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Blog 2 – Máire O’Higgins, Teacher

Image (c) Abbey Theatre

Image (c) Abbey Theatre

Máire O’Higgins
Máire O'Higgins

Máire O’Higgins is a teacher and an Assistant Principal at Larkin Community College Dublin 1. She also coordinates partnerships for the College and is the school Chaplain. Máire is 26 years working in the north east inner city. Before she became a teacher she worked as an actor and a Theatre Director.

Larkin Community College is a second level CDETB DEIS Band 1 school in the north east inner city of Dublin. It is a co-educational school with 430 students and a staff of 48. Students come from all over areas of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin to attend the school. We are a mainstream school. We offer Arts, Soccer, Basketball and Academic Scholarship Programmes.

In the first of her blog series Máire discusses funding, partnership and documentation as part of the Theatre Making and Citizenship Programme with the Abbey Theatre.

Tuesday 8th November 

A potential new partner for our project – a writer in residence….

We have had a lot of bereavements in the local community where our school is. It has been a hard few months for students and teachers and other staff. In this sad context we have had a lovely development. Last year we set up a Youth Theatre with the help of the National Association for Youth Drama. Carol Rooney, one of our Drama Teachers, ran a small and exciting Youth Theatre group. They performed a poignant piece in the Sean O’Casey Theatre in East Wall Dublin 3. Tony Bates of Jigsaw and Phil Kingston of the Abbey Theatre came to see it and thought it was a powerful production. As did all of us who saw it. The devised piece dealt with young people and mental health. This year John Dunne, another Drama teacher, set up a second youth theatre group. Now we have two small thriving youth theatre groups. They meet after school on a Wednesday. Dublin City Council Arts Office gave us a start up grant to help us get up on our feet with the Youth Theatre. We set up a committee and an ArtsTrain graduate Ceri O’Hagan joined us to help us run the Youth Theatre. Yesterday I was speaking to the Dublin City Arts Officer Ray Yeates. He was delighted at the success and growth of the youth theatres. He suggested that our school might like to look at a residency for a writer. I thought it would be a great idea for us to welcome a writer into the school for a period so that he or she could observe how we are and who we are and then create a piece of work out of this. If we are successful in getting the funding from the Arts Office and in finding a suitable writer in residence, it will be an act of trust for staff to welcome the writer into their classes and into the staffroom. I think it would be great. I also think that if the writer was to keep in mind the Manifesto project we are doing with the Gaiety School of Acting the ideas that emerge for the writer may fit nicely into a performance piece as part of the conference on education in the Mill Theatre in March 2017. I will be meeting with Ray Yeates in the coming weeks.

Wednesday 9th November

Yesterday Gillian Mc Carthy from the GSoA had a good session with the 1st year Arts students. She did one hour with them. Michelle discovered that there was a misunderstanding around the class contact the artist would have with the class. Jill thought it was twice a week for an hour at a time. Michelle thought it was one hour a week at an hour at a time. This is why it is so important to have planning meetings as well as a liaison person to oversee the project in the school and a manager of the project externally. What I now need to do is go through the dates that Anna put on Google drive and check them and then at a senior management team meeting give these dates to the Principal for the school calendar. That way students are less likely to be taken out of class for other activities when the GSoA project is on.

Friday 18th November 

Anna has sent me a text update on the TED TALKS idea. She is waiting to hear from TED TALKS to find out how best to set up a TED TALKS EDUCATION event. Getting the text from Anna keeps me up to date on progress for the project.

Tuesday 22nd November

Gillian Mc Carthy sent an email asking Michelle Fallon and her Arts students to research the following questions and statements for the project. As requested at the start of the project all correspondence for the project goes to Michelle, Anna, the artists and myself. That way we are all aware of how things are progressing. The research questions and statements that Gillian sent are:-

1 The Irish education system from 1917 to present: the major changes that have taken place over the last hundred years.

2 The pros and cons of the current education system.

3 What is the Department of Education’s vision for the future? What would be the students’ vision of a brilliant education system? What changes would they make?

4 Questions for students who are interested in interviewing older relations and teachers about their experiences of school:-

  • Did you like school? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • What are your memories of school? Good and bad.
  • What age were you when you left school?
  • What was the most important thing you learnt at school?

In the same email Gillian asked if she and I could meet for a chat today. We didn’t get to do that. I have found out over the years that it is always better to agree a brief meeting to discuss the project rather than relying on ‘catching’ each other. So I will email Gillian and suggest a time to meet when she is next in the school.



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