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College life: 'I feel I can make more of a difference if I do secondary teaching. I suppose the students are at a more critical stage'

Josh Mullen | Teaching, Mary Immaculate College Thurles campus

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Teaching student Josh Mullen at his former school McEgan College, Macroom, Co. Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Teaching student Josh Mullen at his former school McEgan College, Macroom, Co. Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Teaching student Josh Mullen at his former school McEgan College, Macroom, Co. Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Like a lot of sixth years facing the pressure of the exams and big life decisions, Josh Mullen struggled with mental health issues in the run-up to his Leaving Cert.

When it came to selecting his CAO choices he decided going away to college was a good idea. But having done so, he quickly realised he had made “a big mistake” with his course, and dropped out.

Josh found himself back home in Macroom, Co Cork, with no immediate plan. Not for the first time, one of his former teachers, Bernie Angland, had his back.

“She came to me and said: ‘You are not just going to sit at home for a year’,” Josh recalls.

Angland had been Josh’s Year Head during Transition Year at the local McEgan College and was a great source of support when he came out that year.

“She was fierce help; she was hugely supportive and we have got a great friendship out of it,” he says.

As well as being a second-level school in the DEIS scheme for disadvantaged communities, McEgan College offers further education courses and, under Angland’s guidance, Josh enrolled on a PLC course in Business Studies.

He achieved 11 distinctions, landing a place on a teacher training course that will lead him to post-primary qualification within four years. It’s a concurrent degree, which means that the teaching qualification is integrated into it and there is no requirement to do the Professional Master in Education (PME).

Josh (20) is now in second year of the BA in Education, Business Studies and Accounting at the Mary Immaculate College Thurles campus.

He had always fancied a career in teaching and his ultimate decision to opt for post primary, rather than primary, was grounded in his experience at McEgan College, and the support he received, not only academically, but also when he came out as gay.

“I feel I can make more of a difference if I do secondary teaching. I suppose the students are at a more critical stage of their development, so it will be good to have extra support.”

Studies have shown that many teachers who identify as LGBT+ are nervous about coming out for fear it will jeopardise their career prospects.

Ireland has a great reputation for its teachers, but the profession suffers from a lack of diversity that does not reflect the pupil population and the changing societal landscape. There is a major effort underway to attract students from cohorts that are under-represented in teaching, including from the LGBT+ community and those from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities.

When Josh discussed career plans with pals, some responded, ‘You are going to be ripped to shreds’.

“It was mainly the boys and it was just the whole thing of being gay,” says Josh. “I told them that teaching and learning had nothing to do with my sexuality.”

As schools re-open today, Josh will be starting his first professional work placement, back at McEgan College, and not at all phased about teaching his students online.


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