All posts by saulenu

How I struggled with reading and I won


Time flies quickly, and we have had five sessions already in the course of “Fundamentals of higher education”. The course turned out to be extremely interesting as I expected, but it showed itself to be challenging as well. The self-directed preparation task requires more than simple retelling the main ideas – firstly, you have to learn to pose interesting questions and justify your interest to them, secondly, you have to be able to create clear and usable mind-maps, finally, you have to choose the most important ideas out of many just important ideas.

While preparing for the session I admired some authors’ writing style, while hating that of others. In some readings, I felt myself like in jungles, making my own way through thick layers of tree branches. It was difficult to follow the thought of some writers, because despite what we learn in English lessons, some notable writers give themselves a luxury of not making conclusions to their thoughts and not making logical connections between own ideas 🙂


The climax of my struggle was reading “An Overview of American Higher Education”  by Baum, Kurose, and McPherson. I tried to read every historical detail on the history of American higher education, given in the article, being unable to catch a single idea of what the writers wanted to tell the reader. Unfortunately, I had chosen making notes as a type of self-directed preparation for this session and tried to write down all the historical moments mentioned in this and other articles. In the end, it was a disaster, because I spent eight (!) hours making simple notes.


However, in the end it turned out that “April showers bring May flowers”. The next session, I again decided to take notes, despite my previous unsuccessful experience. This time I was cutting unnecessary information like a surgeon while reading and choosing which information to write down. I did not let the authors confuse me by additional details, and I followed the main thoughts, paying less attention to extra information. I enjoyed my notes, and they helped me to prepare for my leading session and I had time left to think about activity for the leading session.


I am so happy that I have experienced difficulty in note-making now, when I am a student, because I now have time to learn this important skill, and I hope that proper note-writing will develop my brain and I will successfully use it for my work in future.


Would you like to study in this university?


I would like to dedicate this post to Open University (OU). OU is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom. It opened its doors since 1971 and has been extremely successful since then. In simple words, you can study in this university at home, whenever you want – it doesn’t matter whether it’s day or night. You can study more quickly or more slowly, you can design your own schedule. Distance education is very good for busy people who work or even for those who run their own business.

What about quality? Distance education does not have full trust of common public. But Open University demonstrates that online learning can be of high quality. It uses advanced technologies and the most creative approaches to teaching. In videolessons you watch interviews of successful professionals, drawings by talented artists, etc. It is also worth saying that Open University is very strong in research.

  • The OU has 25 Affiliated Research Centres worldwide including the Health Protection Agency, Transport Research Laboratory, the UK Medical Research Council Laboratories in The Gambia
  • More than 27,000 of Open University research publications recorded on our Open Research Online database
  • OU has state-of-the-art facilities for research into space, the environment, brain activity, music and more

Here is a short tutorial by Open University on the history of English language. It is very creative and interesting.

So, distance education definitely has future 🙂 Technology is developing and I believe that information-computer technologies will be strongly used in education in future.


My favorite commencement speeches. Part 2: Joseph Brodsky


Further to the previous post I would like to suggest a second lesson from the Russian and American poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky. He is notable for being intelligent and witty, but despite this, he had faced many hardships in his life. He was expelled from the Soviet Union when he was 32 and was “strongly advised” to emigrate. However, in his personal behaviour, he showed a lot of humility, and never used a status of victim for own benefit, which reveals him as a wise person. Instead of using a dubious fame of being a political victim, he chose a teaching career at Michigan University, and became notable in USA for his literary work. So, Joseph Brodsky is definitely worth listening too.

Brodsky begins his speech with beautiful and wise words: “Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the Holy Book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.”

Further, he continues by offering young people to learn 10 Comandments and 7 deadly sins, saying: “it’s worth your consideration if only because it gave birth to the society in which you have the right or negate its value”.

Finally, he gives several wise life advice, which are, in my opinion, a piece of art.

1. Now and in the time to be, try to be kind to your parents. If this sounds too close to “Honor thy mother and father” for your comfort, so be it. All I am trying to say is try not to rebel against them, for, in all likelihood, they will die before you do, so you can spare yourselves at least this source of guilt if not of grief. If you must rebel, rebel against those who are not so easily hurt. Parents are too close a target (so, by the way, are sisters, brothers, wives or husbands); the range is such that you can’t miss.

2. Try not to set too much store by politicians — not so much because they are dumb or dishonest, which is more often than not the case, but because of the size of their job, which is too big even for the best among them, by this or that political party, doctrine, system or a blueprint thereof. All they or those can do, at best, is to diminish a social evil, not eradicate it. No matter how substantial an improvement may be, ethically speaking it will always be negligible, because there will always be those — say, just one person — who won’t profit from this improvement.

3. Try not to stand out, try to be modest. There are too many of us as it is, and there are going to be many more, very soon. Thus climbing into the limelight is bound to be one at the expense of the others who won’t be climbing. That you must step on somebody’s toes doesn’t mean you should stand on their shoulders. Besides, all you will see from that vantage point is the human sea, plus those who, like you, have assumed a similarly conspicuous — and precarious at that — position: those who are called rich and famous.

4. At all costs try to avoid granting yourself the status of the victim. Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo — the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc.


5. The world you are about to enter and exist in doesn’t have a good reputation. It’s been better geographically than historically; it’s still far more attractive visually than socially. It’s not a nice place, as you are soon to find out, and I rather doubt that it will get much nicer by the time you leave it. Still, it’s the only world available; no alternative exists, and if one did, there is no guarantee that it would be much better than this one.

6. Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make life miserable for you. There will be a lot of those — in the official capacity as well as the self-appointed. Suffer them if you can’t escape them, but once you have steered clear of them, give them the shortest shrift possible. Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unjust treatment you received at their hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this sort extend the existence of your antagonists; most likely they are counting on your being talkative and relating your experience to others.

