was not quite as dynamic as usual. Fortunately, the young women were all well-behaved and I didn't have to yell. LOL
The workshop started out with a discussion about Personal Values, why they are important and from whom we learn them. At first, the girls seemed a bit reluctant to respond, but before long they offered their own ideas more willingly.
Each of the girls selected a few of their favorite Personal Values from a sample list of about 30, then wrote a short story about why they were important to them and how they had learned them. There were several recurrent themes throughout most of the stories, such as friendship, loyalty, honesty and respect. Those same values seem to resonate with American students as well.
One thing that surprised me was that none of the girls wanted to read their own writing. Rather, they volunteered to read someone else's story, which has not been the case in any of my other writing workshops. The Principal explained later that in Ireland, all children are required to learn Gaelic in addition to English. So they have less time available to work on speaking and presentation skills. From just the little that I saw on street signs, there doesn't seem to be any similarities between the two languages, as there is in French or Spanish.
A few of the girls responded quite well to my encouragement to write. In fact, one student wrote a lovely story in spite of her usually not participating fully in the classes. I was very encouraged to see that.
So the biggest difference I noticed between American and Irish students? It was their lack of confidence in their presentations. Otherwise, there were many similarities. As always, I was pleased to see their positive reception of my message.