I had been thinking about writing a story about my life’s journey for a while. When I noticed that Vicky Loras, a respected educator in my PLN, had posted a bogging challenge for her PLN to blog about their story it gave me the final incentive to write about my life’s journey.
Childhood in Dublin, Ireland
I grew up in Dun Laoghaire, a pretty seaside port town on the southside of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. I was very much interested in sport and ended up representing Dublin in Hurling which is a national sport in Ireland. At school I was fortunate enough to have had some very inspirational teachers who encouraged my love for learning and ultimately my love for teaching. I majored in Geography and Classical Studies at UCD (University College Dublin) and minored in Irish (Gaelic Language) and Politics. I also completed my Higher Diploma in Education at UCD. The College was close enough that I could cycle there from home. I lived at home with my parents while at Uni and for my first teaching jobs.
New York City
My first venture to live away from home took me to New York City where I was very lucky to live next door to my cousin in Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan. While I only spent about 4 months there during a summer break at Uni, it was a very exciting time for a 21 year old student to experience life in the “City that never sleeps” which was so true of life in ‘the Village’. My work experience there was mainly manual work which funded an exciting social life.
When I graduated with my H Dip Ed, I decided to use my Cert in TEFL to teach English as a Foeign Language in Greece, in the sleepy little rural seaside village of Stylida near Lamia which is about 200Km north of Athens. The only Greek I had was a basic understanding of Ancient Greek fr my Classical studies at Uni so it was a major challenge to be one of two English-speaking foreigners in this quiet village. We learned enough to survive by becoming friendly with the local community. I loved the opportunity to travel to places that I read about while studying at UCD. I actually learned to snow ski on Mt Parnassos during the winter and then explored the many beautiful islands during the summer. I was only ever going to stay one year in Greece however as my intention was always to return to Ireland to teach there.
Unfortunately I could only get part-time work as a teacher in Dublin so I decided to return to College to further my education and job prospects. I took on a Post-Graduate Diploma in Computing at Athlone Institute of Technology. Athlone is located in the geographical centre of Ireland on the river Shannon which is the largest river in Ireland. After my year in Athlone, I had to complete my difficult decision to turn my back on teaching and move into a career in IT.
Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
I moved to Swindon in England in 1990 to commence work as an Analyst Programmer in the Airline and Travel industry for a company called Galileo International. I helped to build software applications for the Reservations Systems for travel agents, airlines, hotel and car hire companies. It was in Swindon that I met my English wife, Fenella. My happy memories from Swindon revolve around the people I met, many of which became friends for life. Swindon did not appeal to me as a place to live but its saving grace was that it was close to nice places like Bath, Oxford, Cotswolds and bigger cities such as Bristol and London. I worked for Galileo International for four years before moving on to work for British Airways as a contract Analyst Programmer. I helped BA implement a new Fares software package.
Once the BA project finished, I had a fantastic opportunity to move to Sydney to help Qantas implement a new Reservations System that they had bought from British Airways. I helped Qantas migrate all their bookings from the old system to the new as well as build their Fares and Ticketing packages. Fenella and I chose to live in Coogee after following a tourist bus drive around the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. We fell in love with Coogee and its beach lifestyle. It was close to the city and the airport where I worked. We also made some friends for life during our stay in Sydney. Fenella and I got married in Airlie Beach, Queensland during this time and sailed around the Whitsunday Islands for our honeymoon. These were very happy times indeed.
Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand
After spending two fabulous years in Sydney, it was time to move on. The nature of the work I was doing in IT for the Airlines meant that I would work on projects for various airlines. Once a project finished, it was time to move to a new project with a new airline in a new country. Next stop on my global tour was New Zealand. We lived in Devonport on the Northern side of the harbour in Auckland. I had the best commute ever here as I would take the 10-minute ferry ride to work. We lived at Narrowneck beach, a few beaches north of the centre of Devonport with beautiful views up the Hauraki Gulf and across to Rangitoto Island which is a distinct volcano. I helped Air New Zealand build an alliance with Ansett Australia and to join the global Star Alliance. My daughter, Elli, was born during this time which was one of the happiest experiences of my life. Our rollercoaster was ready to rock us however with the news shortly after that my Dad was terminally ill. We made a few 36-hour trips back to Dublin to visit him but this was just too hard and so I used my contacts at British Airways to secure a new contract in London rather than accept the chance to stay in New Zealand.
