If it’s not broken, no need to fix it.

dalc building

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 

A New Tutor Takes A Trip Down Memory Lane

people wearing backpacks
Photo by Stanley Morales on Pexels.com

Seeing the first year students come into the centre this week as part of their B.SC in Education Studies course brings back a flood of memories.  I know exactly how they feel, the apprehension before you go up the steps to the building, worrying that you won’t enjoy it, and thinking, ‘Will the students like me?’ ‘How will I know what room to go to?’ and ‘I hope I don’t have a class on the top floor!’ These are thoughts that ran through my mind on the first day six years ago but I was reassured once I came to reception and was warmly greeted by all the staff and students and was put at ease almost instantly!
In first year I became immersed in the classes and got the most out of the week and truly loved the experience. Spelling, Maths, Computers and ESOL, I really found a learning environment I could see myself working in in the future. Though I only got a taster in those few short days, I really got a feel for the incredible work that is done each day in the centre. The staff, the students and the welcoming, homely atmosphere that DALC brought, set the standard for my upcoming placements.
In my final year, when we were given the opportunity to do our eight week placement in an educational setting of our choosing, I immediately knew where I wanted to go. I got in touch with DALC once again to organise it and luckily I was given the chance to experience in a fuller sense, the teaching and learning approach that I admire about the centre. I was adamant I was going to get the best out of the 8 weeks.
Throughout my placement, I was fully immersed in the classes and jumped right into the deep end when asked would I be willing to prepare classes independently once I found my feet and gained the confidence. The staff were extremely helpful and always went out of their way to ensure my experience was a positive one and were always there to listen to any worries or concerns I might have had.

However, it was the students who made each class so enjoyable. I was inspired by each of their stories, by how they returned to learning for all different reasons, whether it was for personal, family or work. Each class was so different and I loved it.

I could see the students growing in confidence in the smallest of challenges and tasks that were assigned to them and the sense of pride I felt at how much of an impact one can make in a group. The students were learning from the lessons I facilitated and equally they were teaching me things that can’t be scribbled down in a lesson plan.
Being in DALC for those eight weeks set in stone the type of work I could see myself doing upon completion of my degree. I loved the values that were seen and respected by both staff and student; learner-centred, being respectful of the adult status of the learner, instilling creativity and confidence. I wanted to use these values in my future career as an educator.
I continued to volunteer in a number of classes when I finished my placement and it was a great break from college and those final year blues!
The rest is history I suppose, and six years later I find myself working in DALC and doing a job which I absolutely love. Every day is different and I am learning new things every day. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience DALC back in my college years. It carved my future and I hope that these young students make the most out of every day they are here. You never know, they might find themselves working in this field of education down the road!

By Kate Fox, Assistant CE Supervisor and Tutor, DALC  

adult blur book business
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Tutors of Mountjoy Square, Dublin: Antoinette


Antoinette has been a tutor in DALC (Dublin Adult Learning Centre) for 10 years. She has a wealth of experience and insights into learning. She is passionate about teaching and learning and wants to share her knowledge about its transformative power.

She teaches maths, ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and spelling with a particular focus on phonics.

Listen to her thoughts and her vision for what makes a good tutor and what learning and education really means for her.

She begins by telling us how she first became an adult education practitioners:

Antoinette’s Story:



What makes a good tutor:



What education or learning means to me: