IMG_5897I started writing this speech last week about lifelong learning, my achievements and my failures, I talked about changing majors, and various researches that I had done and how our schools kill the creativity in the souls of the students and about the various learning theories. I cut the speech into various que cards, and these were getting messed up and so on. But then I thought that you all have been studying this whole year and you don’t want another teacher to talk to you about what you may know already. So I spoke to a friend who is an inspirational speaker, he said threw this away and talk about your stories. I love stories, wait a second, I write stories, so I will talk today about how hypochondriac I am when it comes to learning.


2- Can you guess my age? Well, have mercy on me and I will let you know my age after this talk. I believe that age is just a number, principles though are a must, and my main principle is to be a lifelong learner.


3- By the way, I came from Bahrain last night to give you this talk, as I believe that one has no land


4- I am the eldest of 13 children, dad had a problem in his eyes so he used to travel to England and leave us safe in the big house. When I was little I used to be intrigued with women talk, the neighbors used to gather in my mother’s kitchen, smoke the huble bubble (we call it gado) and talk about various things, they would clean the vegetables, cut onions and help in making food. They wouldn’t let me hear what they were saying as its not good for children to hear adults talk. So I used to hide behind the door of the kitchen and listen to them.


5- Also when dad returned from his trip, he would hide the books in a cupboard, so my brother and I would wait for him to go to sleep, take the key from his pocket and start reading those treasures, most of them were detective books, still we loved every word. He used to also bring with him a copy of a news paper, and he would have me read it, being the eldest, of course I didn’t know a word in English then, so each word was said wrongly and guess what I had on my head? a slap, read it again, dad would say.  It was fun and full of learning time.  I still remember when dad used to act for us the verses of quraan, for example the verse about prophet Moses when he was asked what he has in his hands, and he said my stick, so god asked him and what do you do with the stick, god asks, Moses says, I support myself on it, gather my sheep with it and have other uses for it, of course we all shout what are the other uses so dad runs after us and tries to hit us with the stick in his hands and says this is one of the uses.


6-We read comic books and novels like crazy, basically whatever we had in our hands, we read it, remember there was no TV and no video games at that time we spent our time in reading or inventing games.


7-We went to school and I loved biology, so when we started to do dissection of frogs and birds, we did that at home too, we used to go to the little streams, and collect frogs. These little things were waiting for us to check their guts and find out how they lived, I can describe you vividly how the inside of the frog looks like, but I am sure you don’t want to hear that.


8- we learnt how to cook, saw and make things, we played all sorts of sports and we saved our pennies for our annual trip. We had to save to buy the toys and other things that we wanted. Do you know how much we used to receive as a daily allowance? 10 fils and that became 25 fils when we graduated from school.


9-Then I went to university on a scholarship. I did spend my time in lecture halls, but I did more than that, I sang, acted in plays and performed in front of audiences. We went on trips, we gave speeches and did everything that a college student is supposed to do. And of course I passed too, but that was beside the point.


10-Then came the jobs.  So for my first interview, one of the questions was what is the capital of Portugal, I said Barcelona! I saw the eyes of the interviewer raising, I thought he was happy with my answers. I got the job.  Six months later he stopped me in the corridors of the ministry and asked what is the capital of Portugal, I had forgotten that incident, so I said Barcelona, why? He said its wrong, I said what? But you gave me the job, he said you said a wrong thing with such conviction that I even doubted myself and when I got home I checked the Atlas.


11- On a second interview for a teaching job, they asked me what I do for stress?  I said stress? What is stress and they all laughed. I thought I had lost the job. My colleagues at work asked me how did it go, I said after talking about the accounting principles and the ratios I was asked about stress and when I said what is stress they all laughed. So everyone in the office laughed at me saying what? you don’t know what stress means? I said well I know it in the mechanics and aerodynamics? They said its when you are under pressure. Then they told me don’t worry they thought that you don’t feel stressed at all.  Well I got the job too.


12- What I am trying to say here is that you don’t have to know all the answers, its ok to fail and its fine not to get everything that you ever wanted, but work on perfecting yourself. As its worth it.


13- Be communicative, by creative, do things that are outside the norm, collaborate, do projects together, life at university is not about a 4.0 GPA, you must learn how to explain yourself and write the best personal statement.  Its about knowing yourself and knowing what you want out of this life.  I write a personal statement every year, even though mine changes on a daily basis.


14- My Hypochondriac in learning is never ending affair, I am lucky to know about MOOC and coursera, I just finished a course on happiness, and before that on neuroscience. These are free courses and anyone can do them.  If you are struggling with math, then Khan academy can come in handy.  Remember that you have a weapon in your hand.  The phone.  I don’t believe that anyone of you do not have one. Use it to learn as you never know what comes in handy.


15- Schools are not about math and science only, they should be about learning survival tricks. If you saw the movie castaway, imagine what you would do for five years all alone in an island.  We need to know everything.


16- I would also like to tell you about a study that Hilton and Pellegrino had commissioned, do you know who these two people are? One is a hotelier and the other is a water seller (kidding) anyway they conducted a study about what is missing in employees, and the study came up with the 21st century skills. Do you know what they are? Well none of these skills are taught in schools and colleges, and ladies and gentlemen, we must teach them in schools and colleges. They are the four Cs, communication skills, critical thinking, collaboration skills and creative skills.  They didn’t say anything new, these skills were missing from my students too and since I was only teaching accounting I am not privy to introduce them as part of the curriculum. Learn these skills, you will need them every day in your life.


17- I am lucky I think in some way because I had teachers, and family that cared about my learning abilities, and continued to coach me, find your coach, life is full of them. Be positive, I personally would like to add this skill to the four Cs, so four Cs and one P.


18- Let me tell you a secret. In February I was reading a book by my favorite author Elif Shafak, someone said that I must watch her TED talk, I did, and thought to myself, I must do a TED talk.  Here I am standing before you in May, doing the TED talk.  Welcome to the power of positive thinking.