This is a question that all students are asked around this time of year as they finish another academic year and transition into a two or three month period of ‘No school’. Students preparing for exams maybe in a different mind-set right now, but they too will have a long summer break.

Whatever your age, a summer break should never be wasted. Yes, you have had a long, difficult and challenging year with school / college, study, exams, assignments, projects, sport and various other activities and you deserve a break. But this break I believe should be a break of re-vitalisation and re-energising through activity, new learning and experience.

It is important to spend at least one to two weeks doing nothing after you finish school / college. This is actually important for both your physical and psychological health, After the period of rest / transition, begin to spend your summer with purpose and reasoning. So, if you haven’t already your summer planned, these are some things to think about.

Those of you under 16:

  • Choose a new (or an existing) sport / activity, buy good gear / equipment for it and become really good at it
  • Take up exercising and do it every day or every second day and stick to it
  • Join a charity or do volunteer work
  • Spend quality time with relations / grandparents (your time with is precious)
  • Get a pet and care for it (if you do, remember it is for life, not just for summer)
  • Start reading books
  • Discover the great outdoors

 Those of you over 16:

  • Develop a CV and get a summer job
  • Travel
  • Learn to drive a car
  • Choose a new (or an existing) sport / activity, buy good gear / equipment for it and become really good at it
  • Do a project or big task in your home for your parents / family
  • Go to five places in Ireland that you always wanted to visit / see
  • Discover the great outdoors too!

Routine and discipline are key here. You have to want to do it and you have to enjoy it or it simply will not continue. When the end of August arrives, you will look back and say, ‘’that was a great, memorable and my best summer ever…!’’

Here we are again, heading towards the end of April and May upon us with another year in college completed. It may be your first year or your last year, but whatever year it is, congratulations to you if you have stayed the course, sat the exams, completed them and feel confident of having done well. Final year examinations are about to start / have started in most Third Level academic institutions, while Second Level students are still waiting anxiously for June to arrive (only six weeks away now).

You are now in study mode. The knowledge has been given, shared and sourced. It is now time to reflect on everything you have learned and be able to find the energy to remember what you have learned and be able to articulate it on paper. It is not easy! Don’t regret not putting in the work on this the final hurdle.

With the examinations out of the way, you probably do not want to see a book or a laptop again and this I understand. Before starting your summer vacation or a summer job or indeed a full-time job, clear the desk! If it is your final year, try to find the time and motivation to transition from academia to job-hunting to employment by carefully and neatly stowing everything away. If you return to college again in autumn, think about what you need to do, prepare for now, so that the preparations are easier later.

Transitioning from education to holidays to employment can be difficult and energy-sapping. Think about what you have done, are doing and have to do. Get mindful and feel the transition, enjoy it and look forward to what the coming days, weeks and months can bring to you. If you are one of the 1000’s of Leaving Certificate students siting the exam this year, keep going, work as hard as you can and it will all be so worth it…well done…!

Great advice for students looking to start their career

Newspapers are still around, they have not gone away, as we all thought they would during the ‘takeover’ of The Internet over the past 15-20 years. Research tells us that daily readership / weekly readership of newspapers is increasing as more and more people still want the option of picking something up and reading it.
As a student, why should you read newspapers daily or at least weekly?

Here’s why I think you should…

  • To know what is happening in the place where you live
  • To be able to hold a conversation with someone
  • To improve your verbal and written communication skills

To know what is happening in the place where you live

With employment activity increasing, property sales increasing and a more vibrant economic outlook developing, you as a resident should know the effect of all of these in your village, town, city, county, country and globally. Become interested in what is going on around you, get the detail and know the facts. Knowledge is power and by having the knowledge everything is possible for you.

To be able to hold a conversation with someone

Knowledge is everything. It gives you confidence; it helps assertiveness and instils self-belief. With these tools in your armour, you can hold a conversation with anyone, with someone you know or indeed a stranger. With smart phones taking over our world effecting our eyesight and posture (that’s a topic of conversation in itself!), we need to make a deliberate effort to start talking to people again, in the flesh so to say, even if it is just for the generations to come.

To improve your verbal and written communication skills

The world is full of excellent journalists, especially Irish journalists. These people have been academically trained, are quailed and experienced to deliver news to us through written communication every day. Embrace, cherish and be grateful for this gift from other people. By reading good journalism, our verbal and written communication skills will enhance, awarding you direct and indirect benefits in your education and career challenges / assignments.

At a recent conference entitled ‘Reforming Learning: Driving Success (NUI, Galway – December 2014), speakers shared their thoughts on the readiness of post-primary students for entry into Third Level Education academic institutions. Various concerns were raised including education, learning and social skills that students need to have in order ‘to survive’ the demands and pressures from the academic institution, the courses / subjects being taught and their fellow student peers. Blame was not actually being accounted, but the questions were asked, ‘Who needs to be responsible / accountable? What needs to be done?

Parents, guardians, schools and homes are all responsible and are all accountable. Dr Mary Fleming who chaired part of the conference said, ‘We need a complete rethink of how we teach students in Post-Primary to allow them move forward to university level with greater ease’. We all need to play our part in helping the young people of our future to make the transition as fast and as smooth as possible. We need to break their bad habits that may have been formed pre-third level. Universities claim that students are using the first year of college to learn how to learn, how to act like adults and how to ‘fend’ for themselves. There are no concerned people in university like there are in Post-Primary. So, as teachers and parents of Post-Primary students, consider the following pro-active ideas:

Parents:

  • Involve them in challenging home chores, home maintenance, home upkeep
  • Show them how to buy food, prepare food and cook food
  • Teach them how to manage, budget and save money

Teachers:

  • Instill good communication, interpersonal and social skills
  • Prepare them better for Third Level education as they leave Post-Primary, so that they know the difference between both (at least make them aware)
  • Give them guidance on career and course choices

We as parents and teachers need to make our interventions more personal and more individual for each young person that we are responsible for rearing and teaching.