Shannen is an advocate for mindfulness, spirituality and wellbeing. Follow her on Instagram where her page, @MissShanx_ aims to bring positivity into your everyday life.
When the time came to fill out the CAO, I was not sure what I wanted to pursue in college, so putting Arts down was the best option at the time for me. I knew that Arts was very broad and would allow me the option to pave many paths. When I received my offer I had to defer it for a year as my mother became sick so moving away to Galway was put on the back burner for the time being. Throughout my gap year, I studied a FETAC Level 5 in Early Childhood Care and Education. This course has stood to me so much when applying for jobs in schools as it allowed me to have an understanding of additional needs and child psychology. I highly recommend anyone considering to do a FETAC before college to do it. During that gap year, I taught in a Montessori school and learned very quickly I wanted to work with children in some way.
Originally I was hoping to move into psychology from arts but I sort of just fell into teaching. Throughout my bachelors, I changed my mind so many times when deciding what I wanted to pursue afterwards. I remember coming home from a postgraduate fair event with an array of prospectus’ that ranged from clinical psychology to marketing, to teaching. I was so worried I was going to choose the wrong one for me. 2 years later I graduated with an Honours in Professional Masters in Education (PME) and I am currently working as a primary school teacher in New Zealand. Back in Ireland, I have only taught in a secondary school. Primary teaching is something I definitely want to pursue when I return home. After getting to experience teaching here in New Zealand, I know it is more my forte compared to secondary school teaching.
My college experience was amazing, but many times I still questioned whether I was on the right path. I lost my mother to cancer in the middle of my masters degree and that set me back. I thought I was going to fail my placement as I took compassionate leave. When you experience a loss like that, you lose sight of the bigger purpose. My mam was so proud of the fact I was going to be a teacher, so that got me back on track. It taught me the lesson you can’t give up just because your life has taken a plot twist.
If I could go back in time and give advice to my younger self, I would tell her to take Irish as one of her subjects for the arts degree, as it would make it easier for to transition to a primary school in Ireland. The teaching council is very strict when it comes to having Irish in your degree.
Luckily as a teacher, we get great holidays. Still, the paperwork and admin for our job is pretty high and being responsible for the academic success and well-being of thirty students can be emotionally exhausting. So, I ensure I look after myself by having the rule that I never work after 10 pm or on Saturday’s. That way, I make sure I have some ‘me’ time.
I decided to move to New Zealand to experience teaching abroad. I am so grateful for all the opportunities it has given me. It has shown me that there are still further areas in teaching I wish to pursue. I have had the privilege of being the speaker at my school to educate teachers on mindfulness and wellbeing and how it can be used inside and outside of the classroom for the benefit of our students and ourselves. This has shown me that this might be a route I would like to tap in to. We will see what the future holds.
The advice I would give to future graduates is to not stress, and even if you do stress, try turning that stress into drive. There are back doors into every area in life you want to go if the front door is closed. You have to trust that you will find the way and believe it.