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Donegal defeated Cavan in the 2019 Ulster SFC Final at St Tiernach's Park.
Donegal defeated Cavan in the 2019 Ulster SFC Final at St Tiernach's Park.

Ulster GAA webinars assisting teachers

By Cian O’Connell

These deeply uncertain times ensure adaptability has become critical so Ulster GAA opted to try to upskill teachers in schools.

During the past month a series of webinars have been organised by Ulster GAA’s Provincial Club Coaching and Games Development Officer Garreth Thornton.

The response has been extremely positive with the fifth session focusing on promoting wellness and resilience in children being facilitated by Barbara Mellon.

“Barbara is a primary school teacher and she is also a Relax Kids coach, that is a company she is a practitioner for too, she goes around to schools doing workshops for kids and schools,” Thornton explains.

“It is about giving tips and tricks for children becoming more resilient and giving them the tools to deal with emotional, health wellbeing in a fun way.”

So far Thornton has been delighted with the response and engagement of those who have signed up for the courses.

“This is our fifth session that we have provided for teachers, for anybody really, but we have sort of targeted teachers,” Thornton admits.

“We felt that there was a lot of stuff going on for club coaches and kids. We thought about how we can upskill teachers for when they do go back to school there may not be any GPOs or coaches going into schools in Term 1 and potentially further on.

“We thought about giving teachers some skills in how they can conduct effective PE lessons. We ran four modules on four consecutive Wednesdays. This was brought up last week, we know Barbara, she has done bits before so we contacted her to see if she could come in to run this workshop.

“All of our own staff delivered on the first four workshops, that is the angle we took, just trying to upskill the teachers a bit.”

That teachers can implement the initiatives and ideas being provided is vital to the process according to Thornton.

St Tiernach's Park, Clones.
St Tiernach's Park, Clones.

“We had an introduction to games in week one, we just brought them through different games they can use in PE,” Thornton states.

“Probably the main thing we focused on was how they coach the games, more than just setting up an activity for the kids, that there would be some learning taking place.

“Week two was about how to effectively plan a PE lesson, different tips and tricks on how to get the best out of that 35 or 40 minutes, how to vary between games and drill activities within the session, to cater for all different abilities.

“Week three - tricks of the trade - was the title of the workshop, it was more organisational tips, how to group kids more effectively, how to set out your equipment so you're not handing the ball out of a bag.

“Just small tips coaches would be mindful about, that a teacher wouldn't be. In the last Wednesday it was about how to develop a theme in PE - how do they link the classroom to the PE hall. Then this week is obviously with Barbara is about how to build wellness and resilience skills in kids.”

The manner in which the Ulster GAA coaching staff has dealt with the different circumstances is a source of encouragement for Thornton.

“We've had about 450 teachers across the first four sessions,” Thornton reveals. “We had to run two sessions on the first one through Teams. I set up a meeting and we weren't really au fait on how to do the live webinar or the live event. We set up Teams and the demand was huge, I was apprehensive.

“I know Teams can cater for up to 250 through a meeting, what if we had more than this? We ended up just having two sessions, 1.15-2.30 so we set up two of them.

“From week two onwards we just ran it as a live webinar, you can get up to 10,000 on that system. We've had more than 100 on each session.

“This is all new to us in terms of delivering webinars and workshops through Microsoft Teams and the live webinar thing. We've had to adapt.

“Any of our games webinars are all animated now using up to date technology and talking through the activities that way instead of practically out on the grass how we would usually do it. I think it is going to stay this way for a while.”

Click here for further details on the Ulster GAA webinar series.

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