Máire Kelly started to learn Irish seriously in 2017 – and secured herself a H3 in this year’s Leaving Cert! She is now attending Dublin City University, undertaking the four-year Bachelor of Education degree programme.
Home-schooled from the age of eight, she has an international qualification that is the equivalent of the Leaving Cert. “But when I decided I wanted to be a primary teacher, I knew that I would need a H4 in Leaving Cert Irish,” said Máire, from Arklow, Co Wicklow. “So I started learning Irish in 2017 – I knew some Irish words but not many. I did an online course at Junior Cert Level and, last year, I went to the Leaving Cert Irish night class in Gorey Community School and got grinds as well.”
Máire was not only motivated by her love of teaching but by a love of languages. “My grandparents spoke Irish and I love languages – I learned Russian using a learning language software programme and now I have pen pals in Russia!”
Work experience teaching crochet in a local Gaelscoil also helped to improve her Irish and she was able study at home alongside her siblings. “I’m pretty self-motivated and able to work on my own, so I did a lot of study at home to complement the classes.”
In Gorey, she found the night class, which runs on Monday and Wednesday nights, hugely beneficial. “The teachers taught us as peers, which was really nice.”
This Leaving Cert for Mature Students night class is specifically designed for students who want to improve a grade achieved previously in Irish so that they can gain entry into courses where a minimum grade of H4 is required. These are typically primary school teaching undergraduate courses. The class focuses on the Leaving Cert oral exam or the Hibernia College Irish interview and on the Leaving Cert higher level written exam paper. People who just want to improve their Irish speaking abilities also attend the class!
“The Leaving Cert exam was OK – the essays I wanted didn’t come up, but I was able to tie in essays that I had prepared. I preferred the Oral Irish exam – I was asked my favourite sraith pictiúr and poem.
“Overall, I found that Irish was a challenging language but I love languages and I really want to be a teacher, so I persevered!”
This Autumn sees Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. in Limerick offering a new season of night classes that are as affordable as they are innovative. New courses for this term include Bicycle Maintenance, Greek and Roman Civilisations, Make-up Application as well as Screenwriting, Calligraphy, Ukulele, and Design and Dressmaking for the more creative minds out there.
Among the most popular courses are Dog Grooming, Zumba, Woodcarving, Flower Arranging and Bridge, a sociable and inexpensive hobby which is offered at both beginner and intermediate levels.
“Night classes offer lots of fun and are a great way to meet new people and form new friendships, all while learning a lifelong skill,” said Catherine Scannell, Director of Adult Education in Crescent College Comprehensive S.J.
Night class participants will also be able to boost their language skills with classes available in Spoken Irish, English as a Foreign Language, Spanish, French, Japanese, and basic Latin.
“Social dancing is a very enjoyable evening and is so popular that the class has been extended to an hour and a half for this term, as has the highly demanded Yoga class. People can also bring their partner to the Social Dancing class.”
From chess to cooking
Other courses include everything from Tin Whistle to Guitar, Emotional Freedom Therapy, Woodwork/Joinery, Painting with Oils, Creative Writing, and Chess and Draughts. Digital Skills for Citizens, which is free for those over 45, offers a variety of useful routes to upskill in specific fields such as online banking and social media.
“There is a sincere focus on what is current and in demand. Cooking for Men has become more and more popular in recent years as it gives men who might not be as confident as their female counterparts in the kitchen a chance to gain some Jamie Oliver-like skills. Cookery for All Grades and Gourmet Cooking classes are also available.”
It’s not everyone who would do Irish in the Leaving Cert twice. But driving instructor Dane Tyghe is one such person. He travels to Gorey Community School from Wexford two nights a week to learn more than the cúpla focail.
In June 2019, he will sit down to tackle the Leaving Cert Irish exams, slightly older than others in the room. At 39, he’s doing this for no other reason that to improve his own level of Irish.
“I want to improve my own fluency in Irish,” says Dane, who did Ordinary Level Irish first time round. Now, he’s got a YouTube channel to teach others how to Learn Irish! “I needed a structure to keep me disciplined – in fact, I’d have done five nights if I could have. But the two nights gives you the intensity and the breaks that you need and the tutors, Daniel and Lucy, were great. They’re very approachable and give great feedback.”
Whilst others in the class are redoing their Leaving Cert Irish in the hopes of qualifying to train as primary school teachers, Dane is on his own journey. “I really just want to improve on the language. It’s a personal goal for myself. I love the language and how poetic it is.”
He’s also been motivated by what he says is criticism of the language from people in the media or elsewhere. “Some people say they came through school without knowing any Irish, but I think they’re not prepared now to go and learn it.
“Others just insult the language – so I decided there must be something to it and I started to learn it myself. I watched TG4 and YouTube videos before I found this course in Gorey. I’d say my Irish was at an intermediate level but I’m well on the road to advanced now.”
His Irish has already been tested – during the Oral exam in March. “I went in feeling confident and we had been well prepared. I may have got one or two words mixed up, but I was delighted with the way it went and the examiner was very approachable.”
Being more mature has helped in the preparation as well. “If you prepare and take breaks in the study as well, you’ll be fine. At 39, I’m more mature and focused, so that’s good.”
He’s also able to surprise learner drivers with his Irish, particularly when teaching Leaving Cert teenagers how to drive!
In the meantime, he’s hitting the books in between the driving lessons. “I’m just so grateful that this course was available. If I’d been learning it myself, I wouldn’t have had the same experience.”
Next stop? Keep learning! “There’ll always be another phrase to learn,” says Dane.
Dave O’Regan may be an accountant by day but, by night, he’s responsible for getting Carrigaline running. For the last few years, he’s ‘run’ the Couch to 5K class in Carrigaline Community School, Cork – where his advice to his joggers could also serve as life lessons!
“It’s a 10-week course and the people who see it through are all able to run 5K non-stop at the end of it,” says Dave. “The class is aimed at people who have never trained or run and who want to become more active, or they want to get back running.
“People also see it as an alternative to the gym – you’re exercising in an environment where everyone is starting from the same place. Everyone who signs up has little or no fitness.”
Pace, not race
Building up their times from the first night to the last, the class is all about pacing yourself, not running yourself ragged – more the tortoise than the hare, slowing down to speed up …
“I always stress that they are setting the pace, that they should only go a pace that will allow them to finish what we’ve set out to do that night. And, when we get to the 5K, I tell them to forget about the time, it’s about finishing the 5K, not doing it in a particular time.”
But before they can run 5K, they have to start at the very beginning …
“The first week, we run for one minute, walk for one-and-a-half minutes. And we do that eight times, so that they’ve run 20 minutes by the end of the night. Then, over the other nights, we run for three minutes, then eight minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 20 minutes. By the ninth night, we’re running for 20 minutes, walking for three minutes, running for 10 minutes – that adds to up to a half hour of running with only a three-minute walk.”
One night is not enough, of course, so the class participants must commit to repeating the routine twice outside the class. And they do, meeting up in different groups to motivate each other and keep each other company – and friendships blossom.
“At the end of the classes, people are delighted, to see how far they’ve come from the first night, when you could see the fear on their faces!” says Dave, who started running himself in 2002. “They make huge progress.”
During the winter months, the group, which can number up to 20 people, jog a loop around the school. But, when the time changes in March and the evenings are longer, they let loose down around Crosshaven. And, adult education director Gene Cahill has been known to accompany the group, so that there’s a motivational adult at the front of the group and another at the back!
10K and counting
“I get a lot out of is. It’s great to see how happy people are when the complete the 5K and how shocked they are that they can do it! I love running so it’s almost like giving back – I’m happy to encourage others to run or do something healthy.”
Indeed, the class has been so successful that some people come back a second time, especially if their motivation and practice has lapsed. And, this year, for the first time, the school ran a 5K And Beyond night class, for those who had completed the 5K and wanted to stretch themselves. “By the end of that class, we had people running up to 10k. I introduced speed training to add variety and we do different runs around Carrigaline.
“It’s all about keeping up the same level of effort – not running so fast that you get dispirited when you can’t keep that pace up. It’s about making sure you get to the end point, taking into account the elements like hills or wind. Keep up the same level of effort.”
See, a life lesson right there. And, don’t forget to do your stretches to avoid injury!
If you want to trip the light fantastic, head to Bishopstown Community School where tutor Kay Herlihy will put you through your moves.
Kay has been teaching ballroom dancing for the last number of years, with the waltz, foxtrot, slow waltz, quick step, and tango among the signature moves taught. Rock and roll and the cha cha are other dances also on the menu.
“I love ballroom dancing, I’m addicted to it,” says Kay. “I took lessons myself in Cork Dance Club – I still go! Dance classes are great places to make friends, and have some banter and craic.”
