Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

New Year’s Resolution & Gratitude for 2020


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 5 seconds

I don’t often make resolutions at the start of a year, but this year I want to make one. It feels like the year to make one 😉

My resolution is to have a “gratitude” daily practice for myself and with my child. We tried it orally yesterday (gratitude for the day, my suggestion and for the year, her suggestion). I was inspired by some colleagues in my department, and so I hope to start my day asking myself “what would make today great?” And end my day by listing things I’m grateful for (people, my own competence, little joys in life) and also reflecting on what I could do better.

My colleague said gratitude journaling needs to be specific, so not the things you mention every day like being grateful for your family and their health. So for my gratitude for the year, I will skip over the obvious large gratitude that my family and I have largely been privileged in this pandemic. I have lost some loved ones, including close ones, but my immediate closest family are well. None of us has lost a job. We all had everything we needed to be able to stay home and relatively safe in the pandemic. I know not everyone has that.

I want to remember this quote about the complexity of hope in these times, from Czerniewicz et al:

On a personal note, we are still hopeful, we cling to hope, although we know that this hope is fragile. It is also an angry hope, because we, as with many of our colleagues, are at the forefront of this pandemic and are dealing daily with the impact of the glaring inequalities our society and our institutions are steeped in. Hope sometimes feels wrong, in particular when we feel we are supporting a broken system to survive with our feeble attempts at saving the unsavable. Hope feels torn, because we are uncertain of what is right and what is wrong.

Czerniewicz, L., et al (2020). A Wake-Up Call: Equity, Inequality and Covid-19 Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning. Postdigital Science & Education. DOI: 

So here is what I am most grateful for:

I am grateful for “being in a position to be useful” in 2020 at a time when most people felt helpless. Sure, I could not discover the cure for this disease or help heal people, but I was on the frontlines in the education world and I was able to help people on the micro level (my child, my students), mezzo level (my institution) and macro level (my scholarship). Of all the scholarship I’m proud of this year, I am most grateful that I had the opportunity to co-create/curate the Community building resources (with Mia Zamora, Autumm Caines, and more!) for Equity Unbound and OneHE. If you have not seen these, you should take a look before your next semester starts, from intro activities to warm ups to ongoing engagement ideas, and more. Here they are

I am also particularly proud of three speaking engagements (grateful of course that lack of travel allowed me to keynote more events than ever would have been possible for me. Like 20 times as many! I have not even counted). Three particular ones I am proud of are:

OLC Innovate keynote (and proud that I made it livestreamed for free)

OpenEd keynote with Mia Zamora

Against Surveillance panel with sava saheli singh, Chris Gilliard and Benjamin Doxtdator

From my written scholarship, I’m particularly proud of:

Literacies Teachers Need During COVID-19 because it is useful, dammit and translated to Arabic and not peer-reviewed

Another non-peer-reviewed work I am proud of was a collaborative newsletter article with a large number of our faculty + my boss sharing good practice of teaching online during the pandemic.

More non-peer-reviewed work I am proud of is the first book I’ve ever co-edited with Catherine Cronin, Laura Czerniewicz, Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani: Open at the Margins: Critical Perspectives on Open Education because it exemplifies how to go about listening to and focusing on marginal perspectives and voices on an important issue historically dominated by white men.

I am proud of all the work I did with Equity Unbound and Socially Just Academia and all my partners in all of that work. Another moment of helplessness came during the summer with Black Lives Matter, and just asking my African American friends “how are you?” sparked the entire Socially Just Academia project. It exemplifies how care for individual people can kickstart our care for an oppressed group, and lead to action that aims to promote social justice at systemic and individual levels.

I am also grateful that I had socioemotional digital literacies and have a wonderful PLN who can support me and each other online in ways people who aren’t used to this struggled. The Continuity with Care group were my lifeline during this pandemic. They nurtured me with care so I could continue to care for others.

I am also grateful that I learned two particular things this year. Being a lifelong learner was soooo important this year.
I learned from Mays Imad and Karen Costa about trauma-informed pedagogy. This helped the entire pandemic situation make sense to me. How I was feeling, how my kid was feeling, how my students and faculty were behaving.

I am also really grateful for learning properly how to do Liberating Structures well virtually, and some Theater of the Oppressed techniques. The Liberating structures have transformed my life and the way I do workshops and teach. It doesn’t matter that I have had like 18 years experience in online learning. It doesn’t matter that I’m recognized as a good online facilitator and have been facilitating online learning experiences since 2006 and Virtually Connecting since 2015. This year everything was different. And I’m grateful I kept and open mind and heart – and so did many people around me who helped make all of these things come to life.

It’s now 12.05, so I’ll publish this.

I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.


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