(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me


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#rhizo14 Sustenance for a Compulsive Writer with Impostor Syndrome

I’ve been wanting to write about my compulsive writing (I know, compulsive, right?) and impostor syndrome (the latter mentioned on facebook recently) and then Sandra commented on Sarah’s MOOCaholic blog post saying she was “sustained by the people” she met here… and I was just… oh my God. That is such a good word to describe how I feel… how I’ve been feeling…

(Funny enough, I just gave a workshop today on authentic and sustainable assessment, but that’s a different issue)

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But back to the original blogpost that was going to be written before I read Sandra’s comment (her comment inspired it to GET written; beforehand it was written in my head, as David Wheeler has said)

Let me start by being totally honest. I don’t have “impostor syndrome” in the sense explained here

The author and impostor-syndrome expert Valerie Young says the condition “refers to people who have a persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence.” She continues: “They are convinced that other people’s praise and recognition of their accomplishments is undeserved, chalking up their achievements to chance, charm, connections, and other external factors.”

I mean, I am a pretty confident person. It’s not an act, or anything. But I think there are some factors that make me feel like… I appear to be more than I really am, or something? For example, doing a PhD remotely meant I did not “get” all the experience as other people did (though I tried to approximate it). I did not get the experience of interacting with other students, more academics beyond my supervisor. I was lucky to be working at a university but there was no school of Education for most of the time I was working on my thesis. Of course, doing a PhD just helps you realize how little you know – it is a case of the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know and I had complete writer’s block until I finally wrote my conclusion chapter where I critique everything in my thesis and say how I would have done it differently, what I would do in future, etc. THEN I could go back and edit my thesis. Whew.

And since I finished my thesis, I’ve lost my writer’s block. I just re-blogged a piece on writer’s block but really I have had writer’s diarrhea or whatever since I submitted my thesis. It started out innocently enough as I was trying to write some peer-reviewed pieces to keep my mind and writing muscle alive, waiting for my supervisor to give me feedback on my almost-final-dissertation… and while doing them I read a lot of blogs and chronicle articles (because one of the articles was about MOOCs and there was not much peer-reviewed stuff on that) – and I felt like I had opinions and things to say that were not scholarly but worth being said… first piece sent to the Chronicle got rejected… but after that, my writing got accepted in other places (the chronicle continue to reject my stuff for some reason, but it does well elsewhere). Anyway… at some point I felt that I’ve got sooooo much writing inside me that I don’t think any online magazine or journal have the time for (no matter how much they like me or how kind they are – it’s not a newspaper column). So I started the blog, and I did so for myself. It was OK if no one ever read it, but that’s not been the case. It’s not entirely coincidental that I started my blog in December and joined rhizo14 in January. I met Dave through my blog, actually! I was writing a post about rhizomatic learning after having just heard of the term, and I tweeted to tell him something, and then (because he’s such a nice guy) we had an extended twitter exchange where I asked if he’s teaching any MOOCs anytime soon and he said “well, since you ask…” and that’s how I joined rhizo14! And my blogging has helped me a lot in terms of learning and interacting in rhizo14 (I was not blogging while in edcmooc and I now regret that).

But anyway… I still feel like I write too much. I don’t always post my new blogs on rhizo14 facebook (not immediately anyway), and it’s amazing because there was one post I did not put on facebook that Clarissa did on my behalf and it got SO popular. I write some things and think they might not interest people so I don’t overly publicize them (as opposed to the latest Hybrid Pedagogy piece which I’ve been spamming ppl with hehe). I do still feel like I’m imposing, even though people could always ignore me and not read stuff, right?

For example, the recent article Shyam and I published on Hybrid Pedagogy. I think it’s a great article with great ideas, I think we’re onto something big here. I think it was written in the most collaborative way and worked out so beautifully… and then when it came out and the Hybird Pedagogy people used quotes from it as they promoted it on social media, I told Sean Michael Morris how great they were at finding good quotes and he replied:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p>Bonds of Difference: Illusions of Inclusion <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bali_Maha”>@bali_maha</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/sharmashyam”>@sharmashyam</a&gt; <a href=”http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby”>http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/HybridPed”>@hybridped</a></p>&mdash; Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher) <a href=”https://twitter.com/slamteacher/statuses/452093600508039169″>April 4, 2014</a></blockquote>

