by Michael Haughney
A story about the emotional reasons why someone returns to learning.
On the 16th of September 2008 my life changed. On that day, I first laid eyes on Jamie, my son. It was on that day that I made a promise to those two eyes looking back at me, that Jamie would know how to read and write from day one of school. But before I could keep my promise, I would have to learn how to read and write myself. Yes you've read it right; I've had difficulty with reading and writing all my life.
When I left primary school I didn't even know how to write my address. Spelling my name was ok, but my surname was difficult. All the spelling that I knew was my name. When I started secondary school I did get help and I wasn't left in the corner or in other words thrown to one side. My reading had gotten better even if my spelling was still pretty much the same when I left school to start labouring on the building sites.
On the building sites reading and writing weren't required too much and so I got into a comfort zone for about a year but even at that there were some moments that left me sweating it out. However, I did manage to escape. In that year I didn't do much reading. Any reading I did took me a long time or it was too hard so I had no interest in it. After a year of labouring, I got the courage to ask my employer for a job as apprentice block layer. I thought that I would get into a long term comfort zone. But that wasn't the case as when I went to college in Waterford there was a lot of reading and writing involved. The only thing I could do was to tell the instructor about my difficulties. He was very helpful and made a phone call to the Waterford Adult Learning Centre. Within two weeks, I had started at the centre and went for fifteen more weeks until college was finished.
The help, information and handouts that I got were very helpful and I was also told to look at the signs of shops and road signs and try spelling them. I must admit it helped but it wasn't enough and I still had a long, long way to go! I spent months of not doing much reading when I left college and the learning centre. I wasn't long going back to square one and did nothing about it. Being able to spell my address and some other words at the time got me by. I even got the confidence one day to read a small paragraph out of the Sun newspaper in front of three work mates. But I was knocked back for six when one of them grabbed the paper and said "You may go back to school and learn how to read". I just laughed it off but deep inside it got me down. That day and other days, I would say to myself that a ten year old child can read and I can't. A ten year old child can spell and I can't. But I still did nothing about it. As time went on and my wedding day was soon approaching, I knew my wife-to-be and I had a prayer to say together. I asked the priest for the prayer so I could go over and over it with my wife. I didn't want to embarrass myself or my wife so it became another reason to panic as the big day was approaching. Six months later I still hadn' t gone to get help. I'd kept on saying to my wife that I may go and do something about it especially when I heard that I was going to be a Daddy for the first time. The pressure got to me thinking that I wouldn't be able to read a story or a poem to my son or daughter or even help with their homework. I would be ashamed to tell my young ones that I can't spell my own name let alone theirs. The excuses would be "Get your mum to do it" or "I'm too busy".
Finally, the day had come along and my son was born. It wasn't on the exact day that was given as he was 8 weeks premature, weighing in at only 4lbs. He spent weeks in an incubator on a ventilator. We had to deal with the days of not knowing if he was going to make it and months of going up and down to the hospital after he got home. It was there and then at the hospital fighting for his life that I'd made a promise to Jamie that I would make sure he would know how to read and write as he grew up. I was sure that this time I was going to keep my promise and make that change in my life. Why? I'll tell you why I made the very importing phone call to the Carlow Adult Learning Centre - well I lie, my wife made the call. And I went to do the assessment. From day one of starting at the Adult Learning Centre I worked hard at the Centre and at home. I wasn't going to go back to square one this time. I even did beginners computer class. And would you believe it I'm even writing a BOOK. Yes, you've read it right a book - that is just about finished. I'd never have thought I'd write a book with about 10,000 words in it and done in under two years. The book was hard work but I loved it and got through it. It's something that I want to keep on doing. Even to write this story, I enjoyed it so much. I'm so grateful to all at the Carlow Adult Learning Centre for helping me over the last three years. Without them I'd not be where I am now.