Authors: Angelina Carberry, Martin Molloy & Ewelina Pajak.
“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
This Blog entry will look at the difficulties which must be overcome by mature students and students who have moved to Ireland from other countries where their first language is not English and the relevance of Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning to their educational journey.
As various student teachers from different backgrounds who are currently studying on the Higher Diploma in Education for Further Education in Maynooth University we feel it is important to tell the story of our return to education and to show the relevance of Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning (Mezirow, 1991) to that journey. We hope that by sharing our stories we can help educators understand the issues faced by students in similar circumstances.
In our modern world travel from country to country has become a daily activity. Some travel for entertainment and others for a better live far from their homes. Either way this travel generates questions which lead to new layers of knowledge that we have interpreted as the colours of the leaves on our tree. However, as we all see this tree from our own perspective, each of us see a different tree.
The story of my return to education began in July of 2015 when I was notified by my employer at that time that the company would cease trading in Ireland at the end of August that same year. This was not a shock as business had been very slow for a couple of years. However, it left me with what I refer to as my disorienting dilemma.
I had always worked but on many occasions over the years had considered returning to education in the hope of becoming a teacher. Was this even a possibility at this stage in my life or had I left it too late? I needed to take some time and carry out a self-examination to fully understand how important this goal was to me and what I would be prepared to do to achieve it. In order to understand how my decision would affect my family and how we would manage without my wage coming in I needed to critically assess the options open to me. In order to get all the information and options available to me I made an appointment to see a Career Guidance Counsellor.
This proved to be a very positive experience as the career guidance counsellor was able to provide me with information about the routes available to me if I decided to return to education. As I received more information about these options, I had a moment of recognition as I realised that my goal was still possible and perhaps even more so due to me being made redundant in the near future. My first steps on the exploration of this journey would be to apply for a place on the access course in St. Angela’s College Sligo, where I would experience my first taste of college education. This step was extremely important to me as I felt that any further steps would depend on my experience here. It took a while to get used to being back at the books but with some hard work and the help of my tutors I achieved a good result in the end.
The planning of a course of action phase came next and this is where I decided to apply for a place in Sligo Institute of Technology (Sligo IT) on their BSc in Advanced Wood and Sustainable Building Technology level 7-degree course. My application was successful, and I continued on this course for the next three years. As most of my prior work experience was as a carpenter/joiner and in the area of construction this degree course was my acquisition of knowledge phase which would also gain me a qualification that I felt was missing from my past education. The second part of this learning phase came when I started in my present course in Maynooth University where I have been introduced to a whole new range of subjects and theories of education which will give me the much-needed knowledge to become a competent teacher.
At the moment while taking part in my teaching placement I am going through the provisional trying of roles phase of my learning experience which has been both challenging and rewarding so far. In my case the challenge is to learn how to teach what I know to others and to try and ensure their experience of education is as rewarding as possible. I have been lucky enough in my placement to experience the rewarding part of teaching, where a student who I had taught for only two classes and spent time with explaining the requirements of an assignment brief came back to me and thanked me for my help as they had received a distinction for that assignment. At the moment I am continuing to go through the building of competence phase of my learning which I would relate to my continued teaching placement and support visits from one of the lecturers in Maynooth University.
I will continue to do everything I can to ensure my success in my current course and to achieve my goal of a successful reintegration into society as a confident and competent teacher.
“Life is a journey and it's about growing and changing and coming to terms with who and what you are and loving who and what you are” (McGillis, 2019).
Traveling has a different meaning for everyone, it can be related to our personal, family or professional life. Travel changes life completely. It affects how we see ourselves and gives us the courage to function in the world. The ability to survive in a new country, adapt to new conditions and make decisions for a better future is a priceless experience.
I have lived in Ireland since 2007. I came here for a better future together with my husband and children. It was not an easy process to adapt to everything. Moving to a new country is a challenge. In a situation where the language and culture of the new country are very different from our concept of life many questions have risen, where should I start? Would I stay in this country or move back to Poland? What will I do to change my future for better? I had to find the answers for those questions and that process required a lot of sacrifices and hard work, but I learned not to give up at the same time. My decision was to take the first step on the educational ladder.
First of all, my priority was to learn the English language properly. Communication skills have transferred into development. The knowledge of language opened the door to a more advanced education. I applied for a catering programme in 2013. Since that time, I have been working and studying part-time. I climbed the educational ladder and I enjoyed it. Meeting people coming from various places and dealing with different life situations gave me the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective and learn how to respect the views of other. For students where English is not their first language it is important to give them that light of trust and understanding, but some people will never give you that credit. When you meet those negative people on your path many doubts rise straight away, and you have to say to yourself, I know my goal and I am going to reach it.
I met many fantastic tutors at South West College in Enniskillen and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Galway, people who are passionate about their work and who inspired me to do the same. And here I am at Maynooth University in 2019 doing the Higher Diploma in Further Education. Do I have doubts? Yes, I have, because every day brings new things on board. I am sure that with my family support, experience, knowledge, respect but also with the possibility to learn something new every day I will do it and much more.
The sense of satisfaction with the achievements in education that I achieved strengthen me with confidence and gave me wings to fly on my educational journey. My life in Ireland is like a tree, it grows vertically and regenerates an infinite number of times and it goes on.
Reflection on our journeys:
By creating this blog entry, we hope that it can assist educators to understand the problems faced by mature students returning to education and those who have immigrated to this country with the hope of a better life for themselves and their families. In an effort to explain this process we have related it to Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning (Mezirow, 1991) which we believe is relevant to both experiences.
Regardless of the reasons for across or returning to education the experience of getting help from a new social group generates incredible energy. As a newcomer, to this country one member of our group found Ireland to be a friendly place with people who are helpful and willing to give them the chance to explore the opportunities available to further their education. This then turned into an active participation in education. As a newcomer that person gained the knowledge and learned social relations together with other people from an Irish background and others who had come here from many places around the world. In relation to the Transformative Learning Theory (Mezirow, 1991), by taking part in various realms of a new life, from the local community through work and education in an advanced form, common interests, passions and relationships are created between people.
Thanks to these practices and the acquisition of knowledge, we build a foundation on experiences that gives the opportunity to transform into an individual frame of reference and this leads to a reflection which gives new meanings. Various travel effects such as an independence, self-realization and self-improvement in different situations as a newcomer, student or teacher requires appropriate behaviour and an inclination to reflect, which result in changes that outline where travel ends, and reality begins.
Einstein, A., 2019. BrainyQuote.com. [Online]
[Accessed 10th December 2019].
McGillis, K., 2019. BrainyQuote.com. [Online]
[Accessed 9th December 2019].
Mezirow, J., 1991. Transformative dimensions of adult learning. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.