My first experience in DALC was tinged with a certain degree of sadness as I instantaneously recalled my parents. Both were born literally within a stone’s throw of DALC and in common with many of the current learners of similar vintage in DALC, the zenith of their educational attainment was, if fortuitous, to pass the ‘Primary Cert’. Such ‘accreditation’ qualified them for employment in some of the precarious sectors characteristic of a bygone era where childhoods were all too swiftly replaced by transition to premature adulthood. Given this, I introspectively speculated that I would be able to resonate with those endeavouring to improve their lives by attending DALC. However what did surprise me was the extent of this resonance.
My first experience as a facilitator was in a communications class and it was a real eye-opener. As biographies are shaped by our histories, being the child of immigrant parents and having experienced the life of a reluctant immigrant, I could again empathise with the plight and struggles faced by the new nationals attending this course. It really impressed how much can be taken for granted, and I include myself here, regarding literacy issues. What also really struck me was the candour and humility shown when some in the class revealed, each of their own volition, their experiences of the Irish education system. On reflection and without exaggeration, I envisaged that the approach to those few steps leading up to number three must have been akin to embarking on a journey of Odyssean proportions for some. Particularly for those striving to overcome the fears and anxieties acquired in previous settings. However once this small step was made, giant leaps abound from a learning perspective.
My other co-facilitation is in the internet skills class. On my third session, and due to unforeseen circumstances, I was required to facilitate ‘solo’. It was now my turn to embark on a potential Odyssean journey. This time I do exaggerate! The staff assuaged any concerns I had and advised me to let a roar if I was struggling with anything. This particular ‘backstop’ option totally reassured me. This was probably the best thing that could have happened and has stood me in good stead in my teaching practice since. While it may have been a bit hectic to begin with, things soon settled down and all went well. I was even asked back the following week! This proved an invaluable learning curve as it has shown me the importance of being continuously cognisant of being able to deal with unanticipated situations. A feature of adult education can be its unpredictability, be it in the guise of fluctuating class sizes or technological gremlins. This reinforced the need to be able to adapt and cope at short notice and in the best manner possible.
Should I be effective to a grandparent garnering skills to help a grandchild with homework or allowing a better understanding of the ever increasing pervasive nature of the technological world we live in, my efforts will not be in vain.
The mother oft remarked “education, no matter what type, is no burden to carry”. However without it, the burden can become overwhelming. Hopefully I can contribute in some small way to lightening the load.
By Thomas Moore (current student of Higher Diploma in Further Education, NUI Maynooth)