'The most difficult part of the course for me was trying to make sense of Naom Chomsky's writing'

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'The most difficult part of the course for me was trying to make sense of Naom Chomsky's writing'


Frank remembers going to University of London.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




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Frank Gaynor

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Work and Employment


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London, England

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We decided to accept the ODA study grant. The University of London accepted me for a place on a Masters Degree course at Chelsea College, which later became part of King's College. I attended lectures in a building in Stamford Bridge, which is roughly at the end of King's Road. I sometimes walked down King's Road simply because of its association with 1960s style, Mary Quant, and weird hairstyles. The times of some of our lectures were changed on the night of a football match at Stamford Bridge, to help us avoid getting caught up in a crowd of excited Chelsea fans. The highlight of the course for me was the brilliant lecturing of Guy Claxton, as he introduced us to the psychology of growth and change in everyday life. His very readable book, Live and Learn, which was published in 1984, was the basis on which he developed his talks to us. After an evening lecture he sometimes joined us for a pint in a local pub. The most difficult part of the course for me was trying to make sense of Naom Chomsky's writings on the psychology of learning. After struggling with his work for six months everything else seemed easy to read. The building in which I attended lectures was also being used as a centre for research into the learning and teaching of maths. Among the research officers there during my time were Margaret Brown, Brenda Denvir and Chris Stolz. Margaret went on to make a significant contribution to maths education in Britain. I decided to write a dissertation on Counting. Margaret, who was doing research on number at that time, was generous with her help, and pointed me in the right direction. Brenda was then writing a PhD thesis on Low Attainers. When Brenda agreed to act as my Supervisor I was delighted. When she asked me to rewrite Chapter 1 for the third time I was deflated. I persevered, and my confidence in Brenda was well rewarded. In the end I had to rely on the dissertation because my performance in the final written exam was far from impressive. I was in a difficult school in Bethnal Green when I got word by phone that I had passed. My first reaction was one of great relief; I knew that my written performance had been weak. After all the inconvenience the year had brought on Monica and the children, failure would have been very difficult to accept. My next reaction was one of elation; I now had an MA degree, and that was more than I had ever expected to achieve. Armed with my MA I spent time during the summer of 1984 as a kind of courier, delivering computer software to offices that were well scattered across London; it did not make me rich but it did help me to become very familiar with certain sections of the London Underground. From there I graduated to doing night shifts sorting letters. This was a soul destroying experience, not because the work was difficult, but because there was no opportunity to get a sense of achievement. We sat behind a very long bench with a continuous row of letters in front of us at hand level; at eye level there were pigeonholes. As we grabbed handfuls of letters and sorted them into the pigeonholes there were other workers receiving bags of incoming mail and cramming more letters on to the long row in front of us. This ensured that there was never any slack on the row. After working hard for two hours sorting letters the row in front of us looked exactly the same as when we sat down, and because the sorted letters were frequently collected the pigeonholes were never full. For our year in London my sister Breeda had found an apartment for us on Chiltern Street, in Marylebone, West London. From this central location we had a wonderful year exploring and enjoying the many attractions of that great city. We were able to experience Hyde Park Corner on a Sunday morning, the Christmas buzz along Oxford Street and Regent Street, and join large crowds in ringing in the New Year on Trafalgar Square. Spring seemed to arrive early in 1984, and last for a long time. Regents Park was bathed in sunshine for Easter; over the following months we enjoyed picnics there while the children played with small paddle boats on the pond.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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