Sunday, 20 August, 2017

Joe Mc Donagh

Joe Mc DonaghJoe Mc Donagh from the Shannon Adult Learning Centre, who successfully passed his Leaving Cert in 2014."I recall just how wonderful my life has been to get me to this point" by Joe McDonagh

I left school at the age of fourteen with no qualifications, I never liked school anyway. I started working and I loved it, I was getting money into my pocket and money for my mother to help her run the house. I worked in the construction sector and as a painter and decorator and I got by without being able to read and write, that was a very good thing for me. Travelling for work was very challenging as I could not read road signs, I figured out that if I identified landmarks for myself then I knew where I was going. 

I got by fine until one afternoon in 2010 my step granddaughter asked me to help her with her homework, she was seven at the time. She had asked me many times before but this time she was insisting that I help her. I had always had an excuse to get away with it but this time was different. She asked me if I could read and I told her that I could, she then asked me to read a page for her, I told her that I had to leave and she insisted that I read one page before I left. I just smiled at her and she smiled back at me and she said you cannot read can you? Her mother, father and grandmother were all just staring at me. I thought oh my God what do I do now. Finally a seven year old had got me to admit the truth that I couldn’t read or write and I was so embarrassed after all the years with no one knowing.

Her father looked at me in shook I felt the blood drain from my body as if he had put a knife into me and pulled it out again, her mother looked amazed and she said I cannot believe at this stage of your life that you cannot read and write. Of course she is someone that knows it all anyway (well she thinks that she does) and she said you should do something about it and maybe look at an evening class. Mia’s grandmother, my wife, looked down at the floor with embarrassment for me, she had known all along because she did all the reading and writing for me.

I always took Mia to school and I would walk with her into her class room, the next morning she decided to tell her teacher what had happened, the teacher took me to one side and said if you want to learn to read and write you should go to the Adult Education centre in Shannon. She offered to give me the number but I said that I had intended to phone two days later which I did and I got an appointment.

"When I arrived at the centre I was sick with nerves"

When I arrived at the centre I was sick with nerves as I didn’t know what to expect. I knocked on the door and I knew that there was no going back even though I wanted to run away like a child. A lovely lady opened the door, I now know to be Maire Dempsey. The interview went well she asked me about my past education and why it was important for me to come back to education, she made me feel so relaxed. I started classes the following week and all the tutors were so kind and understanding, Shorthly after I started I began to think that I was wasting my time there and other people’s time, I now know that it was just my nerves speaking. I met some lovely people and they encouraged me to keep going if only to get me out of the house, I was going through a bout of depression at that time. I told this to two class mates and they were very understanding, I am still very good friends with them three years later.

"I am the first one in my family to get a qualification"

As time went by I really got into learning, I got my first certificate for level one on computers and I felt like a movie star receiving it, I couldn’t stop smiling for weeks and it made me push for more. I got a lot of other certs for different subjects also. I went on and did the English Junior cert, I sat it in Ennis last June and I got a 'B' I was so proud, I wanted the whole world to know. I am the first one in my family to get a qualification, I am now studying for my leaving cert English and life could not be better. I no longer feel embarrassed or scared about trying new things. The most important thing to remember is that you must do it and want it for yourself, not for your wife or your grand children.