“I believed I would never be ‘book’ smart and I had resigned any hope of trying to be”
I hated my experience of education the first time around and I remember it as some of the worst years of my life. I quickly fell behind in primary school due to learning difficulties, which made the whole experience very stressful for me. I often felt stupid, slow and helpless. By secondary school, I had accepted my limitations. On reflection, this makes me furious. I believed I would never be ‘book’ smart and I had resigned any hope of trying to be. After completing my Leaving Certificate in 2005, I began working in one of the local factories. While working, I developed hobbies and found myself reading lots of books related to my interests. Learning about areas which I had a passion for, was the key to overcoming my negative relationship with formal education.
I’ve learnt so much through volunteering over the last 15 years and it has opened my eyes to local issues. When I was bringing up my children there were very few family support groups and crèches were just too expensive. This was a real issue for families then and it still is now. I know what it’s like not to have support so being able to offer this to members of my community is really rewarding for me. I’ve developed a passion for helping others and I now want to establish a career from this. I know I’m good at what I do but I lack the qualifications to back this up.
“My initial response was that I was too old”
A friend recently suggested that I return to education so I could progress my career. My initial response was that I was too old. I was unaware about the options available and I always thought college would cost a fortune. Then when my granddaughter was in 6th year I realised that we didn’t have adequate information on colleges and grants. Her school advised me to contact the Parents Mentoring Committee, where I received useful information about different education options, like the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). I was surprised to learn about the variety of different routes into education and I shared this knowledge with my grandchildren.
“My granddaughter and I have enrolled in Ballyfermot College of Further Education together”
My granddaughter and I have enrolled in Ballyfermot College of Further Education together which has been a really unique experience. I have just started a VTOS QQI Level 5 course in health and community and I hope this will provide me with the qualification I need to get a job in the community and voluntary sector. I found returning to education daunting at first but when I realised there were other adult learners in my class and younger students didn’t bat their eyes about my age, I could relax and start to enjoy myself. It’s brilliant to see my granddaughter and I start this journey together and I am very proud of her. Most importantly I am doing this for me because I want to get the recognition I deserve after 15 years of volunteering in my community.
If you have an inspiring learner story that you would like to share you can contact Leah Dowdall, Learner Advocacy Officer by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01 406 8220 or you can fill out our short learner story survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LearnerStory.