Day in the life

Irish ambassador for European Code Week, which runs from Nov 25 to 30, Julie Cullen spoke to Vincent Ryan about her busy working day.

Morning

I get up at 7.30am. I have my morning routine down to a fine art and there isn’t a moment to spare. It takes me 25 minutes to prepare, make and clean up after my breakfast — one pint of vegetable juice — delicious! The spinach, cucumber and celery sets me up nicely for the day. It’s a great energy booster. I make my lunch, have a quick shower and jump in the car.

At 8.30, the journey to school begins. I teach in St Oliver’s Community College in Drogheda. We have nine classes per day — five in the morning and four in the afternoon. No two days in St Oliver’s are ever the same. Each student comes with their own unique vitality and sense of humour. Their energy and inquisitiveness is contagious. Our classes are 35 and 40 minutes long so my days often fly by. No doubt one or two of my students might disagree with me on that one though!

I travel around the school throughout the day, as I don’t have my own classroom. To counteract this, I created a blog for my class — www.juliecullen.com. It can be frustrating for students to spend time making beautiful posters, poetry and other creations, only for me to have nowhere to display them. I like the idea of families, friends and students from all over the world being able to collaborate with the students of St Oliver’s.

Afternoon

Lunchtime takes place from 1.05 until 1.45pm. It is a rushed and noisy affair. There are over 100 teachers in my staff-room and we can rival the noise levels of the students when we put our minds to it. As a form tutor to two classes, lunchtime is often spent making phone calls or following up on paperwork, so it’s a good day when I have 20 minutes to sit down and eat lunch.

At 3.30pm, the bell rings to signal the end of school. As the minutes tick by, peace begins to reign once again. I sit down to check any emails that I haven’t had time to respond to during the day. I am Young Advisor to Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, and I am kept very busy after hours with this work.

Our current project is a Europe-wide initiative for coding — EU Code Week. I am Irish ambassador for the week-long event and have been working very closely with the Galway Education Centre to get as many people involved as we can. We are confident Ireland will have the highest number of coding events in Europe throughout the week.

At 4.30pm, I have usually caught up with emails and contacts in the commission so I set about preparing my classes for the next day. It can be very boring for the students (and for me) to focus on exam papers and books all day long so I try to make the most of digital media throughout the day.

I look up #edchatie and #engchat on Twitter to see if there are any trending videos or topics which we might be able to utilise in class. Once a week there is an #edchatie conversation, organised by Fred Boss, that takes place on Twitter — it is a great forum for educators to express their views and share resources. I try to take part in this chat whenever I’m available.

I’m usually out of school by 5 or 6pm and head straight for the gym. More often than not, I find an excuse to avoid it but coming up to party season, I’m trying to be good.

Evening

I sit down for dinner at about 7pm. I’m not a huge fan of TV these days (unless it’s Love/Hate) so I usually correct copies after dinner. Some evenings are busier than others. Alternatively, I love to get out of the house and clear my head by taking a long walk with my best friend, Mandy.

I check emails and tick a few more things off my to-do list before I finally hit the hay at 11.30. I find it’s very unfair on the students if I get anything less than eight hours!

European Code Week initiative is aimed at offering individuals, groups and companies the opportunity to get more involved in coding. Full info at www.codeweek.eu or on Twitter @codeweekEU


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