It has been over a year since I started working in the Physical Education and Sport Sciences (PESS) department at the University of Limerick (UL), and I still get asked ‘so what is it that you do there?’ The role of Applied Studies Coordinator is a multi-faceted one. My experiences to this point have helped me approach the role with vigour.
Before I came to PESS, I studied BSc Sports Management and a Masters of Business Studies with the view to working in sports event management. My first job when I graduated was teaching physical education for a year and coaching volleyball. I had an amazing year and realised that I loved working with young people and physical education so I decided to apply for a position on the Graduate Diploma of Education in Physical Education here at UL. Following a successful application process and a year at University College Cork (UCC) completing some modules, which I needed to be a physical educator, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the course.
Upon qualification, I spent a few years substituting in schools around Leinster in Ireland whilst also working on some projects in sports event management. Substitution provided me with more in-school experience, and also posed a challenge – as anyone who has ever substituted in second-level schools knows, you’ve got to be on your toes. Added to this, I was lucky enough to have opportunities in sports events. My highlights during this time was working at the London Olympic Games in 2012 and the Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia, USA in 2014.
After I returned from the USA, I managed to secure my first teaching contract at St. Mary’s College, Naas, Co. Kildare. I worked there for two productive and enjoyable years and managed to be involved in some fantastic projects within the school. The highlights for me during this time was being part of a very successful volleyball coaching programme in the school where we reached and won All-Ireland finals and also the conception of a Wellbeing Programme in the school. This programme had a focus on extra-curricular events during lunchtimes to foster a culture of activity and collaboration within the school community. Coupled with this, a team of students and staff organised the school’s first Wellbeing Week. This week was full of fun events, topped off with an early-morning neon theme rave on the final day! I was torn leaving my teaching post in the school but I was ready for a change and, in May 2016, decided to apply for the role of Applied Studies Coordinator in the PESS Department here at UL.
My role in the PESS Department
So now onto my job here and what I do. My role is primarily a teaching role in the department. I lecture on a number of modules on the BSc Physical Education course and the BSc Sports Science course. These modules include; pedagogy of invasion games, pedagogy or gymnastics, fundamental movement skills, youth sport and policy, exercise to music, to name a few. Within this role, I also serve as a tutor to fourth year physical education students who are on school placement. In this capacity, I mentor students who are on a teaching placement in Irish secondary schools giving them advice and feedback over the course of a semester. I meet with the students before they start their placement and at the end of their placement with two scheduled visits to witness them teaching during this time.
Another part of my role involves supporting students completing their final year projects. As part of the undergraduate physical education programme, students need to undertake a research project. I am a supervisor to three students whose final year research project is in the area of physical education in Irish secondary schools. This is a process again where I help, mentor and advise students throughout the year-long process. It can be a stressful project for students so it is important to be understanding while trying to keep them on track with their deadlines as well as developing their time management skills.
I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of projects whilst here in PESS. I have presented two years in a row at the national Physical Education Association of Ireland (PEAI) conference, which was a fantastic experience. I have had the privilege to be involved with a project with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) with the new Senior Cycle Physical Education Framework. This year I have started a new role with Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) as a Wellbeing Associate, which involves being part if the team which is delivering continuing professional development to physical education teachers on the new Wellbeing curriculum.
The greatest opportunity I have been given is to have started my own research. Having worked with so many established and accomplished researchers over the past year, and indeed the years prior, I began to wonder if it was something that I should look in to myself. Nowadays, to work in a third-level institution, there is an onus on students to contribute to an area of study, so that is where I am now. I have decided to embark on my own doctoral research study whilst I work here in PESS. The area that I am interested in is Wellbeing. There is so much change in physical education in Ireland at present and it is such an exciting time. Whilst holistic education has been at the core of the Irish education system, the explicit focus on wellbeing as an area of study is a relatively new phenomenon and I am interested in looking at how it rolls out.
Reflecting on the year
It has been a busy year with many challenges and opportunities. I have loved being here at the University of Limerick as it is one of the most striking university campuses in Ireland with its scenic setting right alongside the River Shannon. I work with many impressive people all of whom have been so welcoming to me since day one, offering me support, advice and guidance any time I have needed it. I have had the opportunity to meet people from many corners of the world, which I appreciate hugely, as diverse opinions can help us all learn about best practice throughout many education systems.
Right before I came for the interview for the job here in PESS, a friend said to me, ‘Work hard in silence and let success make the noise’. Well, that has remained with me since that time. I try to work hard, planning and teaching my classes, supporting and guiding the students, working as part of team and helping my colleagues when I can whilst also embracing opportunities which come my way. Working in silence… well I might need to cut down on the chats in the corridor if my supervisor has anything to do with it, and well, as regards success, I think that each day a class goes well or I get some positive feedback from a student or a colleague, that encourages me that I am doing an ok job.
At times I do miss school; for instance, I miss the students and I miss my friends and the camaraderie of the staff room, but at the moment I am very happy with my job and my life here in Limerick. Although I have to admit I am a bit of a ‘Lunster’ (Leinster/Munster fan) when it comes to the rugby, I am most certainly a Lilywhite through and through when it comes to GAA and that will never change J #KildareforSam2018
Claire Walsh is the Applied Studies Coordinator at the Physical Education & Sport Sciences Dept. at the University of Limerick. See Claire’s profile here !