There is nothing more terrifying than a classroom full of bright-eyed, inquisitive kids. It’s amazing how life goes. I was asked be a speaker at St Patrick’s Primary & Nursery School, Mayobridge, as part of Safer Internet Day. As I’ve quite recently adopted the rather foolhardy approach of, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, I accepted with a “what the heck” attitude and then thought, “holy shit”. I’d interviewed the lovely teacher Mary, who’d asked me to take part, a while back for Family Life, a supplement I work on. However, I didn’t recognise her until I met her at school. We were actually classmates at grammar school together. It’s crazy how small the world is. I took the train to Newry, my homestead, with Sonny. I read over my notes, distracted by a sweet young girl who kept asking her parents if cats, dogs and sheep liked water. “I want to be a sheep!” she cried. Even in my petrified state, I stifled a giggle. As a journalist by profession, I covered my bases, doing as much research as I could, but I wasn’t prepared for actually delivering a 45-minute talk. I freaked myself out about the class being bored, or them throwing paper planes at me – or worse. (I wouldn’t have blamed them). As I nervously approached the school, doing my best to at least look the part in my new check trousers and (thank you ASOS) and trusty white blouse with black bow, I actually felt weak at the knees. I don’t even think I was as nervous on my wedding day. I plastered on a smile and had a quick chat with Mary, while Sonny settled in in the staff room with mum and dad. I was led to the classroom and suddenly, I had 34 pairs of eyes on me, boys and girls all curious about how I was going to entertain them before they could make their escape. It was now or never. I spoke in as loud and as confident a voice as I could muster and started talking about the internet, social media, blogging and how you can have a positive impact online, sticking as close to my carefully worded script as I could.
After a few minutes, I felt a bit more at ease. Luckily, the table closest to me was full of bright, interested faces, asking lots of questions. I had organised plenty of activities so I wouldn’t be talking at them and putting them to sleep (and it was the last talk before home-time). As with every classroom I expect, there were some bright sparks and cheeky monkeys. My task, ‘draw the internet’ got a few pretty amusing responses. The funniest was when I asked the different groups to compose a tweet. One, I can’t repeat, but I think I went scarlet. Another was, “My cat is as old as Donald Trump.” The classroom assistant did a brilliant job keeping the classroom under control (things were getting a bit rowdy at times), probably down to the fact that I’m too nice (or so I was told), they even got a stern talking to, but overall, I was glad that they were so full of questions. The 45 minutes flew by. In fact, I didn’t even cover everything I wanted to say. But, you could say I was saved by the bell at 3pm. I don’t know who was more relieved, them or me, but I was really proud of myself for throwing myself in the deep end. I wasn’t completely unequipped for such an event though, at school I did public speaking and did verse speaking at the feis. But, I’m definitely a bit rusty as I approach my 40th year. Still, I was delighted to be invited back for teaching practice! If I had to do things over, I think training to become a teaching would be an awesome job. I love the idea of moulding young minds.
I really glad I pushed myself to do the talk. I believe every situation opens doors, and if I can survive a classroom of children, I can survive just about any situation, right? Unless that situation is meeting Ryan Gosling or Henry Cavill and then I’m just going to melt into a huge puddle. But enough about fantasies, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if you take a leap, you’ll always feel better. Even if you land on your face.
As for Sonny, his favourite pastime is screeching at the top of his lungs, splattering food all over himself and the floor with his spoon and getting incredibly frustrated when he’s on his belly, flailing his arms and legs expecting to move. It’s pretty hilarious though. I can’t believe that one day, my little man will trotting off to school with his bag on his back. I know that will be incredibly hard for me as a mum, to see him begin his journey in this thing we call life. You can learn much from children though, and we should all take a more child-like approach to life… and never stop learning.