See, I read that, and I think, how can one of my favorite writers ever (Sean) who is a writing teacher say that about my writing? My next thought was, well, I’ll write all my new articles co-authored with Shyam since he’s a great writer so it must be helping raise my level 🙂

Uhhh, yeah. Me, who blogs like almost every day, and gets something published on Al-Fanar around every month, and somehow sees almost every interesting idea we discuss on #rhizo14 facebook as an opportunity to publish 😉

So I’m not really sure how to reconcile my “impostor syndrome” thing with my “compulsive writer” thing – and for some reason, I’m always now compelled to write for a public audience. Email? Why confine ideas to a few people I know? Why not open it up for the world, including people I do not know, and meet new people (love it when someone I don’t know tweets, comments, reads, likes my stuff) – but also love it when someone I do know (like Clarissa, Simon and Scott just did) comment on my peer-reviewed work or whatever is published outside my blog.

I’m always feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be sending so many articles to Al-Fanar or Hybrid Pedagogy or all those nice people who seem to like my writing. I was just talking to my boss today and she asked when I was going to get around to writing an article for our department’s newsletter and I laughed. I was like “you can use any of them” – because actually, sometimes I want to write something and it is not yet “time” for our bi-weekly newsletter, or someone else is writing it that week, so I can’t wait. I just blog it. One such post eventually caught the attention of Al-Fanar so has already been re-posted and I don’t think it can tolerate a third re-post… or can it? 🙂

Well, I’m a writeaholic and so I could just write a new one, can’t I?

P.S. while writing this blogpost I was chatting with Clarissa and I told her something I wanted to share with rhizo14: I love how we bring our parenting into the course. I hate how academics or professionals in general can be discouraged from doing that (though I have to say it is not the case in my workplace). But it’s such an important part of my identity and I am glad we all “bring it” with us openly.

[apologies for abrupt ending to post, but Clarissa has told me about interesting thread on fb that I must read before I sleep and it’s midnight already! Why publish it incoherent? Because I’m sure I’ll have a totally new thing to say tomorrow anyway… inshallah]

 

UPDATE: I read through the facebook thread and one of the articles posted by Ronald on that thread  brought on an interesting idea relevant to this post!!! That in Brookfield’s research, he found that people starting to become liberated and empowered through critical pedagogy (not the parts in bold I emphasized):

in the course of his phenomenographic study, it emerged that they also experienced powerful feelings of alienation both within their learning community and outside it. Brookfield identified five themes that exemplify what he terms the ‘dark side’ of critical reflection: impostorship (feeling unworthy to participate in critical
thinking), roadrunning (incremental struggles with new modes of thought), community (support for those
engaged in the critical process); and also ‘cultural suicide’ and a sense of ‘lost innocence’ resulting from
the multiplicity of new ideas that replaces old certainties, and the resulting sense of isolation and
exclusion within existing communities whose value systems remain untroubled by critical thought.

More on all that later, then!

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This Is How We Do It: coloring our vision?

A couple of incidents have triggered this post. I might be wrong in judging that the root cause behind them is an unreflective sticking to tradition or habit, but that’s what I think today 🙂

The first incidence relates to my students feeling they had to meet f2f to work on a collaborative project when they could work perfectly well online (synchronously or asynchronously). This coincides strangely with a similar incident mentioned by Rebecca on fb recently.

The second and the one I plan to elaborate on relates to online journals. I am frustrated by an article I wrote last summer about MOOCs. It was accepted after peer review for publication in November, but is still not published yet (particularly frustrating because my views on MOOCs have changed a lot since then so the article won’t even make that much sense to me anymore. I know scholarly publication takes time (my first ever took about 10 months from acceptance to publication) but but in the meantime I have had many other articles published in a more timely manner using three different models, and I would like to understand why every online journal does not consider having at least one of the below policies:

1. The most traditional journal I recently published with (Teaching in Higher Education) have an advance online publication policy: as soon as an article is ready it gets published online and promoted. Then when the full issue is out, the article gets an issue/volume number, etc. I like this because: who reads a full issue unless it is a special issue?

2. Hybrid Pedagogy are my favorite. The peer-reviewed piece is published within days of acceptance and gets extensive social media marketing immediately by the editorial team and author(s). Personally, as a reader, this means that I know about maybe one article each week that they publish and I read about 80% of them. Why? They are short enough and accessible enough and reading one a week is manageable for pleasure academic reading (by which I mean, not directly related to research I am doing now).

3. Al-Fanar is not peer reviewed but the articles get edited. But the model is still interesting. An article is up and promoted as soon as it is ready. Then a periodical newsletter puts together all the best of the latest pieces. This works great because you can find new articles up there if you visit regularly, and still you can get the newsletter in case you missed it.

I don’t understand publications or journals that choose to hoard articles until they have got a full issue together. Why?

In this world of social media and speed (live with it!) I don’t know who sits and reads an entire issue (ok, maybe on paper, but online?). I never buy newspapers. I would rather read scattered articles from different online papers… Make my own 🙂 often combining things recommended by friends from twitter and facebook

The more dynamic or urgent the topic, the better it is to publish fast, right? It is also easier to then promote each article on its own via social media.

Which brings me back to the point: the desire to stick to waiting til issue is ready sounds like sticking to habit or tradition without considering the consequences of the readership. This is how we do it. This is comfortable and familiar. But is it easier? Is it better for authors or readers or the journal’s visibility? Maybe other authors/readers are different from me, but what would it hurt to accommodate impatients like me?

Back to the student example earlier: do students really need to meet in person for group work? Sometimes, but not always. It takes judgment and creativity to know when. But it is almost always worth considering the alternative. Not everyone will be as comfortable, but it is (at least for ed tech students like mine) an experience worth trying.

What do you think?
;


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Never stop thinking. Never stop writing

Just a short blog post reflecting on something: people keep referring to me as a prolific blogger. I take it they’re impressed, but they shouldn’t be, really. I think all of us academics think a lot, possibly all day long, every day, while we are doing all sorts of other things.

All I do, really, is organize my thoughts into a blogpost so I do not lose them (the thoughts), and instead of keeping them in a random place on paper, PC, or mobile device, instead of emailing the, to a few select people in my f2f life, I post them (incomplete thoughts as they are) online so I can share them and get feedback, and my social networks help me think again, which creates new blog posts. Voila. Writing really is a muscle that you exercise (i.e. the more you write,the easier it is to write, for me at least). Maybe I am a little rash in posting things publicly that are incomplete. I don’t care (yet).

One of the funniest things when writing a peer-reviewed article is that by the time I get feedback from the reviewers, I have had further thoughts and read more articles, etc., and so I want to change so many things about the article! At least on my blog I can get immediate feedback. At least the feedback does not stop after publication.

In my own PhD thesis defense (my topic was critical thinking) I was asked to describe my understanding of critical thinking. I hate being asked that question, but I answered it anyway. The examiners looked at me quizzically and said, “that is all really interesting, but it’s not very clear in your thesis!”, to which I responded, “yes, it’s something I thought about while my supervisor was reviewing the final draft of my thesis and I published it online in a magazine about Arab higher ed”. So them I was asked to add those thoughts back into my thesis for the final final draft.

I wrote an article about MOOCs for JOLT last summer. I have since experienced several completely different MOOCs and have so much more to say now, but the article itself has not yet been published!!! So that is quite annoying.

So blogging gives me this space to write my thoughts, and update them in another post as they evolve. It is a reflective and social practice, both.

Just today, I heard students learning to reflect for the first time say they saw the value in reflection as a way to give feedback to instructors, but not as something that directly benefited them personally. I think reflecting publicly has a lot of benefits that personal reflection misses, of course, but the first benefit of reflection is (quite obvious to most of us educators, but clearly not to students doing it for the first time) personal growth.

So …thanks to all my social network friends for helping me through all my personal reflections by inspiring the thoughts that go into them, and responding to them.


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Writing ourselves into history; righting history (inspired by @Mark_Mcguire & #write4pro)

I started my day by this incredible tweet by my twitter-buddy Mark McGuire. I loved it so much I kept going back to it several times during the day just to get inspired again:

I could say so much about this, but the tweet itself says so much on its own.