We lived in Teddington a few minutes walk from Bushy Park which had an interesting mix of wildlife including deer, squirrels and parrots. Walks through Bushy Park gave us our only respite from the trauma of watching my Dad slowly die. I spent more time in Dublin at week-ends than in London. The happy times from our life in the Southern Hemisphere seemed a distant memory. We stayed in London for about 8 or 9 months during which time my Dad (probably the most positively influential person in my life) passed away.
I took up a position as a Project Manager for an IT company in Dublin that did outsourced work for airlines and travel companies in Europe and the USA. We lived in Wicklow which is a small port town about 45 minutes drive south of Dublin. My commute however was never that good as it took me closer to 90 minutes to travel to the centre of Dublin by train. This proved to be very difficult especially after our son, Calem, was born. I would leave for work before the kids woke up and they would already be asleep by the time I got home. When winter set in, I only got to see Wicklow in daylight during our busy week-ends. Compounding this was the fact that my major client was Atraxis, the IT subsidiary of Swissair meaning that I spent a lot of time in Zurich. The work I was doing was interesting but it put a lot of pressure on family life. When I received a call from an ex-colleague at Qantas to see if I would be interested in helping him implement eTicketing for Qantas, I jumped at the opportunity to return to Sydney.
Since we were returning with a family, we decided to live in Terrey Hills on the edge of the Northern Beaches in Sydney. This was mainly due to wanting to provide our kids with space to live a fun and active outdoor life. The happy times had returned but alas they were shortlived. The combination of the September-11 terrorist attacks and the collapse of Ansett Australia (incidentally in the same we) had the combined effect of decimating my niche in IT for the airline and travel industry. It had been highly likely that my next project might have been with Ansett. Instead I was facing a number of months out of work and having to make some tough decisions in order to survive. The worst aspect of being forced out of work like this is that I became very introspective and foolishly undervaluing my abilities and skills due to the frequent knock-backs in a depressed industry.
I decided to explore the possibility of a return to teaching. The opportunity to return presented itself at a very opportune time in that Elli was just starting out in school at the same time. I now found myself in the opposite situation to my recent experience in Ireland in that I had gone from little time with family to a lot of time with them. I enjoyed the teaching aspect of the decision as it rekindled the passion I knew that I had for teaching but chose to ignore while making the big bucks in IT. I am so glad that life in its strange way helped me to come full circle with my experience. Teaching IT related subjects and Geography (my first love) at the all girls school, Brigidine College St Ives was an absolute pleasure and the girls certainly benefitted from my vast industry experience. The only reason I left this wonderful school was to take up the opportunity of becoming an ICT integrator role at St Augustine’s College – Sydney in Brookvale on the Northern beaches of Sydney. Now I have the chance to combine my two passions, teaching and ICT, to help other teachers implement ICT strategies into their programs. I have also become involved with the Sydney teachMeets (#tmSydney) by helping to organise, promote and present at these wonderful PD sessions by teachers for teachers. While success in HSC grades for my students has been fabulous, I really feel that I can best make a difference by exploring opportunities for teachers to allow their students to collaborate and connect with other schools all over the world. This is because the students we are teaching will end with an uncertain future in careers that dont exist yet using technology that hasnt been invented yettrying to disciver problems that we dont know about yet. Issues such as the world population passing 7 billion this month means that, according to scientists, we have tipped over the point of being able to sustain our future with the resources that we consume. It is our duty to these students to inspire a love for learning in them that allows them to become resilient and great higher order analytical problem discoverers and solvers. We need to make a difference by helping them to collaborate with peers from all over the world to tackle problems with authentic experiences. My life’s journey has been a rollercoaster of many highs and a few lows but I’ve had to build resilience to be able to manage my expereniences in life. I’ve done so by continually challenging myself as a life-long learner. This is what I want to use to inspire the future generations. I could not have done this in the various roles I held in IT. While I may miss the remuneration I had in IT from time to time, I do not regret any of the decisions I have made along the way. Fate has taken me back to teaching and I believe that I have returned to help make a difference in the lives of teachers and students for the benefit of future generations.
I hope to add a Google Earth video tour of my journey. Here is the music that I use as background during the Google Earth video tour of my journey. It combines a wonderful feel for who I am. Davy Spillane is one of my favourite musicians playing my favourite instrument the Uilleann Pipes (Uilleann is the Gaelic for elbows, and the pipes are played by pushing air through the pipes by the elbows and presents a nicer more melodic sound than its Scottish cousin, the bagpipes). There is also a didgeridoo in this music which embodies the sound of our new home in Australia. This music was played at our wedding and also durng the birth of our daughter, Elli. Enjoy: