Life Musings, Writing

Joy in the Journey

For my last weekend in Al Ain I could think of nothing more fitting than a drive up to Jebel Hafeet. Over the last two-and-a-half years, escaping to the top of the limestone range has been my favorite pastime. I even chose my apartment because of its mountain view and I will always remember standing out on my balcony on winter mornings waiting for cloud-cover to rise and reveal the city’s iconic peak.

The view from the top of Jebel Hafeet can often be hazy, maybe as a consequence of the quarrying and cement factories that dot the area. But for me, the beauty has always been in the serpentine journey through hairpin turns, as I play hide and seek with the sun.

In November of 2017, I moved to the Garden City reluctantly as my head and heart continued to combat each other, trying to figure out how to coexist in unison. But the slower pace of life, small town vibes and simple routines grew on me sooner than I thought they would. My rhythm adjusted and the people I met solidified my feelings for my temporary home. Each person had a feel of calm and deep investment in making quiet connections…some private and some to share.

As we drove up to the top this morning, I could not help but marvel at how life plays out, pushing us in the directions that lead us to where we need to be. Thirty minutes into the journey we were making our way to the over-priced café and hoping to catch the sunrise one last time. God’s early morning, egg-yolk exposition did not disappoint.

I hope to return and see the sweeping views of Oman and Al Ain again someday but for me the drive and the anticipation of making it to the top will always be what makes this journey a beautiful experience. It is never about the destination but the journey itself. Just like life.

Life Musings, Writing

A Collector of What Ifs

Anybody who knows me, will probably describe me as ‘confident’ or ‘self-assured’ and that’s partially true. I project confidence when I need to, it takes a lot of preparation to get me there but when I’m there, I wing it well. I use the phrase ‘wing-it’ intentionally, because that’s often how I feel on the inside; as though I am an imposter feigning confidence and calm – the swan gliding over placid waters without causing a ripple but churning and chaotic below the surface.

Self-doubt is a special kind of hell. A small failure makes you question your abilities and the next thing you know, you feel like you aren’t good enough or smart enough to do anything. And that’s when you stop trying.

I believe that we all have that little inner voice that tells us what we want to be doing with our lives and who we want to be. Unfortunately, we push this inner voice aside because we start to think things like, “How am I going to do this?”, “What will people think of my decision?” and the worst one, “What if I fail?”. Herein lies the delicious irony of my life. Despite my self-doubt, I have ambition. For as far back as I can remember I have wanted for everything to be different with me. I thought I had the strength and mastery to make it and gradually I taught myself how. But the most terrible obstacles for me aren’t situational, they are in my own head.

If I could measure my life in moments of self-doubt, it would look like yardstick after yardstick of questioning my choices. Choose A and then obsess over the thought that I should have chosen B instead. Why do I always choose the wrong thing? Anyway, I ramble, it isn’t all doom and gloom. I go through cycles of self-doubt, the questions usually come in torrents and leave a million what-ifs like driftwood strewn along a shoreline. In time, the tide comes in and takes away the debris to where it came from, but till it does, my head and heart remain in constant conflict, each one fighting for a stronghold over my life and actions. Some days my head wins, on other days, my heart.

I guess, I’m putting this out there today just to acknowledge that I have days like today, weeks like this one has been. A truth-seeker is obligated to be truthful first, no? I am reminded of the fable of the Hare and Tortoise; how confident that little Hare was, so self-assured, so certain of getting to the finish line. In 35 years, I have never once felt like the Hare, just always the Tortoise. I stick my head out of my shell and take one step at a time, crawling at my own pace, hoping just to finish the race respectably while the Hare is taking his victory lap.

But we all know how the fable ends, an ending that promises both optimism and Hope, and if this post can do the same for even one of you reading this, then writing it would have been worth the effort.

“Just be yourself instead of trying to prove yourself. For if you do, the former will automatically take care of the latter.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

EdTech, Teaching

Stop and Stare! #HappyDigitalLearningDay

In today’s tech-obsessed climate, we share almost everything online – even pictures of our food! We let everyone know where we spend our weekends, when we check into restaurants, where we’re holidaying, who we’re having coffee with, even who we’re engaged to marry! We’ve given an online dimension to almost every aspect of our lives. The internet now does the same for teaching and learning and that makes this one the most exciting times for educationists and students around the globe.

Today the world is celebrating #DigitalLearningDay and while it’s easy for those standing on the sidelines to point out the shortcomings of using educational technologies, not many are so eager to find and apply a solutions to make learning more robust and enjoyable. Many educators fear that the development of social media and educational technology will have a negative impact on the education of young people. But at one point in time, people were afraid that the emails and laptops would stop people from being able to handwrite, which hasn’t happened yet and we all know how we’ve integrated e-mails into our daily lives.

Don’t get me wrong, traditional education is important and I am fully aware of and understand its significance. Still, it has many shortcomings and may not be ideal for students in the 21st century. As a teacher, I’ve tried to take what’s best in my classroom (student discussions and collaborations) and bring it to the online space, where all of my students, regardless of their academic standing or anything else, can exchange knowledge and skills. In case you weren’t already aware I have an educational blog as well and I’d like for you to see how the students are using the internet and technology so responsibly to learn their course content. Here are a few examples I’m happy to show off in honour of World Digital Learning Day.

Blog: ‘My Reassigned Classroom’ provides students with an informal online learning environment to share ideas, discuss subject matter and interpret content. A few months ago my grade 10 literature class read a Chinua Achebe story that made them question the ideas of arranged marriages, romantic love and age-old religious traditions. Soon after the lesson I posted a question on the blog and was amazed by the responses of the students. I think we had a better discussion online than we did while we were actually reading the text! (Click the hyperlink below)

Marriage

Voicethread: provides a wonderful opportunity for student self-expression and creativity but more than anything, I find that it is a wonderful tool for differentiation allowing students to comment using video, voice or text responses whichever they are most comfortable with. Have a look at this summer assignment on poetry that brought out some wonderful responses from the children.

(This is a hyperlink – click the title to open the page) Stopping By Woods

TestMoz: Children today are overburdened with assignments and tests. Using online test generators like TestMoz makes it fun and engaging for students to participate in summative assessments and collaborative quizzes. These tools also help teachers to collect data and other statistical information that is crucial to their own planning and progress.

Twitter: Is already the most widely used social media site today.  It is now being used as a tool to encourage discussion, collaboration and easy access to the teacher when in doubt.

While these are just a few examples of how I am using EdTech it would be prudent to mention that following a Web 2.0 tools workshop conducted last year, teachers in my school are currently using a wide-range of educational technology. In addition to these they employ the use of wikis, Edmodo, YouTube Time Machine, Class Blogs, Facebook, Evernote, Prezi, Glogster etc.

The main aim here is not technology for technology’s sake. It remains our consistent endeavor to provide students with ample opportunity to hone 21st century skills such as working online, collaboration, independent research etc.

Today we don’t shy away from technology; we acknowledge the depth and breadth of its influence and embrace it for its powerful impact on teaching and learning. We are currently setting the stage to introduce digital storytelling and the use of augmented reality in our teaching-learning. (click on hyperlink to open)

AugmentedReality

These are exciting times for both the students as well as me as a teacher.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. EdTech is no longer an option for schools and educationists. It is a 21st century requirement. Whatever we do, it’s unlikely that the students won’t use the new technologies they’re discovering every day. Perhaps at this point it’s time to stop the conjecture and start learning how to keep up with them!