Kay’s classes are such a success that people come back year after year to help out, particularly the men. “More women sign up for ballroom dancing, so sometimes some of the men from previous years come back to help pair up with someone for the dances. The idea is that you rotate your partner.”
Couples, old and new, also sign up for the classes – and Kay has helped many a bride and groom to prepare for their first dance.
Stay social, keep fit
Indeed, her own husband was her dancing partner for many years. “We started dancing 20 years ago and I went ahead and did the exams.” An accomplished set dancer as well, she says there are plenty of dancing opportunities in Cork. “People can go social dancing in Ballincollig, Cobh, Douglas, Midleton or Mayfield. You’ll find dancing on at different GAA clubs. I always tell my classes that they should get out and practice.”
Not only is dancing a sociable activity, it’s a great way to keep fit. “Set dancing is more energetic, but people love the slow waltz or the slow foxtrot. You’d often see people dancing as if they’re a pair of gloves, a perfect fit. Dancing in general is a great hobby, you mix with every walk of life but you have no idea what they do as a day job. We’re all just there to learn. And you forget your troubles and focus on the enjoyment of the dance!”
Men love to cook too! And in St Colmcille’s Community School in Dublin’s Knocklyon, the Cookery for Men class has proved extremely popular.
This course gives men the chance to improve their cooking skills and add to their repertoire of favourite meals. The emphasis will be placed on cooking meals that men traditionally like to cook (and eat!).
The man behind the skillet for the last two years is Frank Guinevan, a professional chef. “I have a family background in food and I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with new methods, menus and tastes. Food is about all these things but it is foremost about an experience, whether that is learning on a personal level about food or sharing that experience with family and friends.”
For Frank, the best thing about teaching is in nurturing the enthusiasm and interest in food shown by the class participants each week. “Being able to cook healthy wholesome food is a basic skill that gives people of all ages independence. Learning how to take raw ingredients and by following a recipe, you can then turn them into a desirable dish, picking up handy tips along the way is what I am trying to achieve as a teacher.”
One of the most important elements in any class is fun. “After the first evening, all the participants start talking and sharing and discovering a common interest and that gives me a great sense of achievement. It is satisfying to hear someone say that, as a result of the class, they only make homemade soup now. In the class, we cover some baking and also regional cooking such as Italian and Spanish dishes.
“Food is also about sharing. All the recipes we cover in the course can be recreated at home. Because the class is hands-on, the mystery has been removed and you can just go ahead and enjoy good company and hopefully receive the praise you deserve.”
In his role as a chef, Frank gets a lot of satisfaction from preparing food and getting feedback that the customer has enjoyed what he has prepared using his skills. “Teaching this adult education class has the same effect: knowing that the skills I teach will be used to allow those class participants to add and enjoy another experience.”
Chris Lawlor and Adrian Finlay turn wood into wonders in their night classes in St Colmcille’s Community School, in Dublin 16’s suburb of Knocklyon.
The Woodturning class, delivered by Chris, offers the woodturning beginner the basic skills in tool control, turning methods and machine safety. Covering both spindle turning and faceplate work, beginners start with simple objects such as a 'Twig Vase', and progress onto more complex items by the end of the ten-week course. Those who already have some experience of woodturning are given projects of a suitable level and encouraged to advance their skill level and range of techniques. Class sizes are kept small and there is one student per lathe, ensuring that students have a fully hands-on experience.
Both Chris and Adrian deliver the Woodworking and Furniture Making class. In this, participants work through a variety of projects during which they learn basic woodworking and furniture making skills. Learning the correct use of power and hand tools, participants also learn how to prepare solid timber and panel board as well as finishing and polishing techniques.
“Altogether, we run classes in woodturning, cabinet making, and wood carving every week,” says Chris, who worked as a cabinet maker and project manager in a furniture company himself. “As a project manager, I ran projects up to a value of €1 million.” Then, he moved to Dublin Institute of Technology as a lecturer in the wood section, working with apprentices and the degree programme. “I upskilled in DIT during the recession and have a degree in timber production management, so I also bring industry experience to the work,” says Chris.
“We get a good mix of night class students, young and old, experienced and people with no experience. We also have mixed genders in the class with three to four women in woodturning and about five in the cabinet making class.”
Classes like these are useful for people who want to make gifts for family or friends; some set up workshops at home; and others have moved into apprenticeships and then industry.
