Behind the Mask: Mary

My name is Mary. The person behind the mask is generally positive but finding it tough at the moment. To cope I try to live in the moment and take one day at a time.

Initially I did not find the lockdown too difficult. I enjoyed spending time with my family. They are all young adults and we all got along and enjoyed each other’s company. They kept themselves busy by keeping fit and, as they are all boys, they enjoyed playing football together. We also went sea swimming together which we had not done since they were children. We even started some 1000 piece jigsaw challenges. I cooked nice dinners and persisted at baking yeast bread till I perfected my pizza dough and focaccia bread.

My son came home from London and it was a great opportunity to spend time together. I enjoyed gardening and we invested in a hammock and a BBQ and enjoyed outdoor living. I enjoyed the slower pace of life. It was also a time of nostalgia. We looked through boxes of old photos and screenshot them on WhatsApp to family and friends. I was lucky to get to the west of Ireland and enjoyed lovely swims in Galway and Mayo. I even got to spend a few days in Inis Meain, my favourite place in the world.

Picture: Inis Meain

On a sadder note my mother was in a nursing home and we did not get to see her for weeks. Eventually when we did, it was through a window as we were not allowed to go into the nursing home. My mother had dementia and it was very difficult. We celebrated her 88th birthday on Zoom and it was very sad. If someone had told us that in 2020 we would all be wearing masks and we would not be able to see our loved ones, we would not have believed them. Sadly my mother passed away and her sister and two brothers had to say goodbye to her through a window. It was heartbreaking. Fortunately they allowed her immediate family to be at her bedside for her final hours. Myself and my two sisters were with her when she passed. 

Work was very difficult during the lockdown because it is very hard to run a centre remotely. We did our best to move as many classes online as we could. Some tutors and students kept the classes and the learning going, using Zoom, WhatsApp, phone calls and posting work to students. A lot of our students were not set up to work online and it was very challenging. We used the time to upskill staff in using different platforms in preparation for another lockdown. I enjoyed being a learner again and I really valued the Zoom meetings with adult education practitioners from around the country. It was a great opportunity to talk to people that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to. It was a great support during the lockdown. We also had weekly staff Zoom meetings and again it really helped us feel supported and connected.

Since opening at the end of August we have put all the covid protocols in place. We were busy taking temperatures, hand sanitising and everyone was doing their best to stay safe. There were lots of complaints about the cold. Tutors worked very hard to upskill students to enable them to go online. It is a challenge but we are really encouraged by the willingness of the students to embrace the technology. They are all helping each other and sharing helpful tips and ideas. While everyone would love to come to DALC for their class, since the level 5 restrictions were imposed we have had to move all the classes online. The centre is still open for students who need support or need to drop in to collect assignments or homework.

Lessons from the Pandemic:

We have all learned to appreciate what is on our doorstep and I certainly enjoyed my daily walks in the Phoenix Park. We have also reduced our consumption of things that we don’t need, reduced our travel and air miles and thus reduced our carbon footprint that is better for the planet. Neighbourhood and communities are very important and need to look out for each other.

My post pandemiC WISH LIST:

  • The pharmaceutical company that discovers the vaccine distributes it free of charge
  • Stop out-sourcing the care of children and older people to private companies to make big profits
  • Improve our  public services including health , housing and education. 
  • Continue to allow people to work from home
  • Introduce a 4 day week for everyone 
  • Develop local industries and economies 
  • Multinationals pay appropriate levels of corporation taxes. 
  • The return of all the things that bring us joy, live music, meeting family and friends, parties meals out and family gatherings.   

Finally, the pandemic has really shone a light on the inequalities in the world and it has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. I heard it said a number of times that we all might be in the storm but unfortunately we are all in different sized  boats and some are struggling to stay afloat. I would hope that we’ve learned that inequalities hurt everybody. At a local and global level we could work together for a more just and equal society.

Mary is the Director of DALC

Behind the Mask: Cathriona

My mask is Spandau Ballet. I am a die hard fan of the band for 40 years. Their music is really beautiful. They come from London in the UK. They are Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Steven Norman, John Keeble. Their hits are Gold, True and Through the Barricades.

I am an only child but I have cousins who are like my brothers and sisters. I am a very kind person who thinks of others. I am a very friendly person to people I meet. I see the funny side of life. Because of this, I am creative with singing and art. I have a stammer but music helps me to speak.

I sing at mass in our local parish in Dublin. My faith means the world to me. I love sharing the gift of my voice. People told me that when I sing, I sound like an angel. Music really helps me.

I am always thinking that the world is really beautiful. My favourite comedy is Only Fools and Horses. Walt Disney singing films are very good to watch too. It also like to see the news, the Irish and English news, to see what is happening.

I got very scared when I saw the news about covid. My mammy is medically vulnerable and she can be very sick.

I am very happy Dr. Tony Holohan is back. He is a good doctor to listen to the government guidelines. I trust all the doctors keeping us all safe.

My hope in the world is that they find a cure. We will be able to to back to countries we love going on holidays. Thank you to all the teachers and CE students keeping us safe in DALC.

Behind the Mask: Veronica

Hi. My name is Veronica Brogan. I am the community employment supervisor in the Dublin Adult Learning Centre. I have been working here for 22 years and I love my job. 2020 has been a very different experience for all of us. My washing line is looking very different these days, with lots of reusable masks from my husband, 3 children and myself. Who would have thought this time last year that we would be regularly wearing masks at anytime other than Halloween? Now it is a common sight and we feel safer if those around us are wearing a mask properly.

