Two years ago I went on a History tour of Thailand and Vietnam with Years 9 and 10 students from SPCC. Loving following the new group as they revisit the places that allowed me to be awestruck.
Understanding our history and the history of other cultures broadens our understanding of ourselves and our world. Even more honouring is to takes students on this tour of discovery.
I thought this blog was totally worthy of being shared. No difficulty is too great that we can’t attempt to overcome.
There is a lot of talk circulating these days about “living in the moment”. I’m pretty sure I’ve even prattled the statement to people at various times, but I’m not sure I’d challenged myself with the meaning and implication of this statement until recently.
The first time I was challenged to “live in this moment” was attending a Sunday morning fresh food fair. I’d been invited by friends to join them at the markets and we were walking around taste testing and thoroughly enjoying ourselves, when my friend turned to me and saw me “tweeting”. She looked at me and said, “Why don’t you just enjoy this time?” At the time I remember thinking, I’m just sharing how much I’m enjoying this with others. But I’m now questioning this response.
I believe that I’m guilty of what I see becoming an increasingly dominate feature of many people’s lives and particularly the lives of teenagers. We are never truly present in the moment in which we are living. We never truly get to be totally lost in the enjoyment of an experience or discussion. For as each moment progresses our minds are consumed with how we will “project” this moment.
Note when you talk to a teenager, how many of them are consistently aware of how many times they’ve been “tagged” in a photo after a function. How many people will have “tweeted”, “facebooked”, “instagrammed” or sent an mms of their experience or of an event before they’ve truly enjoyed it? There are people I know who will attend a concert and spend the whole time recording it or photographing and forget to enjoy the live experience.
Are we producing a society of people who are so image obsessed that they’re lives become merely a constructed projection of their reality? Do we ever truly just enjoy an experience for ourselves, and those with us at the time? And for teenagers, when the peer response and pressure are so dominating, does this consistent “projection” of the moment stifle or crush them from being who they wish to be?
I’m not saying for a minute that I’m not guilty of this “projection of the moment” lifestyle. But it is one that I’m now questioning. If we are always obsessing about how this moment may be projected by ourselves, and others, are we ever truly able to be ourselves? If we consistently live for how others will receive our “projection” do we add an unnecessary stress upon our lives?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just live a day moment by moment, truly being present in the moment and with those people with whom we share the day?
Every day is a gift we have been given. We have choice as to how we use this gift. We can value the gift, like that from a loved one, using the day to bless ourselves and others. Or we can discard it. Through the gift away as useless, disregarding the inherent value within.
We think we are the only ones impacted by our choices. But that is not the case, our choices will impact far beyond our expectations.
So choose wisely.
This is a delightful video that should encourage you to value the moments you spend with people. Don’t ever see a moment shared with someone you love as a wasted moment.
We all have memories. We remember events, people, feelings, scents, experiences and remember them especially well when they involve us. Sometimes we revel in our memories, having a little giggle to ourselves, as we recall a fun camping trip or an embarrassing moment. But at other times we allow our memories to stagnate and replay the negative experiences we have endured.
Fostering and harnessing our happy memories is a skill, a positive habit, and one that we can use to build and use in our daily lives and classrooms. There is significant research, especially by Martin Seligman, which proves a direct correlation between recalling a happy event or experience and improved performance. Jenifer Fox Eades states, “recalling a happy event, perhaps a time we laughed and laughed, suggests to our mind and body that we feel that happy NOW and this produces chemical changes, a release of endorphins, in the present”. So if we know this is the case, we can train ourselves, our children and students, to harness their positive memories. We can learn that we are not helpless victims of our emotions, but there are things we can deliberately do to boost mood.
Most often students can approach a test or classroom experience remembering what they got wrong last time, or what went badly. If a student focuses on their negative experiences then their resilience depletes. This is applicable in all areas of life. Instead train yourselves and students to instead regularly ask yourself the question: “What Went Well?”
This question works to challenge the negative thought processes that often dictate thinking. In a classroom a teacher can be very proactive in modeling this behavior, for children mirror the language of the adults around them. At the beginning of a lesson a teacher can review the previous lesson and prior learning by asking students, “What Went Well” yesterday in class? Having students begin their new learning by focusing on what was successful yesterday builds resilience for the new lesson. Similarly, after an activity I will have students either write or discuss, What Went Well in the lesson? As this becomes habitual in the classroom, it becomes more habitual in their thought patterns. Positive thought patterns then allow students to take more risks in their learning and approach increasingly difficult skills with confidence.
Focusing on happy memories and building on these in learning and life is critical for everyone, but so much so for teenagers. Yes, they will have many negative experiences and some children have more negatives than positives in their lives. But here it becomes essential that key adults in their lives assist them to draw out the occasional happy memory to focus upon and build new happy memories for them. Create fun-loving experiences in your everyday classrooms, allow students to see you laugh and then ensure these memories can be drawn upon later. I will often tell an embarrassing experience from my life, of which I have many, and in drawing out the positives from this moment and having a good laugh, I model how each moment in life can have positive life lessons drawn from it.
We all want to build resilience. We all want more successes in life. What could be easier to assist these outcomes than asking each day the little question, What Went Well?
Today I experienced the art of appreciation. It arrived most unexpectedly, and from such a range of sources, and all in one day. It’s interesting that I can write on “bucket-fillers” a few days ago and then today I was consistently aware of those people who were “filling” my bucket or those people whose bucket I was able to pour into.
We started back at school today. I must say I did begrudge the start of the term quite a bit this morning. I do love my school and returning to work, but it’s just that I only know of three other schools in the state that had students and staff return today, and so I was in a “need another day” mindset when I went to school.
Arriving at my Year 7 class today I was overwhelmed by my students’ excitement. They were so eager, and I thought it was to enter the classroom. But as I stood beside the door welcoming them individually into the room, the congregation of jumping bodies beside me continued to grow. In the end, I turned to them wondering what was wrong. “Ma’am, I have so much to tell you. I’ve had to wait two whole weeks”. And then as he proceeded to recount rugby injuries, books read and places visited, another student voices above the din, “Ma’am I just want to tell you that I’m so pleased to see you”. Little voices continued the welcome party and I had to usher them off to their seats. After a beginning like this, I had no idea how long it would take them to settle.
But sometimes these little gentlemen just have me in awe. I introduced the concept of diversity, and after brainstorming definitions I asked them what considerations might we need to make when exploring this concept?
The range of responses amazed me: diversity could be suppressed when it clashes with beliefs or values of a ruling person or government, diversity requires people to open their minds and challenge ideas, diversity is the value that multiculturalism is dependent upon and then the one that truly made me wonder, diversity is often rejected or ignored if a person is in a commune or closed community as the fear or change or the unknown holds them from opening up to or accepting the diversity. Wow, how mature were these ideas?
I loved each of these ideas. After the student offered the thought, I would invite them to come out the front and develop the idea with the class and let me learn from them. Just watching their little chests puff up with pride, as they were honoured by their class-mates, was invaluable. Encouraging and modeling appreciation for students and of students is such an art-form and one that can never be underestimated.
But the art form was developed further in the playground and staffroom today. Being on duty and watching a groundsman painting lines on an oval has never been so enthralling. All these gentlemen coming up and saying, “Ma’am do you know what this means? The beginning of the rugby season”. And then the encouragement, “You’ll be at all the games, won’t you?”.
And finally, before you are all sick of my day of appreciations, receiving a formal letter of appreciation from an external professional organization is so lovely. Having a letter, written to my bosses, stating that working with me and working with my students had been inspirational to a highly regarded professional, was just a lovely feature of the day.
I know that I went to school this morning dragging my feet, but I know that the art of appreciation that was demonstrated towards me allowed me to return this afternoon with a little skip in my step.
How can you reflect and develop the art of appreciation wherever you are today?
This week a read a verse that has had me thinking, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight”. This bible verse is in Philippines 1:9, and there is a lot more context included, but that little line has had me thinking.
For, as I understand it, we can display love through the knowledge we have and the depth of insight that we apply. The link between love and knowledge really was the thought provoker. As a teacher, I had a strong awareness that many people, myself included, have a love of knowledge and obtaining knowledge of many different things. Also what we love, will most often determine what we acquire knowledge of and about. So somebody that loves cars will learn everything they can about cars or similarly, the person that loves football will know all rules, the positions the players and event the history of the sport.
However, I think that this verse is also stating that our knowledge and depth of insight should also be used in a manner that displays our love. By this I mean, that if we love cars and know everything about how they work and run, do we use this knowledge for purely our own benefit or sake or do we allow ourselves to find avenues to display our knowledge in a loving way? It really makes me as a teacher question what I do with the knowledge that I may facilitate students gaining. Do I just help them gain the knowledge and apply the knowledge to ace a test or give them something more than the next student? Or do I always lead them and encourage them to apply and use their knowledge to demonstrate love?
I think that the most damaging way to consider knowledge and insight is as a power trip. How many people just want to gain knowledge or things or people so that they have power over a situation or another person? This is apparent in our everyday lives, but I’m also asking myself the question do I teach in a way that allows for knowledge to be loving or power trip based? This becomes a significant feature for teachers where the emphasis is for marks and the ranking of a student at all times. Am I continually encouraging the quest for knowledge just to “beat” the next person?
Empowering students to access and impact their world has always been a key motivator in my teaching. However, I’m now thinking that my emphasis needs to move more towards the “impacting”. My challenge is to inspire students to want to use whatever knowledge and insight they gain through learning to demonstrate love to those around them and in the broader community. Just imagine if we had a whole generation not viewing knowledge as personal power, but social and globally impacting power!!
Recently I came across a delightful picture book for children, which also provides an enormous challenge for adults, “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. I strongly recommend this picture book to everybody; I don’t believe there is an age limit applicable.
So why do I love it? This story beautifully expresses how at all times our lives are either impacting somebody or being impacted by another person. We all live our lives with an invisible bucket over our heads. The experiences that we have and the words spoken to us can either drain or fill this bucket. And simultaneously, we can either drain or fill another person’s bucket.
The words spoken by each of us need to be considered so carefully. We can build up people with the words we speak or crush them so terribly. It’s amazing to consider just how distinctly we remember those crushing words spoken over or to each of us. I distinctly remember the day that an important person in my life said; “Just remember, Vanessa, you may think you’re intelligent, but you’re not!. Always remember, your biggest problem is that you’ll think you’re clever, but remember you’re not.”
Now that was said to me when I was fifteen years of age, and many years have passed since then. But I can still remember exactly where I was standing when it was said and each and every word. Now that is an example of not just a bucket drainer but a bucket smasher! However, it does reinforce the power of draining another person’s bucket. Before you worry, I’ve challenged that thought process and know it not to be true. And it took a lot of work from people “filling” my bucket to reverse that statement and many others like that.
Consequently, as a teacher, I’m very aware of the power of the words that I use when talking with students and those in my life. Always think of how we can positively fill the bucket of each person that we meet. I know that many times a student will come into my classroom having had an enormous number of “draining” moments prior to the lesson. They may have had an argument with their parent before leaving for school, or had a kid tease them in the playground, or received negative feedback on a task. This will mean that it will take a lot more work to fill this bucket. Also, for learning to take place a person must be in a mindset that is open to learning. And nothing crushes a mindset more effectively than negativity. If a student comes into a class feeling “crushed” by life, there will be little chance of active learning until some part of their being has been restored.
If you can get this book, do so! I’m inspired to really get students and staff considering this term how they can fill and overfill the buckets of all those around them.
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