Rising to the challenge for personal satisfaction and growth
Early Years Graduate
Early Years & Montessori
“I always wanted to do my degree. Not necessarily with a view to changing jobs or gaining promotions, but simply to prove to myself that I could! As a resident of Donegal, the blended learning approach and being able to complete the level 7 degree in just over a year really appealed to me… then…since I enjoyed the level 7 course so much, I decided to sign up for the level 8 honours degree- I wanted to challenge myself again”
Women all over Ireland can relate to Eileen’s McLoughlin’s story. When her children were young, she worked part time in a pre-school and as they progressed to secondary school she began to work full time. Now with over 20 years’ experience, it was ‘her time’- time to focus on her own self development.
Eileen wanted to become more qualified in early childhood studies. She adopted a step-by-step approach to her learning and explains “I completed my level 6 in 2011, and always wanted to do my degree. Not necessarily with a view to changing jobs or gaining promotions, but simply to prove to myself that I could! I had looked at other part time degree courses over the years, but they all involved committing to four years of study and I was reluctant to sign up for something that took so long. Being able to complete the level 7 degree in just over a year really appealed to me.”
Subsequently, Eileen was keen to continue her learning journey “I am still in the same job, and hope to remain there as I love working with the children, families and other staff. But since I enjoyed the level 7 course so much, I decided to sign up for the level 8 honours degree- I wanted to challenge myself again and I am currently working towards that.”
Eileen lives in Donegal and the blended learning approach suited her. Each module commenced with a face to face workshop/tutorial which she found very beneficial “It was lovely to meet the tutors and discover what exactly was involved in each assignment …I gained so much understanding at these sessions… While there was lots of material online which was really helpful, the discussions during the workshops and the advice and guidance from the tutors helped to make sense of the readings provided.”
Eileen found she also learned a great deal from her fellow students at the tutorials and the social interaction helped in developing a sense of community within the student group “Listening to the experiences and ideas of the other students was also a huge benefit, not to mention all the laughs we had! So many friendships and relationships developed during this course, and we all supported, helped and advised one another when it was needed.” While Eileen had great support from family and friends, she found this collegiality within the group essential as they rose to the challenge of learning at degree level together.
She really enjoyed her learning journey “even though some modules were slightly more challenging than others, it was always worth the effort when the results were released. It was a great feeling to know that putting in a bit of extra work paid dividends, and it gave me a real sense of achievement.”
Blended learning was new to Eileen, yet she never felt alone in her studies. She found the tutors supportive “they encouraged me to think about why we do the things we do, and to not be afraid to question ideas and thinking. They were very encouraging, and challenged me to do as well as possible. They were also friendly and approachable, and since they all have experience of working in Early Years, they were very well aware of the problems and challenges that we all face.”
They were very helpful during workshops and webinars, and also via email and feedback. When it comes to assignments, students often worry if they are doing it right, but the blended learning approach removed that fear, Eileen says that being allowed “to submit drafts of all the assignments and get feedback from the tutors was so helpful, as it allowed me to see if I was on the right track. The tutors organised webinars after feedback, before assignments were due, and went over things that they felt were important to the assignments.”
Understandably, Eileen sometimes found it hard to manage everything. She recalls how working full time, running a home and making time for friends and family certainly presented the occasional challenge, especially when assignments were due. She learned to manage her time and “the knowledge that it was only for a year kept me going. And I definitely had to become a bit more relaxed about things like housework and ironing!”
Eileen developed a routine. Each evening she would “disappear with the laptop to the sitting room” where there was less distractions and spent an hour or two reading and working on assignments. She also chose one day at the weekend to work on assignments, and tried to keep the other day free to catch up on other things. For Eileen, time management, organization and achieving a work- life-study balance were crucial to her success.
Finally, Eileen reflects on her time studying with Portobello Institute “I don’t think this course will have an impact on my career, since that was not the reason I undertook it – I’m very happy with where I am workwise. But it has given me a sense of achievement and makes me feel good about myself – it just goes to show that it’s never too late to reach your goals.”
Does Eileen’s story resonate with you? Have you been thinking about doing a degree Early Childhood studies? Eileen is quick to point out – if she can do it, anyone can! If you would like to talk this though with a course advisor, please call 01 892 0000 or come to one of our open days to meet with the lecturers from the Early Years department.