My primary and post-primary journey.
School was not for me. I hated it and by the time I was in 6th year I spent more days studying at home than in school. I remember in primary school walking to the top of our estate and waiting until there were no more kids passing me by in uniform before I would walk back home crying because I didn’t want to go to school. Of course, my Mam marched me right up the road to the classroom door where I got a swift telling off from my teacher before been told sit down. This was the pattern. Headaches, stomach aches, refusing to get out of bed were all put to the test in my efforts to evade the environment (primary and post-primary) that made me feel different and less-than. The thing is, I was an academic student. I got good grades when I turned up and I managed to keep up with most subjects when I didn’t. I didn’t like that everything was about reading and writing information, but I could rote learn, regurgitate the information in exams and then forget it. I was aware from a young age that I was been judged based on something other than my work. I heard comments like ‘I hope you have more brains than…’, ‘How long are you staying in the A-class?’ and ‘I think you should look at courses in catering or bar work’ – this was when I went to discuss my college options! Thankfully, there were those teachers that saw me and challenged me to do well. My 5th class teacher in primary school. My History and English teachers in post-primary who instilled a love of those subjects in me, my Maths teacher who scared the life out of me but wouldn’t let me do ‘just enough’ and my Deputy Principal who was kind in so many ways while still pushing me to do my best. My thinking was always that I was going to be a teacher to be the opposite of those teachers who made me fell less than but in fact I followed the path of those who inspired and believed in me.
My Graduate journey
In October 1994, I arrived in Maynooth to attend what was then a small college called St Patrick’s College (now Maynooth University). I knew one person from home, and it was wonderful. My three years as an Arts student were filled with learning, about my subjects and myself. I took English, History and Sociology in first year thinking I would drop Sociology and continue with my teaching subjects. I dropped English. I preferred reading and writing for joy and Sociology just drew me in. It posed questions, it gave me answers, it provided me with a foundation and concepts for the way I view the world. I graduated in 1997 and took a year out to travel Australia before returning to Maynooth to do my Higher Diploma in Education.
My journey to becoming a teacher
I think it’s safe to say that this journey began when I was in school but here, I focus on the nice months it took in 1998/1999 to become a qualified teacher. Back from my travels in Australia and accepted on the programme in Maynooth. I was so excited. I learned so much in my lectures but the real learning came from my students in the classroom. Well used to getting student teachers from the college they tested me, challenged me, and inspired me in so many ways. I already knew that inclusion and special education was my focus so enjoyed trying to figure out ways to get every student involved. Some of those lessons went really well while others were a total flop, but we were learning together and I was exploring the concepts and strategies I was learning in lectures in the reality of a diverse classroom. I graduated with honours. My Mam threw a big party back home and I went out into the real world of learning and teaching.
My journey as a lifelong learner
My academic journey didn’t end with my HDip. How could it? There was always something that cropped up that I needed or wanted to learn more about. I just love learning! There were writing classes, coaching workshops, communication, and collaboration programmes. And then there was my passion, all things inclusive education, which grew into equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice the more I learned. I have my post graduate diplomas in different areas of special education, law and education, and even supervisory management. And then of course there is my learning in UDL, but more on that in a different post.
For my Masters in Education I focused my assignments on social disadvantage, supporting students with ‘challenging behaviour’, and the meaning of equality of opportunity. For my research thesis I focused on us, the teachers. Titled ‘Caring for the Carers: An exploration into the emotional needs of teachers, and a possible support to meet those needs’ my research explored the aptitudes and needs of a small group of teachers about their wellbeing and looking after themselves. Looking at the model of professional supervision offered to those working in social work, residential care, and other care related professions, I put forward how this might be a supportive space for teachers to address the ups and downs of teaching, talk through ideas, be challenged and be affirmed. This is something I feel is even more crucial now that when I graduated in 2007.
The high of my academic journey came November 6, 2019, when I walked across the stage in The Helix, DCU hearing the title of my Doctor of Education research been called out along with my name ‘Dr. Margaret Flood’.
Again, focusing on inclusive education my research ‘Exploring the impact of a collaborative whole-school model of continuous professional development on the enactment of Level 2 Learning Programmes in a mainstream post-primary school’ was concerned with how an inclusive policy or initiative can be enacted at school and classroom level. The CPD design considered contextual factors, policy and CPD relevance to job performance and student outcomes, active participation, meaningful collaboration, and building agency. Additionally, the research examined the role of teachers in policy enactment, the importance of messaging at the macro level and current models of CPD offered in Ireland.
If you’d like to read my research, you can access it here
This isn’t the end of my educational or academic journey as I continue to learn and strive to know more.