A Little Irish by Tracy Lamont
Some might ask, of all the places you could travel to, why go to Ireland? For me, the country has a lot of appeal. Being from the Chicagoland area, we are steeped in Irish heritage. So many Irish immigrants have left their footprints on Chicago culture, that I feel like everyone from here, no matter what heritage you are, is always a little Irish. The town that I teach in, a small farming community outside of Chicago, was founded by Irish immigrants and still has so much evidence of Irish culture in everyday life. For me personally, I do have a little Irish in me...well...Northern Irish to be exact. So when I stumbled across Bookbag Tours and saw that they were offering a trip to Ireland, how could I say no? Being able to explore a country in the hopes of bringing knowledge back to my students, school community, and my family was a no brainer.
Ireland has left me with so many memories. The friendships formed with the amazing and inspiring people I traveled with and the time spent interacting with students and educators at St. Mark’s, have all impacted me personally and professionally. When reflecting on those 10 days in Ireland, I am left longing to someday return because of the beauty of the land, its people, and its history. The Cliffs of Moher, Glendalough, Powerscourt Estate, and SO much of Dublin including Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and the Guiness Brewery, were unbelievable. But one place really sticks out when I think about my time there because of its history. Northern Ireland.
As I have gotten older, I have become more and more obsessed with learning about history, specifically the history of places I travel to. Growing up, I had heard of the fighting between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. But, being so young during much of the Troubles and living an ocean away from it, I didn’t pay much attention. However, on our drive up to Belfast from Dublin, it really hit me that although a peace treaty was signed in 1998, there is still a divide there. Upon entering Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, there was a sign saying “Welcome to Northern Ireland”, except the word “Northern” was blacked out, signaling to me the desire of some people to have a unified Ireland. Throughout our journey in Northern Ireland, we went through many towns flying flags that would indicate where the allegiances of the people there lay. Either the flag of the Republic of Ireland would fly if we were in a Catholic area, or the Ulster Banner or St. Patrick’s Cross if we were in a Protestant area. In Belfast, walls and gates were erected to separate Protestant and Catholic areas, and the gates still close nightly. There were elaborate murals painted on the sides of building to honor people that fought in the 30 year period known as the Troubles, as well as murals of other conflicts taking place around the world. This experience in Northern Ireland, seeing two groups of people who have a long history of conflict, but who now seem to coexist in peace while not being afraid to express their identity, left me thinking about how I could connect this history to the history of my country, America, and incorporate it into my teaching.
Teaching is a roller coaster. You never know where it will take you. If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with, it is to get on that roller coaster. Take that ride. As educators, we want our students to be adventurous, to inquire about the world around them, and to be prepared for the global society they will live in. If we want our students to be like this, then we need to model that for them through our actions. Travel the world, and let it teach you how to become a better educator. I never dreamed that being in the education world would someday allow me to travel anywhere, let alone Ireland. But, I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Bookbag Tours has provided for me and other educators around the world. Let’s see where this roller coaster takes me next!