17Mar/14Off

St. Patrick’s Day 2014: Ireland the Land of Learners

One of the great difficulties with education is that we attempt to fit everyone into the same box.  It is generally accepted that this does not happen but how else can we effectively teach the masses?  Well, as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all that is Irish this is in fact the first mistake when thinking about teaching.  If we instead focus on the learners, the actual students and look at the world from their perspective we may begin to not only accommodate everybody but have them reach their full potential.  Most of all, even experience these people being happy and enjoying education.

So, if we take the learning nation of Ireland, what are we really like here?  We are a country stockpiled with sociable chatterboxes and have a huge number of successful athletics when you think about the size of this land.  We make an impact wherever we go and we are also very generous philanthropically for the size of Ireland.  We as a race contribute hugely to global charities, peace keeping forces and volunteer work.  We are hugely proud of anything remotely Irish.

So, in simple terms that makes us auditory and kinesthetic learners that need huge amounts of encouragement and praise.  We really care about what everyone else thinks of us.  So like most other parts of the world we are a largely extrovert society.  We need to work with others in social settings and we are very social beings.

The hugely interesting fact about auditory learners is that they do not need to just listen, they need to talk as well.  We all know how much we Irish love to speak.  The idea of us starting school at five and learning to be quiet in a classroom situation is just outright ridiculous.  We must admit that we work our way through so much in Ireland by gossiping. The information overload taxi driver, the restroom queue gossip or the local store conversation. It makes us better able to cope with the legendary Irish rainy weather if nothing else.

One of the real difficulties with being an auditory learner (besides just being in trouble in class for talking all of the time) is the rambling way we work, there is no structure.  This is the most common difficulty that many of our students have, especially all the super talkative kinesthetic boys who are brilliant on the sports field but feel like trash at everything else in school.  They simply have no idea how to structure an answer or to focus their thoughts onto the page at hand.

Sure, for the Irish it is perfectly alright and acceptable to write exactly the way you talk too.  The best way to work with auditory kinesthetic learners is through role play.  This is sociable group work that allows us to talk out scenarios.  We get to put ourselves in the situation and we all do great in this part of oral school examinations.  We are a country filled with bucket loads of generationally provided and divided political views.  It is important for us to get to talk about these at length on a regular basis.

Students almost fall off of their chairs with shock when we ask them what they think or have a personal opinion on, but it is so much easier to write about what you feel especially when this is what matters to you when you are kinesthetic.  Normally boys just get to run this out of their systems on the sports field rather than working through it in english or history class.

It is equally vital to allow us Irish to talk about everything that matters to us in our own unique way.  The Irish have a great gift of the gab, the wit that has a name for every object, landmark and sculpture.  We talk about creativity and innovation, this is a wonderful example of innovation with words.  We can express any situation as a joke.  We have always been gifted story tellers and can spin any yarn.

We are also hugely competitive, hence our many sporting heroes, the mark we leave whatever we set our minds to.  Competition is such a great way to inject energy into any learning environment too.

There is a pride deeply engrained in the Irish and as a result we can never cope with being made a fool of in public.  We may try to joke our way out of any situation but it hurts deeply.  Everyone we have ever spoken to in this country has a school story where they lost face and they have never forgotten it.  This is why we have to focus on the learners always, the real people we are helping to grow and develop.  Everyone is different but we all fall into patterns of behavior that can be accommodated.  You can't just take an education model from one country to another and expect it to work, especially since the models are always developed for the teachers and governments not the students.  There are very simple patterns and learning styles but you have to look for them and you have to use each nations strengths and values to achieve what is important for them, even the Irish.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the island of saints and scholars.

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly & Marie O'Riordan

 

10Feb/14Off

The fundamental differences between self harm & eating disorders – vital in helping students with these conditions

 

This may seem a slightly depressing topic for me to write about but I'd like to focus on the ways we can achieve successful outcomes with students who suffer from these conditions.

