Not much has changed at the Dublin Adult Learning Centre after returning this year as a student teacher.
I walked up the steps for the first time in 2011. I was greeted with the usual friendly smile from the receptionist when I walked in and it wasn’t long either before I bumped into Mary Maher to say hello to me and the other students walking in too.
Back in 2011, my own journey into adult education was a kind of beginning. There were many gaps to fill with my education after leaving school early. I was told that DALC is a great place to start. The centre which gave me the confidence to enjoy learning as an adult and I loved some of the courses that were available. History with Pat and Lisa, basic computers with Trish and Leaving Cert English with Ann were some of the classes that I took part in (Ann was one of my favourite teachers, ever!). I loved the whole atmosphere of the school and I could tell that all the tutors were very passionate.
One of the things I loved about the centre when I began there was listening to some of the other students over a cup of tea on the break. They told me how the skills they learned in the centre that they missed out on earlier in life has really opened up their lives and given them confidence and a new perspective .
My latest adventure in education this year was a Higher Diploma in Teaching Adult and Further education in Maynooth. Part of that course was that 100 hours of teaching practice was required in a certified school or learning centre to gain experience teaching in the field. As luck would have it, I bumped into Mary Maher. Mary was so kind in offering me a teaching placement position. This was really wonderful for me; to go back and learn to teach in one of the centres where I began my adult education journey. It was very humbling and rewarding and it turned out to be an amazing experience. Mary signed me up to train with two exceptional teachers, Fionnaigh and Angus. Fionnaigh’s class was Communications Level 4 and Angus was one of the ESOL tutors. I felt really lucky having two such amazing and competent tutors looking after me and showing me the ropes. There were no flies on Angus either. He is such a great orchestrator of the classroom and a great guy to work with. All his colleagues held him in high esteem for the work he does with his students learning the fundamentals of English and it was a pleasure to learn from him.
Maynooth and DALC – both institutions had a close working relationship together and it was truly rewarding to be able to practice in DALC while I was being taught in Maynooth.
Needless to say, the year went so fast. I could hardly believe that it was May already and it was coming up to the final classes of my time back in DALC. There was tea, cakes, cards and hugs in an emotional farewell in helping train as a student teacher.
The centre celebrated its 20th anniversary while I was there. Mary reeled in the years for us all, telling the packed audience about how DALC got started up in a response to a need for a literary centre in the heart of North Dublin. It was lovely too see all the portraits around the centre of the students who learned at DALC over the years, plus it brought back a few memories from my first time there.
It’s a safe bet to say that the next 20 years will be the same at DALC too, which is great news for the students and for adult education too.
By Patrick Casey