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Open: When my heart sings

Sometimes when we sit with those we respect, our teachers, friends, our elders, and we listen, our hearts open.

There are some people who are like sunshine or like water or like the breeze and have certain qualities that are both etherial and penetrating. Being with them ignites my mind and makes my heart smile.

These past few days I have been at a conference in Galway with wonderful and diverse people and I’d like to share two (of many) that happened over the past few days.


1. I sat at the table with Brady and Kate as they talked about life, and I mainly listened. Being in a new situation can be daunting. Sometimes we are afraid. It’s human; we’re human. We talked about retreat to the seaside to think and almost sit with the fear. – and being able to acknowledge it as a thing there next to you, yet look at it as something that perhaps can sit beside you and that’s ok. You could turn and look and say, ‘hello. I see you. You can stay there, while I go on. But yes, I see you.’

It was a powerful conversation, mainly Kate and Brady’s ideas, bouncing off one another. I listened and near the end could add something a friend and former colleague taught me: Everyone gets butterflies, the trick is to teach them to fly in formation.

There was much more, but that is not my story to tell. It was a gift to be at that table.

2. The previous day, in the big lecture auditorium I listened to the keynote panel. I had met the three women talking last year at a conference in Delft, when we sat at the same table for a meal. In the keynote, Taskeen spoke about teachers and not the content or the methods, but being present and the value of learning from life, citing a Mauritanian scholar. (you can hear her words here and they are transcribed below)

“In this epistemological foundation, it’s entirely different where just sitting with the teacher,  being in their presence, and following them around in their daily life is counted as valuable learning. because one can be blessed by their spiritual presence, and here the connection between the student and the teacher is one the heart and the soul and not just the mind. The teacher is not just the source of the knowledge, nor are they the facilitator of knowledge, they are the embodiment of knowledge, and who the teacher is is much more valuable than how or what they teach. My question to you is how do we even begin to bring such pedagogies into openness?”

This moved me, and I tweeted what an aspirational challenge I felt this was. I had a teacher like that.

Upon coming home I was asked what was the highlight of the conference for me. For me it happened after the conference. Everyone was invited to meet to carry on the conversation, and in the most unlikely setting, a pub, I stood eating cheesy chips talking to Taskeen as she sipped her pint of water. Amidst conversation about PhDs and publications, munching cheesy chips, laughter, and the loud music, Taskeen recalled that type of learning she spoke of in the keynote and gestured to me and Brady, saying, ‘It’s what we have here, I can feel it’. (Brady was my co-presenter at the conference, but is also my student). Whatever made her say that was a gift. I certainly wasn’t teaching anything and cheesy chips aren’t a pedagogical method and I don’t think somehow I became a guru. I do aspire to more moments of being teacher and learner and of being that way, and in the first story I was  that learner. My students (this time one student), colleagues, friends teach me so much.


There is something that connected many participants at this OER19 conference – beyond the hope mentioned in the closing plenary. There is a concern and commitment to life, a noticing, a meeting of attention and intention to create and curate our lived experiences. I appreciate and value the people I met for the first time, friendships rekindled, and the time spent with people, sharing and learning from them, from their words, and from just being with them. My heart did a lot of singing. I am tired now, because of working hard, playing hard, and I feel completely overflowing with connection.

Featured image CC BY-NC by haRee

below are some comments that appeared on Twitter, but I wanted to keep them, so have posted them here too.

4 thoughts on “Open: When my heart sings”

  1. Thanks for sharing your reflection from the event … I’ve long noticed that with conferences, it is the activity and connection beyond the sessions (not that your sessions weren’t probably very interesting!) that resonate the most later on in discussions, and writing, and sharing.

    1. Kevin, you are so right- the learning is outside the classroom, beyond the books – and that’s why the conversations are so important. I was glad to have the courage to talk to new people and glad that people I knew took the time to sit with me. …We’re going to sit at a table one day, or maybe it will be over a jam session. I look forward to that day.

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