“The benefits of our night classes are that they can provide stress relief for people who may work in offices all day. They can zone out for a while. With the woodturning, you can see the project, let’s say a bowl, coming together quite quickly and you can take a finished piece home at the end of the night. There’s a satisfaction in making and building something and seeing it through to the end.”
It’s not everyday you meet a guy who’s worked with musical geniuses such as Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, BB King, Chris Rea, or Jethro Tull. But, if you were in the Sound Engineering and Music Technology night class in the Donahies Community School in north Dublin, you’d bump into Don McKevitt. Don joined the class to learn about today’s sound engineering technology.
“I started as a sound engineer and toured with the likes of Thin Lizzy and Chris Rea and also worked as production manager in studios with Van Morrison, Chris Rea, and the Rolling Stones,” says Don. “I was very fortunate; I’ve been to most places in the world with the music.”
A songwriter and musician for years, he came across the Donahies night class and tutor JJ Vernon when he wanted to update his own skills. “I know live music mixing, but I knew nothing about the modern way of mixing. And I wanted to learn that so I could use it for my own song writing and recording.
“The class is excellent – JJ is very knowledgeable as an engineer and as a musician. He’s also a very good teacher – we’re a mixed bunch in the class but all our aspirations are serious.”
The technical bit
In the class, people learn how to record and edit musical performances by both solo artists/ensembles and speakers. They learn how to operate Pro Tools, mixing and editing software, as well as exploring MIDI, using virtual instruments and plug-ins.
“I keep the course practical,” says tutor JJ Vernon, adding that the class attracts musicians keen to record their own work or that of bands. They might be nervous of the technical aspects of the recording technology – but that soon disappears as the group works together on each other’s work. “People interests vary – the younger participants are into electronic sound, synthesisers, and drum machines. The older participants are into singing along to their guitars and want to capture that.”
The class is also a reflection of how the music industry has changed. “Musicians used to record in large studios with professional staff,” says JJ, who works as a sound engineer himself. “That’s gone now – anyone can produce a CD, and the money is in gigs and merchandise as streaming of music has changed everything. Now, it’s all about learning the software and I give them the confidence to get started on that.”
Who knows, the next Van Morrison or Chris Rea could be learning how to mix music in the Donahies Community School? Stranger things have happened!
Roslyn Hickey guides adult learners through the epic tome that is James Joyce’s Ulysses in a night class in Coláiste Chiaráin, Leixlip. Here, she recounts her own history with Ulysses and how she keeps her class interested and motivated to survive and enjoy Joyce’s journey around Dublin
National and international critics affirm that Ulysses by James Joyce is one of the greatest novels ever written. Most Dubliners are proud of the book and speak about it with affection and good humour. Indeed, they are known to wax lyrical of its attributes both with other Irish people and in conversation with tourists and fellow holidaymakers while abroad. Amazingly, they engage in these exchanges despite the fact that they may never have read Ulysses!
I understand this attitude because, like most ordinary people, I was intimidated by its ‘infamous’ reputation as a highly complex tome that can only be deciphered by the professional academic. My situation was compounded by the fact that I am an English and History teacher who studied English in Trinity College, in the mid-1970s, under two iconic academics, Brendan Kennelly and David Norris. And it was compounded because, I too was, in my 50s and had still not risen to the challenge of reading one of the greatest literary achievements to be created by a fellow Dubliner.
Rise to the challenge
In January 2013, in order to address this shortfall, I made a pact with the Senior Librarian of Palmerstown Library that we would rise to the challenge of concluding our reading of Ulysses in time to celebrate, as ‘authentic’ Joyceans, Bloomsday on 16 June. I love teaching and I love witnessing the flourishing of adult learners within the context of lifelong learning from the cradle to the grave. Therefore, we decided to offer a study group to 22 adult learners. The experience was intoxicating and utterly unforgettable.
I explored with this initial group the reasons why so many Irish people are reluctant to read this great Irish novel despite having such respect, curiosity and affection for it. Their feedback holds true for subsequent groups that I have facilitated in Coláiste Chiaráin, Leixlip where even avid readers and literary aficionados frequently disclose how ill-equipped they have felt at the prospect of taking on such a tome.
Some say that having started to read the book, they soon became overwhelmed by obscure references and a complex structure. Consequently, Ulysses is archived in their inner most stacks – under the bed!! And all this happens shortly after the first episode (chapter) which ends with the word, ‘Usurper’. There is an irony in this concluding sentence as it speaks of the absent eyes of the average reader whose presence, as Declan Kiberd, explains, has been supplanted by the ‘literary canon’ and ‘corporate university’. The legend of its forbidding difficulty has scared readers off (Kiberd, 2009). I always have a similar discussion with the groups who sign up for the Ulysses class In Coláiste Chiaráin, before commencing the study, as the exercise proves very useful in ameliorating their concerns and assuring them that their experience is a very common one.
Reading Ulysses requires time and commitment. There is a certain mystique surrounding Ulysses which is tangible when the class first meets; a sort of conspiratorial ‘nod, nod, wink, wink’ undercurrent which permeates the class; not unlike the attitude excited teenagers have in anticipation of looking at something hereto forbidden.
However, as the class settles down to study, this initial reaction soon develops into a far more measured attitude as readers discover that Ulysses is a complex work of art that demands rigorous attention. Ulysses consists of 18 episodes which are spread over more than 700 challenging pages. Reading Ulysses is not unlike training for a marathon: you need a time-framed programme which builds up stamina, speed and endurance by ring-fencing a minimum of one hour per day and by committing to this regime for six months.
Walking in Joyce’s footsteps
Another important dimension to the work of reading and studying the text are the trips which I arrange at various stages of our reading of the book. This includes visits to Glasnevin Cemetery to follow in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom as he partakes in the funeral cortege of Paddy Dignam (Hades, episode six). In the past, our guide, coincidentally also called Paddy, retraced the fictitious event and enriched the experience by showing us the graves of Joyce’s contemporaries including those of Daniel O’Connell, Charles Parnell, Arthur Griffith and Home Rule who are referenced in Ulysses.
Other visits include the Martello Tower, Sandycove (Proteus) where one group gathered on a blustery, wintery day, shortly before Christmas to be brought on an exhilarating tour by the author and Joycean, Robert Nicholson. Robert explained how Joyce was a ‘literary magpie’ who incorporated events and real people from his life into his work. In this instant, he showed us where Joyce, as guest of Oliver St. Gogarty, slept and was subsequently terrified by the antics of another guest, forcing him to flee the tower in the middle of the night! This incident is immortalised in the opening episode of Ulysses.
Adult learners really enjoy and are stimulated by visiting places in Dublin which are referenced in Ulysses. Terry Fagan, local historian, Dublin north inner city, enthrals groups with his tour of Dublin’s infamous red-light district, which is commonly known as ‘Monto’; it features in Ulysses as Nightown in Circe, episode fifteen.
For some suburban adult learners, visiting the old inner-city of Dublin is revelatory; for others it offers the opportunity to recall childhood memories of having lived there, or to share stories of relatives who survived tenement living and fought in the city streets against the British Empire.
Earlier this year, the present group of adult learners, having read Lotus Eaters, (episode five) - which concerns the adventures of Leopold Bloom as he traversed the city from north to south - had a fantastic visit to Sweny’s chemist, Lincoln Place, Westland Row; this is where Leopold bought the famous slab of lemon scented soap. The curator, a magnificent and generous, gifted raconteur, served us up copious cups of steaming tea and delicious chocolate biscuits; led us in a reading from Ulysses, a sing-song from Edwardian times and a discussion with other Joyceans from various countries who were also there.
In April 2019, the present group will have successfully completed a first reading of Ulysses. The occasion will be marked by our final outing which will be to the Jewish Museum, South Circular Road. This little gym archives an integral, but lesser known, part of Irish history and has been a highlight for past groups.
We will go to learn about Judaism, especially in relation to the Jewish community in Ireland in order to gain a greater understanding of the main character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom (who was technically not a Jew – another one of James Joyce’s conundrums!!). Groups invariably find this visit, revealing, fascinating and moving. Yvonne, the guide, gives an insightful talk beginning with the first reference to the Jews in Ireland in 1079, to 1170 when Strongbow’s expedition was backed financially by Jews, to the establishment of small settlements, mostly around Dublin and later Belfast, Cork and Limerick
Studying Ulysses opens up unexplored areas of culture, history, beliefs and philosophy etc. In the great tradition of adult learning, it inspires the reader not only to pursue further study of Ulysses but to enquire into other areas of interest which the book pre-empted such as gender and sexual orientation, minority rights, fascism, racism, identity etc. How right James Joyce was in claiming that his great work would keep critics and readers baffled and curious for generations!
I love working in the evening programme in Coláiste Chiaráin and value the support of the staff members in their determination to make special interest subjects accessible to the suburban reader. For me, the spirit of the philosophy of adult education and lifelong learning which underpins the night classes is paramount, as it gives me the flexibility to design and deliver the programme in response to the needs of the class.
I have been working for a few years in Coláiste Chiaráin and every programme I facilitate is unique in keeping with the needs and interests of the group. We learn together in equal partnership – and have fun in the process. I put my hand up at the very start of the session by admitting that I am a non-academic Joycean enthusiast who will be delighted to see the back of them at the end of our reading of Ulysses. This revelation usually generates a tense class reaction which explodes into hoots of laughter as I explain that all of the past members of the classes which I have facilitated invariably outperform me in terms of their grasp and understanding of Ulysses!
At the end of our classes, I wish them well as fully fledged Joyceans and look forward to seeing them ambling in the footsteps of Bloom and Stephen on Bloomsday to the ring of Molly’s affirmation, ‘and yes I said yes I will Yes’.
Cayisha Graham is a dance tutor in St Tiernan’s Community School, Balally, in Dublin. Teaching dance for the past 10 years, she tells how her Jamaican background has influenced her
Although I was born in England, I am half-Jamaican and half-Italian and growing up in Jamaica aged from four to seven had a massive influence on me musically. In Jamaica, you are reared on music, you live and breathe it, it’s a way of life. From a very young age, children have great rhythm, largely because they are exposed to dance and music all the time.
When I moved from Jamaica to Ireland, it was a huge culture shock and took me a while to settle in. My taste in music was very different from anything that was going on in Ireland and I don’t think anybody had really even heard of Caribbean music back then. In my family, I think dance and music were a way for us to bond, so you would often find the whole family in the kitchen breaking out the moves in our own way of togetherness. And that has not changed to this day!
In school, I connected with friends through various bands that we had in common. I can remember choreographing for local talent shows - I really took them and myself so seriously! I would get a crew together to learn dances from my favourite bands - Steps, Five, Spice Girls, you name it we had the dance for it (cringe). That’s really where it all began.
In the now
I used to take classes in the Dance Theatre of Ireland and I remember being in awe of my dance teacher and thinking he was the coolest person ever. As a teenager, I was going through all the highs and lows of teen angst. Then, I realised that dancing gave me confidence - it was my escape from worries and stress. When you’re dancing, you’re in the now, there is no room for thinking about anything else. I found it was like a form of meditation.
Later, I did a dance course and experienced the life of a dancer. It was very challenging but very rewarding and I learned a lot about myself. When I finished college, I got a job as a teacher in the Dance Theatre of Ireland. When I passed the audition, I was in shock because I found the place so daunting. This is where all my idols taught me and, now, little old me has the chance to follow in their footsteps.
Teaching in the Dance Theatre of Ireland is almost like coming full circle. And so many doors have opened up for me, I really have Loretta Yurrick and Robert Connor, the artistic directors of the Dance Theatre to thank for that. Their belief in me gave me the inspiration to push my boundaries and this is an inspiration I try to pass on to all my students, including those on my DancerSize night class in St Tiernan’s Community School.
The job is so rewarding when you see the difference it can make to a person’s life. I often see students coming in very shy, timid and no confidence. After a few classes, they come out of their shells and are full of confidence. I try to create an environment that’s happy and safe. From my youngest student to my oldest student who is now 78, dance is timeless and it’s a beautiful thing to watch them flourish regardless of their age.
Dream come true
I also sing and dance in my own band - I feel I made my childhood dreams my reality. I couldn’t ask for a better job. It is true what they say - choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
As long as you believe in yourself, you can make your own dreams come true too.
This is what dance means to me:
Dance is freedom
Dance is expression
Dance is empowerment
Dance is life
Working in the area of addiction in north Dublin, Tom O’Brien saw what he terms the “overuse of medicine” and began to explore herbal medicine as an alternative.
With an MA and a PhD in Adult and Community Education, specialising in addiction, mental health and community development, he added a qualification as a herbalist to the mix in 2012.
Involved in adult and community education in his day job, he also delivers an Introduction to Herbal Medicine night class in The Donahies Community School. In the class, participants learn how to use herbal medicines to prevent illness and improve health, including natural approaches to better mental health. They learn the basics of herbal medicine, including plant identification, what herbs to use for what, how to use herbs safely, and how to make homemade remedies.
Empowering medicine is his motto and Tom is passionate about people becoming active participants in their own lives. “I find that adult education is a great way to empower people and to help them to overcome obstacles.”
Herbal medicine is a gentle approach, he says, and is a way to prevent illness rather than just treat symptoms. “There is a growing interest in herbal medicine, along with complementary medicine such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine. That interest is part of the green movement, if you like, which includes an interest in organic produce and things like mindfulness and meditation.”
Herbal medicine is a way of living and of supporting others, says Tom. This comes at a time “when people are concerned about health matters and may be disillusioned with medicines and the side effects of certain drugs”.
This is Tom’s second year running this class in The Donahies Community School. “I’m interested in what is called the social cure – if you’re in one group, that helps to prevent depression. If you’re in two groups, that increases the benefit to you. Adult education is a social cure and I get the sense that the group in The Donahies like being in a group for each other. They learn from each other and share experiences.”
Tom is committed to ensuring that herbal medicine reaches a wide audience and his YouTube channel, blog, and Facebook page help to do just that. In the meantime, keep an eye out for his next night class!
Herbal Medicine course participants at The Donahies Community School, Dubin 13
In Trim, Co Meath, one tutor is bringing the concept of ‘hygge’ to adult education in Boyne Community School. Hygge is a Danish concept encompassing a feeling of cosy contentment and wellbeing generated through enjoying the simple things in life.
Christina Donoghue, who lived in Denmark for a time and is married to a Dane, brings hygge to people’s lives through her patchwork and quilting class. Not only did she learn her patchwork skills in Denmark but also her sense of organisation and preparation about classes. “I lived in Denmark for 15 years and adult education was a big thing there, and was facilitated by the trade unions. This was around acknowledging that people were busy during the day and wanted to do something different in the evenings. People in Denmark would be proud to say they were going to evening college.”
Christina learned her patchwork in Denmark, so she had a clear template for adult education in her mind on her return to Dublin. “I felt that people wanted to do something creative at night, something different to their day jobs. Now, we have about 12 in the classes and regulars who keep coming back to us.
“People get hooked on the patchwork – and they get on well together, seeing how each other is progressing with their project.”
That engagement is also carried through by Christina who helps Adult Education Director Máire Walsh to promote the class! “I send out reminders – texts and emails – about the class myself. I’ve created our own community and it helps to promote the class which is a help.”
It also helps that Christina is passionate about patchwork. “I place a huge value on it – people are creating heirlooms. Patchwork and quilting – these are crafts that we have to look after. A craft is a living thing, you are always building on it.”
The group produces small bed quilts, cushions, wall hangings, small baby quilts, table runners and more. “You have to get to know fabrics and how they go together. And you learn how colours match together, about big prints and small prints. And people also get a lot of ideas from Pinterest, so that keeps them interested as well.”
Christina is learning as well – “though I teach mainly traditional patchwork – in blocks – we always try more creative things as well. I get a buzz from coming up with new ideas each term. So, I benefit hugely from it as is pushes me as well.”
You'll also find Patchwork classes at Coolmine Community School (Dublin 15) and St Colmcille's Community School, Knocklyon (Dublin 16). We also recently published a feature on Deirdre Carroll, the Patchwork Quilting tutor at St Comlcille's.
Did you know that the ukulele dates back to the 1800s? According to legend, Portuguese immigrants brought ukuleles with them to Hawaii around 1879. The little four-stringed instrument has remained popular since then – and tutor Andrew Mahon is playing his part by giving ukulele night classes in Portmarnock Community School.
“The ukulele is easy to play and can lead you on to learning how to play other stringed instruments, like the mandolin, banjo or guitar,” says Andrew, who also teaches beginner and advanced guitar night classes in the school.
“With a small fret board, it’s ideal for all ages, and we have people from their 20s up to retirement ages in the class. We limit it to 10 places so that I can get around to each person a few times. Everyone has a different style and speed of learning, so this way I can show them the proper way to hold the instrument and help them with the chords.”
From the sounds of Hawaii to old western music, the sweet sound of the ukulele has transfixed people for generations. Andrew keeps a contemporary twist to the tunes the group learns, with much competition to learn melodies suggested by the night class participants themselves!
“We cover everything from Abba to Mary Black, David Bowie, and songs from The Greatest Showman – and anything and everything in between,” says Andrew. “Then, there’s the added sense of achievement – and investment - from learning a song that they have picked themselves.”
It obviously works, with classes running from Christmas right through to the summer and through mid-term. “I also set out songs for the students to learn over the summer, so there’s no break in momentum. That then leads to a lot of repeat people coming to the classes, so we have a blend of new and old faces each term.”
