Featured Advice
What are your interests?



The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.

Mary Joyce, Secondary School Teacher
Education & Teaching

Mary Joyce, Secondary School Teacher

Mary Joyce is a Secondary School Teacher of Geography and PE and works in Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, Co Kildare.  She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Geography from the University of Limerick and also qualified as a Fitness Instructor under the NCEF.

Ask me your
first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

Choosing to do PE was a big decision as I was the only one attending University of Limerick (UL) from my group of friends. Choosing my elective subject (Geography) once I registered in UL was also a crucial decision as there were a variety of five from which to pick.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

There are a number of teachers in my extended family but my PE teacher was probably my biggest influence. The enthusiasm she had for the job inspired me to pursue it as a career.

How did you go about getting your current job?

Through the CAO I applied for PE teaching in University of Limerick. At the time I had to complete a movement and ability test but I think that has since been removed as part of the requirements. I passed that test and once I acquired the points from the Leaving Cert. I was accepted into the course.

Describe a typical day?

In secondary teaching, our day is more or less determined by the ringing of a bell every 35-40 minutes. I have 33 periods of class a week and teach both Junior and Leaving Cert. PE and Geography.

A typical day will see me meet over 150 pupils. All PE classes are double periods and Geography mainly single, except for one double at senior cycle.

During each lesson you are expected to correct homework and deliver new content. In PE you have to include a warm-up, the main body of the lesson and a cool-down. Some days time constraints or interruptions won’t allow you to complete what you have planned for so you have to adapt your lesson accordingly.

Time also has to be set aside to assess pupils in both subjects, more so in geography. At lunch or small break, I may have supervision and after school I have teams to train or study to supervise. Don’t be fooled - a teachers job does not end at 4pm!!

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

My main task and responsibility is to educate the pupils I teach. In terms of Geography they have a Junior and Leaving Cert. to sit, and in relation to PE our main goal is to fulfill the requirements of the syllabus while preparing the pupils for long-life participation in physical activity. On a daily basis I am responsible for the pupils’ welfare while in my care.

What are the main challenges?

The main challenges are dealing with diversity and mixed ability in the classroom, inclusion of all pupils in all activities and maintaining safety and high levels of participation in PE.

What's cool?

The holidays!! My colleague says “the education of our future generations”!!, that too, of course.

What's not so cool?

The mood swings of a 16 year old!! And the corrections.......

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Iím a good listener and communicator which is a big plus in teaching. Youth is on my side yet so I can demonstrate most physical skills in the PE class!

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

In school I studied Geography, German, History and Economics along with the three core subjects. Geography is the only subject that has influenced by career as it was my elective subject in college and I am now teaching it along with PE. You need to consider the subject choices available with PE in your chosen course and college as it will be affected by your chosen subjects at leaving cert.

What is your education to date?

I attended Presentation Secondary School in Tralee. After that I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Geography from the University of Limerick. This was a four year concurrent teaching degree. During my time there I also qualified as a Fitness Instructor under the NCEF. Since then I have participated in a number of teacher inservice courses in both PE and Geography.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

The pedagogy (teaching) modules in both PE and Geography were probably the most crucial modules undertaken in college as they provided us with the skills necessary for the classroom. Video teaching allowed us to analyse our teaching from year one in college. The time we spent on teaching practice in both 2nd and 4th year were paramount to gaining experience before qualifying.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Teaching is a rewarding job in the sense that there are plenty of opportunities to work with students outside of the classroom. Since beginning teaching Iíve trained a number of teams and got involved in the choreography for the school show. While there are no monetary rewards for getting involved in extra-curricular activities, the experience of dealing with students outside of the classroom is of great assistance for dealing with them in the classroom. You develop a good relationship with the pupils which is of huge benefit to the teaching and learning process

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

I think I have the key qualities I mentioned earlier: patience, enthusiasm and confidence. In terms of PE teaching specifically, I’m fairly organised when it comes to the PE class. A lot of organisation goes with delivering a PE lesson as you must take into consideration equipment, setting and safety issues.

What is your dream job?

Thatís a difficult one, itís hard to beat a job with three months summer holidays!!

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Teaching affords you the holidays like no other job. Where possible I like to travel during the summer and get away on shorter breaks during the year. In time, it will be a job that will facilitate family life easier than other professions.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Teaching as they say is a vocation, it is a job that requires patience and enthusiasm. If you are considering teaching you need to look beyond the holidays and think of the 9-4 Monday to Friday spent dealing with children or teenagers and the challenges which they might pose.

I would advise anyone thinking of teaching as a career to speak with Teachers and learn of their experiences, both positive and negative. I personally would encourage people to consider teaching as it is an extremely rewarding profession in terms of the interaction you get daily with young people and the colleagues you meet in the job.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

The three most important characteristics I feel are:

  1. Patience: Problems will arise regularly when you are dealing with young people, especially when it comes to homework. Patience is key in a lot of situations to avoid confrontation with individuals. Also patience is vital when you are delivering content as pupils will learn at different rates and you need to be patient to ensure all pupils have had a chance to maximise their learning.
  2. Enthusiasm: Teaching is a profession in which you must enjoy dealing with young people or you will struggle to gain satisfaction from the job. Every day you must deliver a performance to a variety of students of different age groups and abilties and unless you enjoy such work, it can be mundane for both you and the pupils. Students tend to learn best where they are kept engaged and focused and a lot of the time that depends on the enthusiasm of the teacher. Don’t forget too, enthusiasm is a must when a pile of Leaving Cert. papers sit awaiting correction!!
  3. Confidence: In a class situation it is normally you as the only adult and 20-30 teenagers as your responsibility. Confidence is key especially in your initial teaching years as pupils will pick up very easily on any weakness you may have! You must be confident in your own ability both to deliver the lesson and to manage the classroom and various situations that might arise.

What is your favourite music?

My music taste is vary varied. I like listening to solo artists like Tom Baxter and Amy Winehouse to bands like Snow Patrol, Arcade Fire and Groove Armada. I also enjoy R ‘n B and dance music.

What is your favourite film?

My favourite film of all time is the ultimate chic flick that is “Dirty Dancing”. More recent favourites include "The Departed", "Dodgeball" and "Knocked Up".

What is your pet hate at work?

My pet hate at work is when I do a spot check on homework and itís not complete!!

What is your star sign?

My star sign is Leo, beware……

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Besides inservice in both PE and Geography which I have taken and plan to do in the future I have no plans for further training at present.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

It is difficult to obtain direct experience for teaching prior to beginning a college course. However, any work with young people be it paid or voluntary will give you a taste for the responsibilities that go with the job. Training a team or assisting younger people in any other situation would be good experience.

Ask a question about...
  • Career Development?
  • Current Job?
  • Education and Training?
  • Personal Qualities?
  • Advice for Others?