One of the keys to helping in any situation is awareness and understanding. So what is it about when someone chooses to harm themselves? This can be through starvation, cutting themselves or purposely making themselves sick. All of these behaviours can seem extreme and difficult to relate to for many parents, teachers or friends.

 

All of these actions are firstly about control. You have lost control in some way in your life. Everything just seems to be out of your grasp and you need something to focus your attention on and have control over. Eating, food, routines and exercise are all very easy to control. There are no external factors and so these become the focus for you. The first time I ever came across Anorexia was when I was still in school myself. Oddly there were a number of female students in the same year who were all experiencing eating disorders. Their behaviour stuck in my head and when I later started university I was exposed once again to people around me with the condition, especially through my work in the students union. All of the people either controlled how much they ate, over exercised compulsively or took some sort of solace in making themselves ill after eating.

I wasn't exposed to self harm until much later when I became an educational mentor and education administrator. From a distance this looks to be a very different condition and in the same way as my school days I saw there was a tendency for there to appear to be groups of students with the same behaviour patterns. This made me ask is it fashionable? Is it something you do because others around you do it? What are the reasons and the triggers? How different are these actions? Is cutting yourself the same as starving yourself and most importantly what are the keys to helping someone?

So aside from control or loss of it what else do these conditions have in common? The simple answer is self image. But the self image is not created in the same way and this is vital to understanding the difference in helping people with eating disorders and self harm.

The classic picture of self image for a person with an eating disorder is that they will stand in front a mirror and see a much fatter, heavier and unpretty image of themselves. This can be very hard to understand from the outside. How can they see something that is so distorted?

This important point is that the "self image" they have of themselves is created from inside. My experience has always been that they have developed an image of themselves that is untrue and doesn't easily seem to have stemmed from anyone else. There may in fact be a deep trauma or experience that has happened to them that has led them to think very badly of themselves and hence see themselves in a very negative way and especially in a very physically unattractive way. Getting to the route of this trigger that has lead to their own self image is key to solving the condition.

With self harm there is also a poor self image but this has been created in a slightly different way. There is always an external pain that the student is trying to drain away very literally. There will be someone in the background who is making them feel very bad about themselves. They will be bullied either directly by someone or through an indirect way. I have seen a huge correlation between academic achievement and self harm. If there is a sense that you are doing very poorly in school or not keeping up with others expectations of you this can make you feel very bad about yourself. I have seen that students with learning difficulties very often don't feel they are good enough in school. There can be a huge pressure that builds up. There is a great fictional example of this in the book Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling. Parminder Jawanda is in a very high achieving family and as a culture educational achievement is given a huge priority and status. As she is dyslexic and misunderstood in the family she never feels that she comes up to the mark. This in itself would probably not be enough for her to resort to self harming but as she is being anonymously cyber bullied it's all too much! She doesn't have a way to express all that is happening to her and so she finds control in cutting the pain away. I have seen many examples where people self harm because they don't feel they come up to other peoples mark or expectations coupled with an inability to express what is happening in their world. 

If we go back to one of my earlier questions - why is there a tendency for groups of students to self harm in the same schools? Well one of the correlations that I have seen is that schools that are not seen as centers of excellence but would like to be higher on the league tables put their students under enormous pressure to achieve academically. Schools that are consistently doing well have an expectation but it's almost taken for granted that a certain type of student is going to do very well. So there is often not the same pressure as a whole on the class. Schools from disadvantaged areas unfortunately often behave as if they don't have any great expectations. So schools that are middle ground and striving to be better are the ones where students often feel under huge pressure - I have even seen this from the time of the entrance exams. In these schools I have seen pockets of self harm. It's like it is a way to alleviate the pressure cooker effect and yes of course when one person does it then others follow.

So in summary - understanding that these actions are about control and expression is vital. There is always a trigger for poor self image which is key. In the case of eating disorders this can be hard to trace back as it is a very internal bench mark of self image that the person has created for themselves. With self harming the self image is created externally by someone else making us feel like we are not good enough or causing us to feel a pain that we need to get out of our systems.

