Tag Archives: Evelyn O’Connor

Story spine…

Road trip photo
Once upon a time there was a teacher who didn’t like computers very much. She felt shy in their presence. Unsure, uncertain, undone.

And every day, necessity came knocking on her door, crying loudly “the time is nigh, the time is near, embrace the future, defeat your fear”. But still the teacher hesitated, unwilling to jump into the abyss of all that she did not know.

Until one day, she took a road trip to a CESI meet and said unto those who knew so much more than she ever would “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak to me then, who neither beg nor fear your favours nor your hate”. And they replied with kindness and compassion for the teacher who knew so little and she began to feel like maybe, just maybe, she could do this (…but that’s a story from another day and you can read about it here).

And because of that she attended a 3 day digital bootcamp in Cork (here) and because of that she embraced more challenge based learning in her teaching. Not all the time, but more than ever before.

And because of that, and her compassion for those who, like her, were struggling to learn things never learned before, she won a lovely teaching award (here) and felt like maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t a total imposter, a feeling many teachers battle their entire career (‘who am I to teach you what you do not know?’).

Until finally, she felt an equilibrium gently bedding down in her soul. But once again necessity came knocking at her door, crying “the tablet era is nigh. Take your head out of your ass and stop being so smug about how much you know”. So she once again found herself seeking out those who could help her, with patience and kindness and compassion. And she found them, in @Krowdrah and @Andyisatwork and @cajcarter and @Lannoy29 and @Mrpielee and @catherinem23 and she rejoiced and was glad because one great teacher can make a difference but six make all the difference in the world. And being in a space with 200 great teachers for 6 days makes all the difference in the universe.

And ever since that day, she gives thanks daily for the wonderful educators who help her leap into the terrifying abyss of all that she does not know and all that she has yet to learn.


Story Spine is just one of the many things I learned at ADE Institute 2013 and yes, there’s an app for that! thanks @rebeccastockley

Sample answer unseen poetry

When tackling the unseen poem, discuss the three T’s – themes, tone and techniques AKA ideas, feelings and style of writing. Don’t feel you have to be complimentary about the entire poem and don’t feel you have to discuss every line. Oh, and obviously I’m at a big advantage here: the poem isn’t unseen to me because I wrote the bloody thing!


Blue = themes/ideas

Red = tone / feelings

Purple = techniques / style

Green = personal opinion / response

Bold = flow (connectives / linking phrases)


Write a personal response to the poem “Mother” by Evelyn O’Connor.


What first strikes me is the depth of love and admiration the poet feels for her mother. She compares her to the sun in an extended metaphor which runs the entire length of the poem. The comparison is a clever one, for how else would we survive without the warmth and protection offered to us by the sun and by our beloved mothers?

I also like how the transition from present to past is achieved as she “orbit[s] the past, a seething mass of nuclear energy” and offers us vivid images of her childhood through the use of very active verbsswimming…splashing…eating“. There’s a lovely music in the internal half-rhymes of  “so / don’t, past / mass, gingerbread men / then, eclipse / crisp” and the focus on food captures the innocent joy of being a kid:  she remembers “Easter chocolate nests, plum puddings at Christmas, gingerbread men and now and then éclairs oozing cream down greedy fingers“. The way the layout of the poem mimics the action being described also made me smile, as the cream – and the poem – flows down the page. For me this flashback sequence is the strongest section of the poem.

However, there are times when the rhymes don’t really work – “sea / library” seems a bit forced, and the poem borders on cliché on occasion, particularly when she observes “doubtless we could search to the ends of the earth for something you would not do for us“. Furthermore, for me the final line seems hopelessly naivethe sun keeps shining and never will die” although this could perhaps be testimony to the poet’s firm belief that she simply could not survive without her mother, who “never burn[s] out” and “never burn[s] up“.

Nonetheless, I do like how the poem captures the universal truth that it’s hard to really get to know your parents (“once I saw a solar eclipse…but it was over all too quickly and my vision blurred”) particularly if you grow up in a big family where there are “so many… always wanting, needing, asking, pleading, bleeding dry your store of selfless love“. The poem captures ‘big truths’ but perhaps not in a very original way.

Sample unseen poem


Evelyn O’Connor

Mother says “don’t look at the sun, it will blind you

so I don’t look at her.

I orbit the past, a seething mass of nuclear energy.


Sunspots float before my mind:

swimming in the pool, splashing in the sea, going to the library

eating Easter chocolate nests, plum puddings at Christmas,

gingerbread men and

now and then éclairs







Once I saw a solar eclipse

your edges suddenly clear and crisp,

burning strength into our bones.

But it was over all to quickly

and my vision blurred.


Then I confess I found you lost

convinced we had gobbled you up

so many of us always wanting, needing,

asking, pleading, bleeding dry your store of selfless love.


Yet you never burn out, you never burn up.


Doubtless we could search to the ends of the earth

for something you would not do for us

but why waste time?


The sun keeps shining and never will die.


CESI 2013

[youtube_sc url =http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQfFp9ZRI1Q]

Here are the bare bones of the presentation I gave at CESI 2013 on using IT to help our students develop the key skills of the new Junior Cycle.

Teacher of the Year Awards

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-gQbttw9Tg&feature=youtu.be]

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCV97Rq_Na8]

Here’s audio from my most recent interview: with Miles Dungan on RTE Radio 1

[soundcloud url=”http://soundcloud.com/leavingcertenglishnet/todaywithpatkenny”]

or click directly on this link: http://soundcloud.com/leavingcertenglishnet/todaywithpatkenny

Here’s the audio from my interview on newstalk

[soundcloud url=”http://soundcloud.com/evelynoconnor/evelyn-on-the-right-hook”]

If that doesn’t load properly just click this link instead: http://soundcloud.com/evelynoconnor/evelyn-on-the-right-hook

The article from thejournal.ie that made my acceptance speech go viral http://www.thejournal.ie/teachers-permanent-non-permanent-evelyn-oconnor-teacher-of-the-yea-502993-Jun2012/

Some further food for thought:

So why are we blindly copying the mistakes that were made in the UK and the US instead of following best international practice to improve our education system and make it once again the envy of the entire world? We were the Island of Saints & Scholars. We have become the island of Rote & Regurgitate. We want to be the Island of Dreaming & Doing.

Let’s debate this properly.