I find Joseph Brodsky’s commencement speech great, because it is sincere and full of wisdom.


Sources: Joseph Brodsky, 1988.

My favorite commencement speeches. Part 1: Joanne Rowling


Many American universities have a beautiful tradition of commencement speech being delivered by a notable professional at the graduation ceremony. In my opinion, this tradition makes university a memorable event rather than a boring waiting procedure until you get your diploma and have some food. Commencement speech also turns graduation ceremony into a kind of lesson, the last lesson that you receive at university. Its purpose is to see students off to their life journey and say best wishes for their future life. In this post, I would like to introduce you to two commencement speeches that are worth reading to all young students and future professionals.

The first commencement speech was delivered by Joanne Rowling, a famous British writer, author of famous “Harry Potter” books. I admire Joanne Rowling for her talent to fill her books with a kind spirit which makes them stand out among the best fantastic fiction literary works. I also admire her for her life story: she struggled with poverty and loneliness,  being a single mother with little support. Despite these difficulties, she was able not to lose her belief in good and bad, she was able to dream and she did not let the creative light inside her go out.  So, she is definitely worth listening to 🙂

In her speech before Harvard students in June 2008, Joanne Rowling speaks about two things: why failure can lead to success, and the importance of imagination. She reveals a secret of success: failure gives you a freedom. Rowling describes how failures in her life led her to engage in writing, which she always loved, despite her parents’ wish for her to live an average life and have stable though typical career. She says: “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

So. Joanne Rowlings Lesson No. 1 is: DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE


Furthermore, Rowling describes how her work at Amnesty International influenced her life views: she met many people who suffered from humiliation and torture because of their political views. But along with this, she met thousands of people who expressed their goodwill to help other peple: ” Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet.”



Finally, Rowling speaks about the importance of imagination: it can help us understand feelings of other people, and refusing to notice sufferings of others leads to “mental agoraphobia”. Her Lesson No. 3 is: IMAGINATION IS IMPORTANT


I am grateful to Joan Rowling for this speech, because these are really great words of wisdom.


1. JK Rowling, June 2008,

Why do goddesses need education?

I would like to dedicate this post to several TED talks delivered by women activists, all of which are united by the topic of women’s education. These talks inspire me as an educator because they tell about a transformative power of education which can reveal the best in a woman.

In one of the books by Diana Wynne Jones, a British fantasy writer, the main character, a teenage boy named Christopher encounters a girl in a fictional world which is worshipped for being an incarnation of a female goddess. The “living goddess” dreams about going to school and living life of an ordinary girl. In the end, she happily escapes. This story is not pure imagination: living goddesses live in our world. Probably, the author, Diana Wynne Jones was inspired to create the female character by the Nepali tradition of choosing a pre-pubescent girl as a living goddess named Kumari. The chosen girl spends several years until she grows up in a temple, not seeing people except for holiday celebrations. Traditionally, she also receives no education. One of the ex-kumaris Rashmila Shakya has fought to abolish this tradition of not getting lessons so that her successors could receive proper education. She was the first kumari to receive bachelor’s degree in information technology after being absolutely lillterate at the age of 12.                                             .feature_kumari1nt5046

As you can see from this story, even goddesses need education : -) As for mortals, this is a serious issue, especially in developing countries in Asia and Africa.Many women in those countries dream about education to be able to fight for their rights.

The first TED talk that I would like to introduce is by a Syrian female photographer Laura Bushnak. Laura Bushnak tells stories of women from the Arab world, striving for education. She cites one female Yemen teacher’s words: “I sought education in order to be independent and to not count on men with everything. ” She tells the story of an Egyptian woman who  joined a nine-month literacy NGO project: “I saw how she was longing to gain control over her simple daily routines, small details that we take for granted, from counting money at the market to helping her kids in homework.” She also tells a story of Fayza, a Yemen woman who was a divorced mother of three children at 18. Since childhood she was forced by her relatives to get married three times. As an Arab woman herself, Laura Bushnak faced many difficulties in pursuing her dream to become a photographer, because she was a woman, and she met many people who told her what she “can and cannot do”.  Laura calls women to freedom, citing one of the women she interviewed: “Question your convictions. Be who you to want to be, not who they want you to be. Don’t accept their enslavement, for your mother birthed you free.” 04-lb-yemen-laura-boushnak-1000-english-jpg-data

A Pakistani educator, Ziauddin Yousafzai, tells a story of his daughter, Malala who was a famous activist for education: supported by her father, being only 10 years old, she started campaign for her education in Western media. She was successful, but in 2012, when she was only a teenager, she was shot in face by a Taliban “for simply daring to go to school”. When Malala was in hospital, Ziauddin asked his wife if he was guilty for raising his daughter independent, but his wife supported him. Ziauddin compares his daughter to a bird, whose wings he did not clip, and he is proud for this. He could lock his daughter at home and make her be like everybody but he and his family were brave to bring up their daughter as a strong personality.


Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activists, tells a story of an African teenager who dreamt of going to school and when she went to school, was abused by a school sports director “as a favor for getting her in school.” Leymah works to give education to illiterate girls and she sees education as a place where society can help “to unlock intelligence, passion, greatness of girls.”


Education for these women is not a tool for self-development like for women from rich countries but a saving way to control own life. Laura Bushnak, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Leymah Gbowee are from three different parts of the world, but they share the same spirit and the same vision of education. They believe that all women should be educated, because they deserve a better life, indepency, freedom and happiness.

Sources used:

1. Life after the living goddess (Nepali Times)

2. Laura Boushnak: For these women, reading is a daring act

2. Ziauddin Yousafzai: My daughter, Malala

3. Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls