Carina McEvoy is passionate about mental health, children’s in particular. Currently self-publishing a book entitled, ‘Sometimes I worry, how about you?’ – a book to help children manage anxiety, she is also set to deliver night classes in Understanding and Managing Childhood Anxiety in Gorey Community School.
“The night class is to help adults – parents or guardians – to help their children manage their low-level anxiety in the home,” says Carina, a former business and geography teacher who’s looking forward to getting back into the classroom.
Carina will deliver two classes: An Introduction to Understanding Children’s Anxiety explores a child’s development in relation to personality and transitional milestones also. And An Advanced Course to Understanding and Managing Children’s Anxiety includes 17 simple strategies to manage anxiety levels.
Carina firmly believes that childhood anxiety is an epidemic but also believes that empowered and aware parents and guardians can make a huge difference. That’s why her children’s book on managing anxiety – featuring Mo! – also has a support booklet for parents to read alongside the children’s book.
Carina knows what she’s talking about when it comes to anxiety – as a teenager, she went through a maelstrom of depression, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety.
“When I was a teen, I suffered badly with mental health issues – the internet had just started, and we had none at home. I had no one to talk to, no stories of other people to read. So, I thought I was alone – and going crazy.”
College brought access to the internet where research on self-harm made her realise just how common it was – “I got great relief from knowing that I wasn’t the only one. That knowledge was healing for me.”
Writing therapeutic As a teen, she took up writing to express her emotions and now has a published novel, To Have, Not Hold, to her credit!
“I found writing therapeutic – I wrote poetry and enjoyed getting lost in trying to find words to express my feelings.”
Now, she is keen, through her night classes and her new books, to make parents aware that low-level children’s anxiety can be managed. “Children can have a lot of general anxiety, with no specific cause or anxiety behind it. Between being so busy going from one thing to another – and being constantly stimulated by social media – they have no time to get bored or to manage boredom. That sense of being ‘on’ all the time and getting everything ‘now’ doesn’t help.”
Her hope is that her night classes in Gorey Community School will help.
Community schools still have a vital role to play in adult education and lifelong learning. That’s according to Dr Leo Casey, Director of the Centre for Research and Innovation in Learning and Teaching in the National College of Ireland.
“Recent strategy documents are based on the premise that the sole purpose of education and adult education is to prepare people for employment, through pre-employment skills or upskilling,” he said. “What about lifelong education? What about people who participate in non-work activities, who are active at community level, in micro enterprises or sustainable development.”
Educators – including community schools and adult education directors – should not necessarily follow the labour-market driven and qualifications approach slavishly. “The very name ‘community schools’ indicates a link between the school and society – that the school is a part of its local community.” This closeness to its community allows schools to inhabit the space of lifelong education, whereby the needs of people change from practical career or parenting concerns to larger societal issues as they get older.
Community schools are satisfying the need for lifelong learning. “That might not be in vogue, but it’s not wrong,” he said, adding that lifelong learning – in topics such as psychology, social justice, mentoring – contribute towards democracy by facilitating people to engage in active discourse and to make complex decisions about their lives and society. “Is it possible to have a functioning democracy without open, informed and truthful discourse among the citizenship? Perhaps we are so busy ‘training’ people to develop instrumental, economically viable skills that we overlook the ‘skills of democratic participation’ such as reasoning and critical literacy.”
And, those values are in danger of being forsaken. “I’m very much in favour of qualifications but not an over-engineered approach to delivery and outcomes – that’s a flawed approach.”
Instead, it would be better if we regard “learning as part of life itself, it is something that we continue to do so long as we live. Learning may be regarded as a gift we give to our future selves and, so long as we have a future, we will need to learn.”
This article originally appeared in the NACED May 2016 newsletter