The morning at work was a blur, just lots of meetings, nothing particularly significant. But the end of my day was a wonderful experiment #write4pro led by my other good online buddy Shyam Sharma – it started with him inviting me to Skype with his students, but as everyone knows, synchronous does not work well for me – so I suggested we have a twitter chat instead*. He agreed. The idea grew from just having me as a guest speaker, to inviting a bunch of others to the discussion – including several of our good twitter buddies and online friends interested in education. I also invited my students and a new f2f contact who is interested in open access issues as well. It was great having this discussion during Open Education week (#nwoer) as well.

Interestingly, there were a few questions students asked during the twitter chat about whether social media skills were helpful or important in our profession, and when several of us talked about networking, students wanted to know more.

This twitter chat was a perfect example of networking across the globe: Shyam (Nepalese in NY) and I (Egyptian in Egypt) developing the idea; his undergrad students in NY, my diploma students in Egypt, and other professionals from Guyana, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal – almost spanning every time zone inhabited by man/woman :o)

End result: wonderful, chaotic twitter chat that hopefully benefited the students on both sides and anyone else participating. Lots of quotable stuff in this twitter chat (I’ll post the storify when Shyam does it – here it is, and a more comprehensive one by Mark), but here are some of the gems for me (couldn’t get them all, but searching for them to include them helped me follow more of the chat that I had been missing!):

Someone asked if there was such a thing as overdoing social media… to which I replied:

So many other good things to say but I’m too exhausted right now to make the search. Will be posting the storify when it’s up (it’s up – here it is! fast work Shyam). So many people commented on how useful the chat was, how diverse it was, and some even talked about it as if it was an ongoing thing we could do again :o)) That was just so cool!

But meanwhile: Twitter chats are not for everyone, though. Obviously, there is the language barrier. The technical barrier – some ppl were tweeting for the FIRST time – not necessarily the mildest introduction to twitter. There must also be some cognitive exhaustion threshold after which people would go crazy!!! (come to think of it, very rhizomatic – how come we never had twitter chats in rhizo14?) Some people I am sure could not follow the conversation. In fact, even someone I consider a big tweeter like Mark (quoted earlier) often admits to struggling to keep up with twitter chats. I personally always have personal issues distracting me from twitter chats*. And of course – whether the topic being discussed can really have global significance? For academics, often there are common threads across the globe worth discussing and taking forward. This chat was completely diverse (undergrads, teachers, academics) but still managed to make some sense… somehow.

I have seen twitter chats with people more experienced who did useful things like retweet questions, retweet good stuff, etc., but this was a really really good chat for a group of people who mostly were not veteran tweeters or at least not veteran twitter chatters (neither Shyam nor I had ever “led” one before, though we had participated – and Shyam did a great job of letting his students lead it which I thought went really really well).

OK – not the most reflective post but just wanted to get some of these ideas down ;o) More later

*I am so glad we did it this way because I would have been a horrible guest speaker (electricity cut 10 mins into chat, so had to switch to a 3G device; family needed attention several times and I ended up tweeting with my child on my lap).


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On Pedagogical Peer Review & @hybridped

I have been wanting to write my views about open peer review for a while, but thought to wait until i experienced it firsthand. I just did – my first (co-authored) article on my favorite journal Hybrid pedagogy has just been published: An Affinity for Asynchronous Learning.

So here is the thing. I think open peer review is better pedagogically than the more academically familiar “double blind”. I sort of understand that double blind is supposed to maybe protect people from bias on either side, but i don’t really know why else (someone please enlighten me).

Open /collaborative peer review is pedagogical, I think, because it allows the writer to respond to the peer reviewer for clarification before going off and making revisions. And isn’t that how theses are supervised? It allows the writer to respond to challenges the reviewer poses and see if they have convinced the reviewer before making changes. It is a positive, nurturing interaction, rather than the slightly antagonistic (not always, but sometimes) of more orthodox peer review.

For example, one of the reviewer comments on this article related to some of the non-pedagogical reasons I was giving to support asynchronous learning, and it prompted me to think of why. I decided that those non-pedagogical issues were actually pre-pedagogical. And that sort of became the argument.

Now in a Twitter DM, I was talking to Jesse and he paused at the term “pre-pedagogical” (he liked it) and them we both realized somehow (google?) that there was no such term! In a more traditional setting, i would expect to be told “no such term exists” – instead, in this context, we actually celebrated the new term!

