#iEARN13 Takeaways (#RoadtoDoha Part 5)

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Qatari Cultural Performance

It is hard to believe that nearly two weeks have passed since this amazing event, as its implications are still sinking in.

For now, here are some of my major takeaway from #iEARN13.

1) The People

A sign of a good conference is its impact on professional practice. The sign of an extraordinary conference is the quality of the professional relationships forged with educators from one’s own country, and around the world.

The #iearn13 conference was an opportunity to meet teachers from all over the world, some I already knew, and others I met for the very first time on the #roadtodoha. Meeting David Potter @iEARNUSA and Michael-Ann @cerniglia, who I’ve literally known for years,  as well as the iEARN Twitteratti from the Netherlands and Pakistan, were true highlights of the trip.

I was also lucky enough to meet, and spend time with Julie Lindsay (from Flat Classroom), one of the two ladies who helped inspire The Global Classroom Project.

And then there were the people I connected with at the conference … From Australia, Mali, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Italy,India, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Jordan, Canada, Australia, and the United States. Listening to their stories was a fascinating, thought provoking experience which transcended cultural and national borders.

Meeting @cerniglia
Meeting @cerniglia – roughly halfway between the USA and Australia
The Pakistan iEARN Twitterati - including @FSKamal, @hsaeed92, @SidrahN,   and @BilalZKhan
The Pakistan iEARN Twitterati – including @FSKamal, @hsaeed92, @SidrahN, and @BilalZKhan
The iEARN Australia delegation @ Cultural Night
The iEARN Australia delegation @ Cultural Night

2) Realising I have a future in iEARN, and a role to play within it.

The primary reason for my attending the conference was to learn about the philosophy, community, and people which make up iEARN. As a relief teacher, I was struggling to make a connection with the organisation, as I couldn’t engage in the projects and opportunities it offers. But, this conference helped to change that – in a very positive way.

Walking away from #iearn13 with new friends, new ideas, and three international presentations to add to my resume was the culmination of months of planning. It was a huge risk, but it appears to have paid off.

I can see myself having a positive future in this organisation, and potentially a long-term role in helping iEARN grow and evolve over its next 25 years. While I’ll freely admit to still searching for a school where I can make a difference here at home, I’m excited about exploring new global opportunities with iEARN.

"The Spider", Qatar National Convention Centre
“The Spider”, Qatar National Convention Centre
An apt reminder of why I travelled the #roadtodoha
An apt reminder of why I travelled the #roadtodoha

 

Two Weeks in Qatar (#RoadtoDoha Part 4)

How can I put into words the experiences of the past few weeks? … The sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, and diverse people of Doha … The excitement, the passion, the learning, and emerging friendships of the iEARN conference?

The truth is, I can’t … I was told this trip would change me, and perhaps, it has … in ways I’d never dreamt possible.

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Going Global

I am a global educator, committed to learning with the world, not just about it … Yet, this was the first time I found myself practicing what I preach. Coming here to #iearn13 was a huge risk, but a positive one … and I have loved every minute.

In what follows, I am going to try to reflect on my experiences of the past few weeks, as I sit here in the hotel lobby farewelling friends, old and new, as we slowly return to our respective corners of the globe.

#RoadtoDoha Part 4: Exploring Doha, a city of hidden beauty.
Yes, it was often above 45C, and this place is NOT pedestrian friendly by any stretch of the imagination, but my walks through the souqs and old Doha provided a fascinating glimpse into the life beyond the hotel and conference walls.

My feet were killing me, true, but walking enabled me to see Doha in a way which most tourists don’t. It’s the little things …

Walking past the local mosque, listening to the call to prayer …

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Discovering the little local supermarkets and general stores, frequented by the expat labourers and local Qataris …

And, let us not forget the (insane) traffic. Having never been to India or China, Doha traffic was an experience in itself.

As I tweeted early in the trip, the national musical instrument of Qatar is the car horn, and the national pastime is attempting to swerve one’s way through traffic jams – aka driving like a lunatic.

Cars drive on the left side of the road here, which was unusual for the Aussie, who forgot this critical fact on occasion! I swear my guardian angel worked overtime, because despite the occasional close scrape, I survived my 2km walking radius for a whole 6 days!

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Exploring Doha

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I was lucky that my first hotel was in the centre of old Doha. It meant that I could explored the local souqs, corniche, and Islamic Art Museum at my own pace, taking the time to immerse myself in the local environment, food, and culture. I was also blessed to find an honest private taxi driver, who took me on a guided tour of Doha, and helped make the trip so special.

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What surprised me was, quite simply, was the friendliness of the people. Yes, I was in a foreign country, half a world away from home, but I always felt safe, welcome, and accepted – even while out amongst the late night crowds enjoying the relative coolness of the Corniche (seaside promenade). Perhaps that comes from the rather unique situation in Qatar, where about 90% of the population are foreign nationals.

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Documenting another world

Here in Doha, there are certain social rules and government regulation regarding photography; however, I have quite simply had the time of my life here – documenting my first international journey. All I can do is provide a glimpse into what I’ve captured … You will have to wait until I get home to delve into the full portfolio.

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Three Years. A Relief Teacher’s Blogging Journey

Well, what can I say?

Three years ago today, I was a recovering first year teacher struggling to find my voice and calling in my profession. Today, I’m in Doha, Qatar, on the eve of the 20th iEARN International Conference.

For me, blogging has been an outlet, a way to share my experiences, thoughts, and learning with others. I used to feel isolated and alone, but no more.

I used to be obsessed with statistics … could anyone actually be interested in reading about my experiences? Now, the statistics don’t matter so much … because I know.

The past three years have been a roller-coaster journey. There have been stories of heartbreak, triumph, elation, and heartfelt thanks … but I stand here today with no regrets, secure in the knowledge that I have a voice on the world stage, secure in the knowledge that I’ve giving back to this wonderful global community which has given me so much, and more.

Here’s to another three years … God knows where I’ll be, but I’m looking forward to finding out 🙂

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Packing my Bags & Travelling the #RoadtoDoha

The past few weeks have been pretty busy, and now the journey I’ve been preparing for – is just days away. Flying out on Sunday night my time, I’ll be landing in Doha, Qatar on Monday morning next week.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect – I know it’s going to be hot, dusty, and very different!


cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by Sam Agnew

I’m travelling with an open mind …

This is my first opportunity to experience the world beyond my home city and country, and I’m looking forward to exploring and soaking up the experience. I’ve bought tickets to a few cultural events, and my iEARN conference preparations are now complete. And my bags are (almost) packed.

I’m told that this trip will change me … I just hope it will change me for the better.

But for now, the #RoadtoDoha beckons …

On the #RoadtoDoha (Part 1)

2013 promises to be a big year.

In late June, I’ll be embarking on one of my biggest adventures yet – a trip to Doha, Qatar for the iEARN 2013 Conference.

With my passport arriving yesterday, I’m looking forward to booking my flights and accommodation early next week.. It’s going to be an exciting trip, and I’m looking forward to learning more about iEARN, and experiencing life in the Far East.

The iEARN Conference runs from July 1-6, and I’d love nothing more than to meet a few members of my network there. If you’re interested in coming along, you can check out the website at http://iearn2013.org.

My #RoadtoDoha begins here.