Learning how to be happy

The TED talk video titled “Hackschooling Makes me Happy” literally sent chills down my spine.  I am so impressed with this young man, Logan LaPlante, for many reasons.  First, he did was a lot of adults (myself included) find impossible to do- speaking in front of an audience.  I am 30 years old and there is no way I could have done what he did, even if the auditorium was empty.  Second, he brought up so many good points about the importance of innovating our education system.  I have my own children, 3 of whom are in the public school system.  Two are in elementary school and one is in middle school.  A conversation that we have a few times a year is “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  My boys usually want to be pro soccer of football players, or occasionally to join the army.  My daughter wants to be a veterinarian as she loves animals.  She is 6.  One of the points Logan made is that kids want to be what they’re familiar with.  My boys play soccer and football so that’s what they’re familiar with.  They have never said they want to be lawyers, doctors, or accountants.  I have always told them that they can be whatever they want to be, they can do whatever they desire as long as they work hard to achieve it.  Nothing is out of reach.

My view on this conversation will be forever changed after watching this video.  I want them to be happy, healthy and to always feel safe.  As Logan stated, when we as adults ask children this question we automatically assume that when they grow up they will be happy, healthy and safe.  This isn’t always a given.  Many adults in my life may only be one third of that, and not even all the time.  So, how do we, as educators and future educators, teach our children/students to be happy?  There are 8 “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes”(TLC’s) that are recommended to accomplish being happy.  These include:

Exercise

Diet and nutrition

Time in nature

Contribution and service

Recreation

Relaxation and stress management

Religious and spiritual

Having worked in our school district and having my own children attend, it helps because I can see in what ways they provide and nourish some of these TLC’s.  I know that my children get plenty of recess time and they also go to PE class at least twice a week.  This fulfills the exercise.  They are also provided one healthy snack a day (a fresh fruit or veggie) and are given somewhat healthy options at lunch (a salad bar that consists of more fresh fruits and veggies).  This could partially fulfil the diet and nutrition, I think they could spend more time educating them how to eat healthy.  The contribution and service is met only once per year, and that’s on Earth Day.  They take the students out to pick up trash.  Recreation could be fulfilled with the sports and activities that are offered to the 6-12 grade students, but since these are extracurricular they only meet the need for a small amount of the kids.  Relaxation and stress management and religious and spiritual go unfulfilled.  I’m still trying to think of ways that the school could incorporate these, but the religious one would be extremely difficult.

 

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Photo CC- By Jason Farrar

I can see how these 8 TLC’s are important to making sure our children grow up to be happy.  Integrating all of these into our education system would have a huge positive impact and could also help nourish their creativity.  I want my children and my future students to grow to be adults who “make a life” instead of “making a living.”  Too many adults struggle every day because they have to make a living.  They work jobs that they’re miserable in, and they remain unhappy just to get by.  If we teach our children to learn to be happy first then they will learn how to make a life, how to enjoy life, and what really matters and makes them happy.

What is digital literacy?

I thought I was pretty digitally literate until I started class this week.  Wow was I wrong!  I’ve always been pretty good at using a computer, most computer programs (thanks to previous high school and college classes), the internet, and social media.  I had an eye opening experience this week as I was required to start a blog and create a twitter account.  I am still learning to navigate both of these in order to use them proficiently.  When I signed up for this class I really wasn’t sure what it would be about.  When I read the title “Literacy in the Digital Age” I knew it had something to do with computers but that’s about it.  I didn’t realize there was such a thing as “digital literacy.”  Well, not in the sense that there’s a true definition for it.  Digital literacy can be defined as the ability to use different technology tools for various reasons.  It includes finding and evaluating information, connecting and collaborating with others, and sharing content.  It’s extremely important to be digital literate because most schools and employers require the use of computers and the internet. A useful resource that I found while researching this subject can be found at http://digitalliteracy.us/.

One startling realization that I came to while researching digital literacy is that most of my college classmates grew up with social media.  Myspace was not created until I was a junior in high school and Facebook didn’t come about until a few months before my high school graduation.  Having children of my own I already see the differences in our education.  So many young children have their own Facebook accounts of know how to use their parents.  This also applies to smart phones.  I didn’t get my own smart phone until I was almost 26 years old, but my 6 year old knows how to use it proficiently because of the technology they are introduced to so early on in elementary school.  It has also become a very useful (and almost required) knowledge when having children in school.  A lot of teachers use apps or messaging to relay important information.  Just this week I have already used two different apps to communicate with my children’s teachers.  I feel that this is useful with how busy life has become, and it’s so important to keep parents involved and informed.  I know there are many parents that are not familiar with these apps and the new technology.