I guess to be honest it is not just the openness of the peer review but the openness of the folks at Hybrid Pedagogy and their willingness to help authors write the best that they can. They do that in their day-to-day teaching anyway, right?

Why on earth does academic rigor do the following:
1. Take pride in rejecting scholarship. When our aim should be to help people do good research and disseminate it?
2. Shun collaboration (as in, tenure prefers single authored works) when collaboration amongst academics is what can really create groundbreaking stuff
3. Treat peer review as external evaluation rather than an opportunity for learning and growth?

The latter isn’t always true, but open, collaborative peer review ensures a more constructive process.

I found that I generally build relationships with journal editors as I work through my article, and I don’t know how common that behavior is. But for HybridPed it was different. I already knew some of them (online) from before, in different ways, so they were not strangers. I also felt able to make myself vulnerable and admit some insecurities, playfully ask if they’d kill me if I submitted a third article to them, etc. It’s a very different feeling from publishing elsewhere, and it has spoiled me for other things I am now reviewing/editing after review. I keep asking myself “why can’t i just contact the reviewer and understand what s/he wants?” And also recently i wanted to tell someone, “by the way, i reviewed your paper recently, the one about to be published in journal x; i was the “nice” peer reviewer”

Anyway, I have learned a lot from the experience of working with Hybrid Pedagogy and I am so happy I was able to publish there. Now they won’t be able to get rid of me, poor them 🙂

[note one extra advantage of HybridPed is the high use of twitter, such that i got to actually immediately see my first article citation on this very well written blog postt]


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Academic blogging revisited: Thinking, writing, action

This post is a confluence of several “coincidences” related to the value of thinking and writing and the value of taking action in the world – all at a time when I started my own blog as a form of contributing to public discourse with the aim of making that writing useful to the world.

The coincidences (all within a 24 hour period), include:

1. Reading about Hannah Arendt in the book Interpretive Pedagogies where she insists that ideas/thinking are not equivalent to action
2. A tweet by @jessifer that I retweeted quoting Martin Bickman: “the problem is writing articles instead of making sure the articles actually change the world.” (Emphasis mine; I have no idea who Martin Bickman is but I intend to find out soon)

These first two ideas come together in my mind to make me realize that the value in what we think and write does not make it action in the world until we find ways to make that writing make a difference in the world. Paulo Freire believed strongly in the interaction between the word and the world, and in linking reflection/knowledge to action. He suggested that action without reflection/knowledge is mere activism, and that to focus on speech/writing without action is mere “verbalism”. And so, I am beginning to think, that “thinking” is a pre-requisite to writing, and writing (and teaching) is a form of action/activism in that it can share knowledge, build on others’ knowledge, but also be a form of advocacy. But even though sometimes I write for myself, the true value of my non-creative writing lies in its capacity to reach others and make a difference, create change in some way. This also means that sometimes a blog post will be more valuable than a book, because a. It is open access so more people can reach it; b. it is shorter, so busier people can read it; c. It is simpler language than more scholarly work, so more practitioners can understand it, and d. It is more immediate, so there is less “time” lost between my thinking the thought, and it reaching someone to benefit him/her.

Now another thing also struck me within those same 24 hours:

3. I read the table of contents of the book The Future of Thinking and loved the way they titled the last chapter starting with: ”(in)conclusive”

What I really like about the “(in)conclusive” part is that it made me realize that it might really be OK to publish something when you have not necessarily reached your conclusion. Some things are changing so fast that it might not even make sense to try to conclude. I was also more recently inspired by Dave Cormier publishing his work-in-progress book on community as curriculum. It made me realize that we do not have to necessarily reach the final polished stage of our work before sharing it. I am sure Dave has been sharing these ideas in his blog over the years, and pulling it together as a book and sharing the book while it is in progress was very inspiring to me.

So I have only been blogging for about two weeks (but been writing online for six months now) but all of the above has reinforced my decision to blog. I am at a stage in my life where I cannot do as much physical activism as I would like, or as I could before, but my mind is full of thoughts and ideas that I can share and hopefully make a difference in some small way, and I hope I can share the inspiration I am getting from other “open educators” such as those who inspired this post!


