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Posts tagged ‘smallstories’

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.


light & morning*

I stir in my bed, hear the sound of a car engine – neighbour is off to work.

I am warm and comfortable.

Through the crack between the curtains, the sun pours light against the wall. Soon I’ll go for my morning run, but first maybe a glance at the world?

I look out into the ocean, usually only to see the vista, but today in the distance someone waved:

It was like a letter in the post. I don’t like to shout into the stream, and so don’t talk there very often. When someone waves, I notice.

#Smallstories make me smile. People, sensations (not sensationalism, but feeling), connecting a small part of my life to yours and yours to mine.

#Smallstories can look like a nothing. a blip. but if you are looking – paying attention to detail, then you might see a wonderful accomplishment, a laugh, a light in the distance, or a question that to others is mere debris in the stream. 

A bit like Poohsticks

If you don’t know this game, here’s the explanatory text taken from A.A. Milne’s A house at Pooh Corner:

‘It was an anxious moment’ by Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976) Image taken of a post card. Sketch published in Ch 6 of the 1928 printing of the book.

He had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river.

“Bother,” said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him . . . and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

“That’s funny,” said Pooh. “I dropped it on the other side,” said Pooh, “and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?” And he went back for some more fir-cones.

It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice . . .

and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was– that he had–well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that’s what he was. Instead of the other way round. And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.

It is not about winning, but about noticing with others. Stopping and valuing that moment, prioritising that which might be so ordinary – but life is. The magic comes in the ordinary being alive.

for teaching?

there are dangers

Dangers in getting out of bed in the morning, and crossing the road, but online keeps changing so fast and there aren’t rule books. Well, if there are they are already out of date before being published (even online publications), because online the world never sleeps.

Crossing the road you look and see what’s coming, but not online. third parties, tracking, big data. I don’t understand, maybe can’t understand it all? At least with my space, I have some control.

Teaching involves willfull vulnerability and trust- from teacher and student – meaning moments of allowed uncertainty while exploration, connection, and *learning* take place. In the classroom, this can be (mostly) orchestrated, but in the world where anything can happen, there is more risk. It is a tricky thing as a teacher to weigh up what we can understand of the risks and then choose to ask people to be vulnerable in different settings.

Where I can’t see what’s coming, I need to tell that to the students.

So when I do post a voice in the stream, it is usually a message in a bottle pointing outward – here, to my space.

I share my stories that way, but words launched into the stream without the protection of the bottle are chosen carefully. As a result that may mean few find my story and we do rely on that tap on the shoulder, that nod across the pond, the noticing that keeps the connection alight.

Image CC BY-NC-ND by Nik Golding

*This is a post written in response to the tap on the shoulder received from Kate. Thank you, Kate.