Teacher speaks of time working abroad

Izzy Antilla, Staffer

Illustrating a new subject the students are learning, geometry teacher Wendy Heir-Greene shows them how important it is for them to recognize key patterns. Heir-Greene has not only taught American students but also taught in Ireland for the year of 2000. Photo by Izzy Antilla.

Geometry teacher Wendy Heir-Greene gained foreign teaching experience after working in an Irish school during the year 2000. While teaching in Ireland, Heir-Greene noticed many differences compared to the current US education system, such as accommodations made for students and the lack of freedom they faced.  

“At a young age, students had to decide what they were going into like medical and had to take specialized tests for those,” Heir-Greene said. “Here we accommodate to students, so you have to teach with many different technologies and groups where there it was more of a lecture style.”  

In Ireland, Heir-Greene noticed the effects of the distinct teaching style that students face which often-times lead to many students going into subjects they didn’t enjoy. The testing system was drastically different than what she was used to, and test scores could often determine a student’s future.  

“Sometimes people had to pick things that weren’t their passion based on their test scores,” Heir-Greene said. “They had different tracks I found detrimental, like if you were in regular you wouldn’t have a chance for college.” 

Even though Heir-Greene only taught in Ireland for one year, she picked up on many different things such as the way that students would treat adults—specifically teachers. When she began teaching in America again, Heir-Greene witnessed the lack of respect she faced compared to the children she taught in Ireland. 

“They still had more of the old-fashioned respect, teachers had boundaries,” Heir-Greene said“I noticed when I came here the way students talk to me, there is no filter here.” 

While in Ireland, Heir-Greene noted a difference between American public schools and Irish public schools. Though Heir-Greene taught at an Irish public school, she noticed many similar fundamentals also found in American private schools. Books were to be bought by students as well as uniforms, differing from the many freedoms Heir-Greene thinks students face in traditional American public schools. 

“When I was living there, education had still been for the elite,” Heir-Greene said. “In Ireland this is a public school but is like an American private school.” 

After teaching in Ireland Heir-Greene reflected on what she learned, believing that many of their teaching styles were outdated when compared to her own present-day teaching style. Currently, Heir-Greene thinks that it is likely they have updated their education plan to best assist the learning styles of students.  

“Now they can re-take the SERT and there are courses that help students gain extra points for colleges,” Heir-Greene said. “I think that it has changed where they make accommodations for students, before they didn’t.”