18 February, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Irish Dancing Teacher Studying SNA: "It’s Unbelievable the Confidence it Has Given Me"

SNA Intensive Combined Level 5 and Level 6 Portobello Institute

There are many factors to consider before embarking on an exciting new education journey, especially one that could bring with it challenges you’ve never faced before and big career changes.

After three decades working with her passion of Irish Dancing, Evelyn Shortall, found herself with spare time and discovered a whole new joy of learning she wishes she found years ago.

Evelyn is approaching the end of her SNA Level 5 and Level 6 Intensive Combined course at Portobello Institute which she started last September.  

After 30 years as an Irish Dancing teacher, Evelyn decided to overcome her fears, worries and doubts to gain her qualifications in SNA using our intensive delivery method. The break from Irish Dancing due to the pandemic gave her the time and opportunity to achieve something she had always thought about.

Now, she wishes she had found online learning years ago. She was surprised by how much she learned, impressed with the content covered, has completed work experience as an SNA and would encourage anyone thinking of studying to ‘go for it’. 

I’m an Irish Dancing teacher and have been all my life, I have my own business and with Covid everything stopped.

"I was always interested but never had the time because I have three boys of my own. When I was off then I was saying it is something I would like to do, and I know I am very old doing it but one of my sons encouraged me to do it, so I just said here it goes.

“When I got the results of my Level 5, it’s unbelievable the confidence it has given me. Not working does get you down after a while especially if you’re somebody that has been working all the time. The interaction with people and the whole change I have to say it brought me on a high and I’m so delighted. I’m just sorry I didn’t do it ten years ago,” she said.  

Finding the confidence, having the time and feeling like it was too late to do something new were all hurdles she overcame to sign up to the course. What she has gained from it now even has her thinking of what other courses she can do and the possibility of full-time SNA work.

The confidence to do it, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it. I did the Leaving Cert, but I never did anything to do with college and assignments or referencing. 

"I was very frightened of it all being honest. It took me about two weeks to talk myself into it and one day I just said this is it. Once I had it paid for then I was panicking again but I just said no I’ll go with it now I have it paid for.  

Even before I signed up, I rang two or three times I’d say they were sick of me asking questions about it but they couldn’t have been more helpful or more encouraging about it all, they were so good when I rang 

I have to say Samantha [Cooney, SNA tutor] from day one put everyone at ease. I don’t know what age anyone else is none of us knew but it's just realising everyone feels the same no matter what age you are, it’s a confidence thing. 

Because of my dancing I would be up to date with computers and being online. I was practicing how to do it and I was lucky I have young people here who can show me all these things. I was very nervous the first video class logging in, but I found it okay I did my bit of practice beforehand and read up a bit.  

I found Portobello very good it was an easy website to work through and it was self-explanatory. I’m not a good person for reading instructions but I actually did for this, so I realise now that that’s the way to go! 

I found Samantha didn’t talk above you, her phraseology while she was talking about the course and everything, she broke it down very well and made you feel like okay this is possible. She did keep telling us not to panic everyone feels the same and she asked us questions like how are you feeling?’ and everyone typed in and when you see it, we all said the very same which was reassuring. 

“I love Irish I would love to learn it but I always say I wouldn’t have the confidence. Now I would think about doing a course again, I have gotten into it I’m thinking what else I could do which is very unusual for me. 

I miss the interaction with children I love and enjoy working with children and I just think they are great to give you a boost every day. My own children have moved on they're all finished college and everything now,” she said.  

Learning about SNA was an eye-opening experience despite teaching Irish Dancing in schools over the years, Evelyn hadn’t realised how much dedication and work was involved in the role of an SNA.

I have to say I had no understanding of special educational needs. I thought I did because I would have taught children with Asperger's and I would have been quite patient and understanding with them, but I really didn’t realise how much of a struggle it is for those children to go to school and I didn’t appreciate what all the schools do for them and the SNAs and everyone else.  

I found it so interesting, they are laughing at me here at home because I’m flying through the assignments, I get up every morning and it’s a focus for me as well and it's really good I’m just sorry I hadn’t found online learning years ago," she said.

The Combined Intensive SNA Level 5 and Level 6 are two courses in one. It is delivered online over two weeks of daytime classes. 

Our most popular course at Portobello, there are then 20 weeks to complete six assignments with continued tutor support.

Evelyn explains why this method works for her.

I’m a very impatient person and I also like to challenge myself I never do anything easy which I’m always being told! What I found really good is that you were in the zone at a set time every morning.

"I would find doing it every week very hard I think I would lose the content but that’s the way my brain works other people wouldn’t work that way, I like to be really busy, and I like every minute of every day to be counted for.  

“A lot of my problem was time element as well because I was very busy when I was working every day, adjudicating weekends I had a lot going on I had even taken a step back, but I was still working four days [before the pandemic].

“The intensive method worked so well for me but if I was working it probably wouldn’t unless I took two weeks off to do it. I did find going from day to day it all made sense, having said that by the end of the two weeks I said ‘My God, I’ll never get myself around all of this because there’s so much information but straight after the course, I did two weeks of placement.  

I found that helped me greatly because what Samantha had been talking about all made sense in the practice. 

"I met the SNA’s where I went and everything they were chatting about, Samantha had covered, which was amazing there was nothing new that I saw in the school that hadn’t been covered on the course which I thought was really good.  

The first week they put me with a child who had a hearing impairment and another child who had epilepsy.

"The second week then I was working with a child with her SNA because she was on the autism spectrum which was quite challenging and which I found totally different. The first week I found it quite easy because the kids hadn’t huge special needs whereas the second week the child had an awful lot of issues, emotional and behavioural and just coping.

"I was amazed with how much they are able to deal with it in the class and it's amazing how much time it requires in order for this child to be there.

I really enjoyed the job I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I like the school environment I was teaching dancing in schools during so I know it, but I had no realisation what a full day in a school would be like.

"I am strongly thinking about following it on. I am hoping now as I finish my Level 6 and the level five restrictions are gone with this pandemic I’m thinking about subbing until the summer then going full time at it in September. 

“One thing I found very difficult was going into the school for work experience at my age to say I’m studying I was a bit embarrassed about it, but they were all so supportive and saying well done and you’re great to do that. The first day it was like I was 14 again but I got over it. Once I was there half an hour that was it, it was fine it was just initially walking in not knowing what you’re doing totally lost. 

It’s a huge decision, it’s like anything if you’ve been at it for 30 years, you’re very comfortable in it but I just don’t know what way things are going. In one way I’m delighted, I’m not delighted we have coronavirus, but I’m delighted with the opportunity that I’m off to have the time to look at something else," she said.

Having pushed herself and gained so much knowledge and experience, Evelyn now encourages anyone considering a course to do it.

Go for it, definitely. When I started the first assignment, I’d say I researched it for a month because I didn’t know where to start, but I have learned how to do that now which for me is a huge achievement.  

Even the whole computer thing for me is just amazing and I have to sayIt is possible you don’t have to wait until you're not working, I realise now I could have been doing it in the evenings but better late than never.

I would certainly encourage anyone to do it particularly younger people who have done one career and maybe it’s not working out for them don’t be afraid to just go for it,” she said.  

Read more: SNA Intensive Who is it For and Why is it Intensive? 

Portobello Institute offers a Level 5 and Level 6 Intensive SNA booking package, a Level 5 Intensive course and a Level 6 Intensive course all with upcoming dates in March 2021. George Boylan is our SNA course advisor contact him directly on 01 892 0041, book a consultation or email george.boylan@portobelloinstitute.com



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