On March 12th this year our lives changed very dramatically when Leo Varadkar announced a lockdown. We were all told to stay at home, to prevent our healthcare system being overwhelmed by Covid 19. There was very little known about the virus at that time apart from the fact that it was very contagious, so people were naturally very anxious and afraid. For me, I was happy to have extra time to spend at home with my family and we were blessed to have exceptionally good weather and could get out for walks and runs to keep us physically and mentally healthy.

Now 7 months later there is talk of another lockdown as numbers infected by Covid 19 continue to rise. I hope that this will not happen. I hope that the children can continue going to school and that adults can continue learning in their classes.  Many people lost their jobs and businesses during the previous lockdown so I hope this does not happen again. For others the isolation affected their mental health and now with winter drawing in this could have devastating effects.

However, one positive I can take away from this is how technology has helped keep us all connected. I learnt to embrace new technologies in order to be able to work from home and to stay connected with my work colleagues, my extended family and my friends. Suddenly ‘zoom and web ex’ became buzzwords; WhatsApp, video calls, Kahoot quizzes were all new essentials.

I will still always prefer to speak face to face with people but I’m happy to know that I can always make a phone call if I want to speak to someone and a video call if I want to see their face.

No-one knows what the rest of 2020 will hold so let’s look out for each other, build each other up, and hope that 2021 will be a better year. Stay safe and stay well everyone.

Click to listen to Veronica reading her story below:

Engaging with Ulysses in the Classroom

The superior, the very reverend John Conmee S. J, reset his smooth watch in his interior pocket as he came down the presbytery steps. Five to three. Just nice time to walk to Artane. (Episode 10, Wandering Rocks from Ulysses by James Joyce)

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There is no doubt that Ulysses is often referred to as a ‘difficult book to read’, described as confusing, perhaps elitist, not for the everyday man but for the lofty professor. For this reason, the idea of approaching it with a group of adults who are gaining more confidence with their reading can seem a risky prospect. Yet sometimes engaging with the ‘hard books’ can be the most rewarding and liberating of accomplishments. What an achievement to wrestle the animal that is Ulysses, tame it and shape it into something of your own!

Since December 2018, a group on Thursday mornings here in DALC have been working on an art piece that illustrates Episode 10 of Ulysses. The group worked independently for the last few months on creating a map that shows Father Conmee making his way around Dublin in the afternoon and the various characters he meets. It details the street as mentioned in Ulysses, from Gardiner Street, Mountjoy Square to Newcomen Bridge.

The project began from a workshop on Pre-Texts delivered by one of our tutors Lisa Kilbride. Pre-Texts is a method of engaging active readers through finding creative or artistic ways of tackling difficult texts. Here are Lisa’s reflections on using Pre-Texts on this project:

“Much of my focus in teaching literacy is on reading functional everyday texts, but people also need to be able to engage with more complex texts in order to deal with bigger issues affecting them.

The literacy aim of Pre-Texts is to get people to engage with complex texts, ones that are perhaps too difficult for them to read without support, in order to make them their own.
The title Pre-Texts is mischievous. If, instead of treating “important” writers with great reverence, we take their work and engage with it creatively, the power is shifted. In the process of making something new, we can think critically about the text, about ourselves and about our world.

The process is very engaging for students, and the tutors are participants rather than instructors. Pre-texts is an attempt to have tutors and students act together to find meaning in a text.

The map making activity was greeted with great enthusiasm and the participants got totally engaged in making a quite large model of the journey. We are all connected with the places in the text. DALC is in number 3 Mountjoy Square, so the journey in the text begins around the corner and passes along the square. One of the participants lived on Mountjoy square as a child and they all live in the areas mentioned – Fitzgibbon Street, along the North Circular Road, near the Five Lamps and the North Strand.

The students have been interested enough to continue with the creative work without the project being led by a tutor. It is useful to know about Ulysses and James Joyce if you live in this area. We often get stopped outside DALC by tourists lost on the Ulysses trail. The students enjoy knowing a bit about Joyce and being able to give directions to North Great Georges Street, which is nearby and the location of the James Joyce Museum. One of my aims was to diffuse the power of Ulysses as a high status cultural object. It is seen as difficult and unreadable by the ordinary person. I think that we have seen that it is only ink on paper and that we need not fear it. The students may not read any more of the book, but they can certainly discuss the early pages of The Wandering Rocks episode. The purpose of the using Pre-Texts here was also to take Joyce’s story and to use it to make our own story. Just as Joyce did, we can also create a story about the landmarks and characters of our Dublin. I hope that we are on our way to achieving this.”

 

 

The group interpreted it as their own from the words and images used by Joyce, mapping out the journey Father Conmee took in the text. The map below illustrates Episode 10 to include the streets, Mountjoy Square Park, the tram, the barge, the shops and buildings, the characters from Ulysses, dressed as described by Joyce:

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The group chose phrases and lines from the text and ‘layered’ it onto the piece:

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The text was used to prompt more writing and discussion about their own memories of the area, the places and people from their childhood:

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For more on pre-texts see:
http://www.pre-texts.org/

 

Discovering Words

This is a story written by one of our students Paul.  He describes what it felt like to come to reading and writing classes.  Paul is a fantastic student and loves to do art, gardening and making things in his spare time.

His story powerfully captures what it feels like to come back to learning:

Paul H

 

 

Lasting Impression – Reflections of teaching practice in DALC

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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)

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