My own “Egyptian” moment

gongadze“He not busy making his students come alive, is a busy not teaching, a busy dying”.

I’ve been watching the events in Egypt with intense sentimentalism and empathy.  An extreme desire and understanding. You see, I’ve seen it before and don’t want it to turn out the way it did before.

One of the wonderful things as an EFL teacher, especially in our formative years, is that we get to travel and throw our hat down in very exotic places. My hat and home was Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept 2000. I spent almost a year and was daily participating in the first orange revolution against the dictator Kuchma. A killer, he murdered a journalist and I wrote, walked, yelled, screamed and eventually was run out of the country the following spring. It is a long story but if interested, please learn about Gyorgy Gongadze, his victim. Here too is a poem I wrote about his death.

But during that winter of 2000 – 2001 I learned how a dictatorship can survive and can sweep up protesters and make them disappear. It happened, the trucks came in the middle of the night (as they probably will in Egypt).

But it made me become less the “teacher by numbers” that I had been and more a teacher that took his place and commitment to change students and the world seriously. A critical pedagog – though I hate the label, any label. But what I am online is more or less a birth of those days.

My job became, beyond the mere teaching of ideas and the transmission of knowledge,  to transform students and let them realize their own potential and voice. To get them to awaken. I had had my Egyptian moment as I was hit and run down Lutheranskaya by baby faced guards.  Then, returning, slinking home (my apartment was right beside the Presidential administration building) and seeing the same teenagers, smoking and laughing by the military bus,  telling stories about their “fights”.

So what I’m saying in a nutshell is this – teach beyond the horizon. Teach so students realize the dignity of themselves. Teach how the powerless should meet power and teach that every person counts. Teach that we must make powerlessness be heard. Teach that we must awaken others and ALL be teachers. That is the only legacy a teacher can truly herald – to call others to be teachers that empower others to be born.

I’m busy doing that in my own way these days. I think a little smarter than I used to be (while still understanding the beast that is an institution and laws and the body politic).  I had my Egyptian moment and now I am out in the desert doing my own thing. I really am. I want to be free and lead my own life. That means, I’ve left probably the best English teaching job in Korea. That means leaving security like so many in Egypt and really trying to live free – to in a Syssiphusian and Camus like sense – struggle daily to win my freedom.

Let’s all try as much as we can – to be free and born free. We can do that by teaching our students well. Let’s do it for Gyorgy’s beautiful twin daughters.

Read part 2 HERE.


Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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7 Responses

  1. Travis says:

    Powerful story. Thanks for sharing. I’m on pins and needles, too, about Egypt, but hoping for the best…

  2. Dalene says:

    Agree with Travis, thanks for sharing.
    I’m hopeful about Egypt…

  3. ddeubel says:

    Both of you – thanks for dropping in.

    I’m so glad I was wrong or my doubts were not confirmed….
    Let’s hope it is just the beginning of those in Egypt and elsewhere, gaining the right of self determination and a power to realize their own possibility in their daily lives. I hope that for all teachers too!

  4. This one article reveals a heart that transcends the superficial nature of all that the world has become. Thanks for not delving too far into your personal paradigm, it is enough to know that you wish to help all to become self aware and empowered.

    The old world orders of every kind, even academia will no go quietly into the night. It will take a violent (in personal paradigm rhetoric) movement to throw off the shackles of dependency and entitlements. To be truly free every being must be self aware, critical and responsible. All have fallen prey to the false sense of security that trust in governments and institutions provide. Not least are we adults and teachers.

    We of The Edupunk honor you for your words and it seems even more so for your actions. None of know the path to the future of education and a self aware and directed online population but we know one thing… it is not another version of the old. We do not know how long it will take to come to fruition. But what is available today is the freedom and satisfaction of personal integrity by getting of the treadmill.

    I and The Edupunk are anxious to see your continuing metamorphosis. Jai Ho, Dude!

  5. ddeubel says:


    Yes, it is a process of metamorphosis – you make me think of Kazantzakis and his words, “I said to the almond tree, ”Friend, speak to me of God,” and the almond tree blossomed.”

    There is something organic to freedom and living out your potential along with walls falling down, that were once barriers exploited.

    But you got to the core of education (and I’ve been a long time coming to…..) when you said,

    “To be truly free every being must be self aware, critical and responsible.”

    That’s a lot of what I talked about in personal correspondence to those who replied after this post. Let’s keep on that path.


  6. Amr Wady says:

    Thanks a bundle for sharing your own experience and your emotional feelings.

    Amr Wady.

    From Egypt.

  7. ddeubel says:

    My duty! I’ve been thinking of your country lots lately – such a symbol for the rest of the world. Not just about what happened this year but your multi ethnic society. You just have to not give into fear – keep things free and open. It is so easy to create an enemy and that’s where all oppression begins and ends. Reminds me of Cavafy – he lived all his years in Alexandria but was Greek. If you have some time, this is my favorite poem of his – political in nature….

    Best to you and all the teachers in Egypt.


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