There is also a blend of skills, which serves to motivate new students when they see the level of skills that can be achieved. And they’re in good hands – Andrew has been an avid guitar player for over 20 years playing for enjoyment and also professionally. Having attained his teaching diploma for guitar from the Victoria College of Music, London, he’s sharing the joy that playing music can bring with a winning formula!
A number of NACED schools now run Ukulele classes for beginners and improvers. There are courses available in Cork, Meath, Kildare, Dublin and Wexford.
Mary Coonan is a sewing tutor with a waiting list!
An experienced designer, she tutors in The Donahies Community School on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. That’s not all! She also runs classes there on Wednesday afternoon. And on Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Whew!
“When the recession hit, people began to look at knitting and sewing again – about making and repairing things,” says Mary, who trained at The Grafton Academy of Dress Designing in Dublin. “Then, the likes of Aldi and Lidl started to sell sewing machines and wool at cheaper prices and that made sewing and knitting more visible and manageable for people.
“And, because sewing isn’t taught in schools now, a lot of people find they can’t do the basics, like sewing on a button.”
Now, people are into upcycling and recycling – and also love the social aspect of a night class. “We have people of all abilities in the class – you can go at your own pace and see how others have progressed as well. Not only that, but a lot of people say they forget everything when they come in, so it’s a lovely way to destress. No matter how bad the day, you’ll forget it when you start sewing!”
Mary always insists that people take time to enjoy the tea break. “Again, that unites the group and I get a chance to chat to people individually, so I get to know them.”
And there’s a great sense of achievement – “we do small projects that they complete in two nights, so you could have five things completed at the end of a ten-week class.”
Some of the items produced in the sewing classes at Donahies Community School
Scoil Mhuire, Clane Community School, Co Kildare, has an exciting selection of new courses, along with some returning favourites, for those who want to get in touch with their creative side! These courses are delivered by tutors with extensive experience in their respective fields!
Writing for Wellbeing: Release your inner scribe
Whether you want to awaken your muse or just get journaling, this is the course for you! The tutor, Mari Gallagher, uses a variety of texts and artistic themes to inspire freewriting exercises including the work of Julia Cameron, James Pennebaker and Karen Hering.
Freewriting has long been lauded as a wellbeing tool and can be used to overcome daily challenges as well as kickstarting the creative brain. The tutor is a psychotherapist and published author.
Students learn the fundamentals of writing songs starting with the very basics and finishing with them writing and recording a song of their own. The course covers lyrics, melodies, chord patterns, music theory and various genres of music.
Tutor Megan O’Neill is an Irish singer/songwriter who has worked in Nashville and London over the past seven years as a touring musician. She was teaching song writing workshops and private classes The Song Academy in London and is now implementing a similar program back in Ireland.
Introduction to Fashion Design
Gain an insight into what a fashion designer does and learn how to draft a pattern from you own design sketch as a professional fashion designer would. You’ll be taken through the early design stages, the sketch, how to transform the finalised sketch into a technical flat and how to transform these flats into a final drafted pattern which can be professionally produced. Both the pattern and the produced garment can be used as portfolio pieces which can be assessed by any potential employer in the industry.
Joanna Cribbin is the owner of the fashion label Joanna London. Her brand is sold in independent boutiques in London, Dublin and Galway. She has extensive experience in the industry, including working in Wardrobe for RTÉ, as assistant image editor on U Magazine, and as an assistant to John Rocha at China Town, and designing a raincoat which went on to become a best seller at A-Wear.
Ireland has a wealth of talented poets, playwrights and screenwriters. On the back of tremendous Irish successes such as Song of the Sea, Brooklyn and Black 47, there has never been a better time to try your hand at writing for film and television.
At the end of the course, students will be able to take home their very own short film script which they may submit to film festivals, script competitions or perhaps even go on to produce themselves. After completing the course, the only limit to your potential as a screenwriter for film and television is your imagination.
Release your inner creative talent! This course looks at various forms of writing including articles, essays, stories, and will cover topics such as dialogue, narrative, character development, research, etc. The techniques under discussion will be practised and writers will receive constructive comments from the class.
Tutor Shauna Gilligan is a novelist and short story writer from Dublin, now living in Kildare. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales, is an active member of the Arts Council of Ireland Writers-in-Prisons Panel and a Professional Mentor with Irish Writers’ Centre. Her debut novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere was a critical success.