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Teaching as Giving, Writing as Giving

This post is inspired by a facebook discussion about my previous post “We are Nerds“. Friend of mine pointed out that the passion with which academics want to teach their students is not restricted to academics, but anyone in any field who has a passion for “giving”. Others also pointed out that although my post was directed towards academics (as these are the people I work with, day in and day out) many of the ideas relate further to informal educational contexts such as training, and even to just people management in general. I can relate to that, because before I started working in education, my passion in my previous corporate context was in the “giving” that I could do via training and support.

This thinking triggered quite a few connections in my head, and I’ll share them one by one.

First, it reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Gibran, a section from his “The Prophet” which is entitled “On Giving“. I have used this sub-poem in “critical friendship groups” as a focus of reflection with my student-teachers. I found this one resonated so much more with me and them than the other sub-poem in the same book entitled “On Teaching“. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from “On Giving“:

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

And isn’t it true that teaching is a giving of oneself?”

“There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth”.

And I think for some of us, giving is just a way of living, it is not something we do for the joy or the pain, it is something we cannot help but do…

“It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;”

And

“They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.”

This one, resonating with what I said earlier about giving as a way of life, also resonates with me about writing my thoughts and sharing them. This, too, is a kind of “compelled” giving. I am compelled to share my thoughts and ideas…

“See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.”

And this last one, reminds me of the humility of giving. Every time I write something that someone appreciates, I wonder if I am deserving of that appreciation. If I truly did have something new, useful, helpful to say? Who am I to impart wisdom onto others? Why are all these people listening to me? I feel that way in my teaching as well. I am humbled by the knowledge my students can bring into the class and the beauty they can make of a learning encounter. The more I know about my field, the more I realize I don’t know, the less significant what I do know becomes. But what little of it I have, I want to share. It is a very strange thin line between confidence and humility and I’m still navigating my way through it.

(You can read the entire Gibran poem online – just follow the links earlier and look to the sidebar for more parts)

The second thing this discussion reminded me of is one of the most influential books I have ever read by Stephen Covey. Nope, not the 7 Habits, but “First Things First”. I think this is one of the 7 habits, but there is an entire book on the subject and I am forever indebted to the friend who introduced me to it (thanks Yasser). I just recently recommended it to a colleague at work, because the book helps you reflect on what your mission in life is. It helped me leave a well-paying corporate career and start in a career in education. It helped me decide to take two years off of my career to take care of my baby without feeling like I was losing my “balance”, because each stage of life has its own equilibrium, depending on your priorities.

The thrust of the book centers around the concept that we all want four main things from life: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. The first is obvious, and involves healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, etc. (not that I know too many people who can do that very well, myself included). The second is about our relationships. The third is about our continual need to learn. But the last one, the “leave a legacy” one is the most inspiring. Because this is, to me, the one that centers your decisions about how to meet your mission in life. That mission might be to raise good children, and they will be your legacy.

My ideas around leaving a legacy were originally related to influencing an improvement in education in Egypt. They still are. But along the way, I have realized that I can make small gains in influencing education through my teaching of teachers, my consulting with faculty, as well as working with those in informal educational settings to help them in various ways related to my areas of expertise. But I have also realized that writing is another way to widen this “circle of influence” (which I believe is a term Covey uses) even though very little might lie within our “circle of control” (I have currently no control over the education system in Egypt, for example). Writing also enables one to potentially reach a wider audience than initially intended. Some of my writing that was intended for an Egyptian audience (e.g. the critical citizenship work) found resonance with people in Lebanon and the US (that I know of). You cannot predict how far something like this might go (side note: this is also scary if you ever change your mind about something and have no idea who is living with your older ideas… Think Edward Said, who I believe updated his ideas from Orientalism in his later book Culture and Imperialism but still you find more reference to his earlier work in scholarship).

Which reminds me of another interesting point someone recently brought up. They were talking about how you teach someone and the effect of it may or may not appear years from now. You are lucky if you ever hear back from your past students and know you have made a difference in their lives, you are luckier if they realize it while you are still teaching them (it helps if you teach the same cohort more than one course!), but the majority of your influence is often outside your notice.

So that’s why I think giving, for a teacher, has to be its own reward, though you may get some small external reward from your students every day (and I hope we all do).
Just as writing, I think, in some ways, is its own reward. But boy, does it feel wonderful to get positive (or even critical) feedback/support on one’s writing and know that it is beginning to influence some person, in some way, out there.

Happy giving!