These few facts alone stress to me the importance of digital literacy today.  Technology is changing so quickly that it’s very important to keep ourselves educated in how to use it.  Learning how to use twitter is still a little challenging for me, as well as the blog.  It’s also been challenging to learn the different online learning sites.  I’ve taken online classes at WNCC, EWC and now CSC and all three schools use a different kind.  I already feel like I have learned a lot from this class.  I would like to learn how to navigate my blog better, as well as to personalize it a little more.

Kinder to college, experiences that shaped the way I learn

I won’t say that learning has always come easy for me.  I wish I could, I wish I could say that school has always been an awesome experience, but there are many things that have influenced my feelings on that.  There’s not a lot that I remember of elementary school.  I went to a private Christian school from kindergarten through 5th grade.  I don’t recall a lot of experiences that early that have shaped the way I learn today.  Middle school and high school were a different story.  I didn’t enjoy school much, but I wonder if that’s because of the social experiences I had.  Because I went to a private school I had a really hard time transitioning to public school when I entered 6th grade.  Not only did I move to a new, bigger school, but I was also the “new” kid.  There were so many kids that I didn’t know and they were mean.  Especially the girls.  That would be the first experience that I remember that influenced the way I looked at school and learning.  I didn’t enjoy being there which made it really hard to want to learn. After the first few years of middle school things got easier.  I made some friends and played sports which helped a lot when it came to my social life.  It made being there easier.

The second experience that influenced my learning experience would be the relationship that my mom and dad had.  I never had a normal childhood-well, in the sense of having a nuclear family.  My parents were constantly back and forth, separated then back together again, several times throughout my childhood.  This made it very difficult when it came to school.  My mom was a nurse and she worked long shifts and my dad wasn’t home very often.  This meant that my mom was too tired by the time she got home to care about homework.  She didn’t even ask me if I had any, let alone be available to help me with it.  As a 14 year old that was awesome!  I didn’t have anyone hounding me about homework, which meant that I usually didn’t do it.

That leads me to my third experience.  Because my dad wasn’t home or available often, and my mom was always at work, I was able to get away with skipping school.  A lot of school.  There were some classes that I rarely attended and by the time it came to my senior year I was in trouble because I was missing credits.  I will never forget the kindness of my home economics teacher.  She was willing to change my grade if I came in and did a little extra work for her.  I fulfilled her requirements, she changed my grade, and I was able to graduate!  I will forever be grateful to her!

A few months after graduating high school I got married and soon learned that I was pregnant with my first child.  This put a damper on my college plans as I did not want to put him in day care while I attended classes.  So, I put my plans on hold to raise my little family.  One child soon turned into 3 and before I knew it I was 25 years old with no college degree.  I knew that I wanted to do something with my life, I just didn’t know what.  After some soul searching I decided to pursue a degree in education.  I feel like finally enrolling in college classes was the biggest, most intimidating decision I had ever made!  It had been so long since I took any classes and I was worried that I would fail.  I was also worried that I would have the same mind set as I did in high school.  But I was determined- determined to do my best and give it my all.  Determined to succeed.  It took me three years, but I am proud to say that I finally have my associate’s degree in education.  I am also proud to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa because I decided to give a million percent and focus on school.

The journey definitely was not easy, which leads me to my last experience that shaped the way I learn and look at my education.  I finished my last year of community college as a full time mom, wife and also worked full time within the school district.  That was probably the most stressful year of my life.  Having to juggle my job, my classes, my kids and all of their extracurricular activities (at one point all three of them were in different sports), my marriage and my household.  That year made me really realize how important it is to me to finish school and have my degree.  It made me realize how important my grades are to me.  It helped me learn how to prioritize and how to divide myself between tasks.  Knowing that I can juggle that much and still come out on top makes me feel hopeful and confident as I enter the next phase of my life- obtaining my bachelor’s in education.  Although some of these experiences are not all positive, they surely have shaped me into the student (and future teacher) that I am today.  I would like to go back and change some things (been a better student, cared more about my grades, etc), but I can take those learning experiences and use them to influence myself, my children and my future students.