Finally the key to all of this is expression. Being able to unravel the triggers. When you can truly create your own self image and feel good about yourself you will no longer have the need to cause yourself pain in any way. This is the process I have taken many people through.

 

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly, Expression Developist.™

 


19Aug/13Off

Leaving Cert results 2013, A year later – the transformation of The Homework Club to Confidence Club

So it is one year on - our first state exams results since transforming The Homework Club into Confidence Club and I have been asking myself what are the real results?

In the past I found myself dancing around the real issues with students - as parents and students alike thought they were attending some form of "grind school" we spent more time by stealth in the background getting to the real reasons behind what was going on ... it was often a case of me waiting for an opportunity in the hall to chat casually to a student or waiting for the chance when a parent collected their charge.

Now it is all a lot more straight forward and upfront - which means less time waiting for the chance to talk about what is really happening. All too often the maths result or other challenge is just a factor in what is really happening in a young persons life.

This means a year later I can say that we have worked with real people, real problems and in record time. Many of the students I have met have required no more help from me or my team after the initial hour and a half meeting. Their whole lives have improved not just the "maths problem" or the "english essay rows". The time my team have spent in peoples house has been less that we would have needed in the school for greater return.

All round as what we do is not conventional in anyway it didn't make sense to continue with a conventional school model. I felt often that we had a revolving door as we got results too quickly and now we get them even quicker with a wider spectrum of people.

Another change for me is that I have often felt that we work with students that everyone else has washed their hands of - now we work with the really outside the box stories that no one has thought of! I truly enjoy the challenge and nothing has ever shocked me. I think there is no way now we can be seen as a simple "grind school".

I'm looking forward to what this year brings and all the amazing young people I will meet along the way.

Dr. Naoisé

Expression Developist™

16Aug/13Off

Confidence in Reading while using e-readers, ibooks and Kindle – the pros & cons and advice for dyslexic readers

 

I have been thinking about the question -  is using eReaders better or worse for your reading when you are dyslexic? - it's a personal dilemma for me as I can read much faster and more accurately with the setting on a device set to white text on black but then one of the reasons I read so much is because I have proven the more I read the better I can read!

So it's a big trade off - the new setting on the devices where you can pick your own font preference, text size and especially the colour make a vast difference to dyslexic readers and I recommend to all my students to play with their settings. You are looking for short lines of text - use two columns, use the black background or the sepia in the sun and a font which is curly rather than square text - oh and don't be afraid to make it bigger too! All these simple changes will give you so much more confidence reading your books - you read faster and take in more information.

However let's go back to the other side of the debate - the more you read as a dyslexic the better you can read. People on the dyslexic spectrum or with ADD/ADHD don't naturally read well. It's all about practice! So if we make it so much easier as we do with eReaders we lose some of the practice element when we go back to white pages and black text! I wish book publishers would choose their fonts and paper better but until then we have to find ways to cope.

A few months ago I was distressed to realise my reading out - especially of menus was decreasing in ability despite the fact that I read so much (usually up to 7 books at a time so I don't get bored). But I was reading these all on my Kindle or iPad.

So now I read at least one paperback fiction book and the more hard core work texts I read online with all my fancy settings makes it easier.

This way I'm still reading quickly for work and accurately but I'm still practicing for restaurant menus!

 

Dr. Naoisé  Expression Developist™

8Jan/13Off

Irish school system fails 75% of People. Why?

Why does the school system work for so few people? Since the beginning in setting up The Homework Club there was a clear pattern. One third of the students were drawn to us by having a recognised learning difficulty such as my own dyslexia, another third had an un-diagnosed condition such as specific comprehension difficulties which are not easily seen and the last third were made up of all the auditory and kinaesthetic learners who just couldn't fit in or relate to the school material! They are always seen as the disruptive chatter boxes and great on the sports field and not academic.

 

18Dec/12Off

Who bullied me most in school?

I'm now 36 and I remember school like it was yesterday. Everyone has a school story and for this reason even though I hated school I now work in education passionately to change it for the better. For everyone.

I spent most of my time between 5 to 7 standing outside the classroom because as a profound dyslexic I could not write or read at all. One day having stood outside the class all day I was sent to the head teacher as I had pointed out that I then couldn't do the homework. As I had not been in class all day whatever hope had I anyway. I had chairs thrown at me ... I was Isolated at a desk on my own with 2 feet all round so I couldn't communicate with anyone to ask for help as my teacher realised I had one friend in the class who would spell for me on the quiet. No one else in the whole class ever spoke to me.

Then there was the endless humiliation of the spelling tests ...

At 7 I was told by a teacher in front of the whole class having struggled to read a story aloud that "I was too stupid to be in the school and should be in the school down the road for the mentally retarded".

I was moved to a new school. The whole time I so excelled at maths I could do the 6th class maths in 1st class. In the new school I was motivated to finally do well by an amazing teacher who saved my life. I had him for two wonderful years. Then it took a wobble with the next teacher as I was now on the road to doing everything brilliantly, when I asked what I had done wrong in a test I was mocked in front of the whole class for being an annoying perfectionist. Somehow I had the strength to ignore this blip and keep going.

In that year of that school I was also accused of doing something I didn't and had my honesty questioned in front of the whole class till I had melt down again and the equally amazing head came in and sorted it all out and I was never picked on again. I left that school to read my first book.

On my first day of secondary school I had to defend my right to stay in mainstream English class. There was no way in this world I was going to "veggie" English! I had decided I was going to university and I was aware I needed honours English for my course. I was staying. But it was a humiliating battle that took place in front of the whole class and set the tone for my next six years.

By my final year in school the same remedial teacher met the department of education official to tell them I didn't deserve support as I didn't have a "real problem", I had done too well in school in all honours subjects including English. She discussed my "case" openly with me in the school corridor for all to hear.

At the same time when I was desperately looking for someone to read my exam papers to me, my other teachers were openly humiliating me in class for my writing, spelling, reading and most ridiculously not correcting my mock papers because I hadn't spelt their names right. I was stopped in the corridor in front of other students to complain about how hard it was to correct my exams.

Then there are all the teachers who continually for 6 years made me read out loud in class - what's in paragraph  blah Naoisé? I didn't know what page we were on never mind where we were on the page! I had panic attacks in certain classes for years.  Teachers asked me to read off the board and then spoke to me in pigeon English when I got it wrong.

The gap, transition year was the worst as every day was new and I never knew what was waiting at school for me. I had to read Shakespeare aloud amongst other awfulness and everyone had so much more time on their hands to bully me.

I'd love to say it's all different now but my students are always surprised I understand them so well - I see the humiliation in them like tattoos and many cry at our meetings as I'm the first person who has been able to understand then. It's overwhelming for them.

When will adults realise the importance of their behaviour? You set up how everyone else will treat that person, that child. Whatever you say and do in public sets the ground rules for the environment and what can and cannot be done to that person.

After my first day in English where I needed to defend my right to be in the same class as everyone else I spent years picking my books out of the bin in every class I went into, because I was rubbish. I spent years been used as target practice to have objects thrown at me repeatedly in the locker room. No one wanted to be my friend. Every table I went to sit at was "full" - and worse that I will not talk about. Teachers were often deaf, dumb and blind to what happened to me.

It's called respect. It's a two way process. You earn it. It's not assumed  and it doesn't correlate with your title or how many letters there are before or after your name.

The first thing I do with every new student I meet is to shake their hand.  They are my equal.

What you do in public sets the private behaviour FOREVER, not just that one moment in class.

 

Dr. Naoisé  Expression Developist™

21Sep/12Off

What can Profiling do for a Studnet’s Future Career?

This short video I recorded at the Irish Times Higher Options Conference in RDS explains why profiling is so important for Students early in their education life - You can pursue the Career you were born to do!

4Sep/12Off

Book Your Appointment Now!

One of the many reasons why Students attending The Homework Club become so successful is because of the awareness they have of their own Potential, Personality and Learning Style and how these effect their own educational success. Every Student at The Homework Club is set-up to work to their best abilities within the environment through an initial interview.

The Confidence Club now offers this service to everybody, especially those restricted through distance and who aren't able to attend our classes at The Homework Club.

€277 Consultation investment for a comprehensive one and half hour session.
You will leave with a full profile of individual learning style plus a devised education plan for all future educational study together. There is a full report with an outline of steps to follow for success! We like to stay in touch with all our students and support them along their future paths.

We have now been successfully offering this service in a number of environments including; businesses, sports mentoring, workshop consultation and of course for students of all ages 5 - 65 (so Far!)

Simply fill in the form below & choose the time of your appointment & we'll be delighted to guide you through your steps to success...

Name
Address
Phone
email
Stage in Education
Referral from an organisation
Areas where help needed
Any other comments
Book Appointment

8Jun/12Off

This August 2012 – Didn’t get the results you needed? Looking for alternative options? Book in now!

From Wednesday 15th August 2012

Didn't get the results you needed in the Leaving Certificate? Worried that you won't get your top choice course? What are your options now?

At the Confidence Club we believe everything in life happens for a reason - 9 times out 10 if you didn't get the course you had applied for it probably wasn't for you anyway! Hard to believe I know when your 17 but with 15 years experience of working in education I know see things very differently to what I did on my own results day - hard to believe that I was disappointed with well over 500 points! I could have done almost any course I wanted in the country that day except the one I had picked - and now I know I never would have been satisfied in life...

At the Confidence Club our aim in our Workshops is to help students to choose the best path for them - find the perfect career based on their Personalities, Apttitudes and Potential. Everyone has to follow their dreams and we would like to see them do this from as early an age as possible, we start at 5! The career might be a highly academic one that needs many traditional school subjects or it may be one that is totally outside the box and needs many skills not covered currently in mainstream education - we don't mind as we cover what's needed! But not everyone is as lucky to start with us at 5 and so we are here too to help older students find their true path even when it means changing direction ..

To meet us this August complete the Booking Form

Dr Naoisé O'Reilly

 

 

19Apr/12Off

Why are teenagers texting instead of talking?

"the hidden expression"

Even at The Homework Club which is a really engaging educational space I see students taking out their phones as a comfort tool as they wait for their classes. I have had the discussion on texting and teenagers with many parents over the last three years. It seems that students have forgotten how to talk to each other and prefer to hide behind texting instead. But I don't find this surprising at all. After all from the age of 5 when they start school they are continually asked to be quiet. I think they have retreated into their own private world where they can continue to "talk".

Another great example of teenagers taking over technology for their own gain and status is the use of the "Mosquito" sound as ringer tones that was originally designed to stop them hanging around areas. As the teenagers could only hear the sound this made it a perfect channel to use to communicate which each other.

What we learn here is as we focus teenagers into a constricted environment with our rules they will always have the initiative to find ways to use devices for their own benefit. The problem I see is that they have gotten so reliant on texting rather than talking - they are almost afraid to lose the technology barrier from the world. That combined with the fact that we don't ask for their opinions very often - well it is hard to suddenly expect them to want to engage and talk freely!

link to article on the mosquito

A wonderful aside to this situation is that we have in the past used "text speech" to help students with expression difficulties to write. As many of these students which are what are often seen as having severe learning and communication difficulties have by themselves "learnt" text speech as this is the perfect medium to get them started on writing - all we need them to do is expand the letters! Text speech is so often shunned in education but can be such a great starting point!

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly

 

Introduction

Welcome to the Confidence Club

One step closer to fulfilling a personal dream of mine - "to make school a happier, creative, more successful and enjoyable place for all students, regardless of their differences"... Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly

There is always a balance between making long term changes in education and supporting those people currently in the system!

One of the many reasons why Students attending The Homework Club become so successful is because of the awareness they have of their own Potential, Personality and Learning Style and how these effect their own educational success. Every Student at The Homework Club is set-up to work to their best abilities within the environment through an initial interview.

The Confidence Club now offers this service to everybody, especially those restricted through distance and who aren't able to attend our classes at The Homework Club.

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