Education is about counteracting inertia.
My first permanent job was my appointment as a lecturer in Educational Drama to Carysfort College of Education. Carysfort was my miracle. It was where I was honed as a young lecturer and indeed learner. I loved the students. They came from all over Ireland and were clever, creative, talented, enthusiastic, vital and open, to the new vocational career that was ahead of them. They were my greatest educators. Together we created, developed, produced and performed plays, playlets, spoken voice poetry, musical productions, puppetry, play, improvisation, dance, mine, choral verse; All the areas of drama they could bring and develop in classrooms around the country as young teachers.
In 1989 I found myself in the new urbane university DCU in the School of Communications. I studied radio with the BBC, worked for them as a broadcaster in England and Europe and brought that training, experience and my background in arts, drama and theatre into the School of Comminutions, creating an elective in Radio and Radio Documentary and developing Arts and Culture on the young university campus.
This began with The Larkin Theatre Concert Series, The Children’s Arts Day, The National Chamber Choir, Arts Week, The Writer in Residence Programme, The Students Society Awards, Theatre Companies, Orchestras, Performers, Creative Thinkers and Practitioners, culminating in the imagining and building of The Helix.
I have always thought that education is about learning to stand up and look out. But all definitions about education are difficult. They are difficult because when we speak about Education we are referring to a world from birth to death. A world where the entirety of the individual is involved or not.
If I was to hazard another definition I think it is about energy and its purpose the pursuit of that unique individual energy. The energy of mind and body, creative self and creative potential, fresh combinations of knowledge, imagination, hope and challenge. Possibilities.
‘Change has changed’ It no longer takes decades. Change now happens instantly. And so the question is how can education contend?
How can education keep up? What should it parallel or counteract? Is creativity the answer.? And if it is how do we capture, extract and communicate it to the young mind?
We must also all ask the question, what knowledge will the students need in 5 or 10 years time to meet life’s problems?
I always look to the arts when these questions arise. I believe that we can accomplish much with the help of the arts. Drama, dance, song, visual art, and music, are the greatest conduits routes and platforms for the uniqueness, brilliance and agelessness of human expression.
When I was teaching and lecturing, I tried to give students trust in their own capabilities. The creative capacity not to be afraid to fly on their own.
I encouraged the impossible. I tried to encourage a vision of what it could be like. A kind of knowledge transcendence.
I have never subscribed to the fantasy that I created great students. What I did believe, and where the core of my teaching lay, was in my capacity to open up for them a world of possibilities, a world of creative instincts, a learning to take risks, the courage to go off on their own and the even greater courage to believe in their own unique abilities.
I taught something. That was my job. I had the training, the knowledge and the experience, and I wanted to impart something to them. I asked questions. They tried to find answers. I encouraged them to imagine answers. They read, they listened, they watched, they researched, they experimented, they communicated, they dialogued, they learned.
All my work in teaching included standards and discipline. You learn nothing without form. Creativity always needs form. The most creative people are the most disciplined.
I believed in the values and responsibilities of initiating, developing and establishing high and professional standards in all their university work within my disciplines.
I felt and I knew that students preferred it that way.
I also believe in an Education that is useful. It is useful because understanding is useful.