Self Growth, Self Reflection

Everyone Has A Cause

Everyone has a cause they care about and pursue. Everyone has a reason for at least some of their actions, purchases, and social media posts. If you don’t, I imagine you have a hard time getting out of bed. But even then, I know there’s something you care about, even if you’re not actively promoting it.

I care about helping others. If a clothing store tells me that their reason for being is to help others, and they do that in the way they obtain materials and provide training, jobs, and education to their local community members, I will buy their clothes even if they are typically out of my price range. Or pink. Or not exactly my style. I’ll buy them for someone else if it means I get to help a cause I believe in.

Likewise, if you care about animals, and a shoe store says that their company was started so the profits could be used to help local animal shelters, you’ll want to buy those shoes. We like to promote our causes by supporting companies that also believe in our causes.

It’s even better when you can get into a career that furthers your cause. My cause is helping others. I tried to do that with engineering. I wanted to innovate and use new designs and technology to make products that would really benefit the community. But that didn’t seem like it was going to happen. When I switched to teaching, it was like sliding a puzzle piece into place. I got to help others in a way that I did not imagine I wanted to. There were lots of reasons I didn’t want to be a teacher and only one reason that I did. My one reason for wanting to be a teacher was to further my cause.

What’s your cause? How do you pursue it?

Community, Education

Abundance in Education – Another Brick in the Wall

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“Another Brick in the Wall” (179-182) talks about how schools were set up in during the industrial revolution and are set up like assembly lines where a bell sends a group of students from one class to another to all be taught the same subjects at the same age. For 150 years the way schools run has not changed and Sir Ken Robinson has been a voice calling for reform, saying that schools squash creativity and hold back potential.

A big issue the book points out is that no one can agree on what comprises success, so we don’t have an agreed upon set of goals for schools to accomplish. This leads to students going to college without being able to apply their knowledge (if they even retained it), interpret complex readings, think analytically, perform research, or write clearly. The book states that “50% of all students entering college do not graduate,” (181) and those that do graduate are not really ready for the workforce. I know I wasn’t ready to be an engineer after engineering school. I had a steep learning curve in the office after school and I feel like I didn’t even apply a lot of what I learned. Much of the stuff I did apply, I had to re-learn or refresh my memory.

I read a post a while back by an american teacher who taught in another country (Finland, maybe) and high school was at least set up with specific goals in mind. Students could choose between three different high school programs based on what they planned to do after school: go into the workforce, go to a trade school, or go to college. Each program was catered to prepare the students for where they planned to go after college. Students also had more options in classes to cater to what kind of trade school they would go to or what they planned to major in in college. I love this idea. It offers a clear purpose with specific goals for the school to accomplish with the students. And the students get to feel like what they are learning is applicable to their own lives. They also only go to school from around 9:30 to 2:30 so they are just taking advantage of the peak performance hours for teens and not burning out the students or the teachers, but that’s a rant for another time. (I so wish we did that here for our poor kids.)

Back to the book. This section goes on to mention that memorizing facts isn’t a needed skill in a world with Google, “but creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving” are the major skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce. They also still need the three R’s and corporate executives say they want people that “ask the right question,” (181).

Schools need to change, but how is the question. They need to more entertaining than TV and video games and learning needs to be addictive. I have no idea how we achieve that, but I can at least try to incorporate those bold skills into my chemistry lessons so they are learning the material and the skills they need to be successful. What ideas do you have for incorporating teaching creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving in a chemistry or algebra class? How do you teach those things in your classes? As a parent, what skills do you want to see your child gain in school? As an employer, what skills do you see are lacking that need more support?

Education, Teaching

Task Focused Students

It was pointed out after an observation that the majority of my students seem to be task-focused rather than learning-focused. This means that most of them just want to get the task at hand completed so they can move on. I don’t know if this is because completing tasks makes them feel more productive and gives them a sense of accomplishment, or if they just want to finish so they can watch videos and/or check notifications on their phones. I should not have let students have phones in class. Regardless, I have to figure out a way to get them learning-focused. Which means I have to find a way to make their grade based on their learning, and not their task-completion. Several of the teachers at my school have been moving towards this, so I have a network I can talk to, but I also need to figure out what will work for me and my classes.

The main thing these teachers seem to do is grade students based on whether they can verbally answer questions based on things they have been working on in class. If a student completes a worksheet correctly, but can’t answer any direct questions about the material that was on that worksheet, then we can know that the student wasn’t focused on the learning aspect, but on the task at hand. And possibly that student copied off someone else or looked it up online as students do.

But how to incorporate this into my class where task-oriented has already been heavily established. That, I’m not 100% sure. I can’t even get students to raise their hands when I ask a question like how many think it’s this answer vs that answer. I suppose the best time to start implementing something like this would be after the Thanksgiving break since that’s just a few days away. Which means I have 1 week to figure out at least one thing I’m going to implement in order to begin transitioning my class from task-oriented to learning-focused.

One way could be to make daily or weekly grades a thing. I could have a list of names and a check-mark system. Anytime they answer one of my verbal questions correctly, they get a check. And anytime they volunteer to try and answer something, as long as it’s somewhat on the right track, they get a check. And they need a certain number of checks a week for a passing grade, more for a B, and more for an A. That might be too big a thing to start with, though. That might be something good to implement after Christmas break, but maybe I could do a smaller-scale version after the Thanksgiving break, like require them to only answer one question correctly a week for an A. Or maybe one for a C, two for a B, and three for an A. That would certainly make them have to pay attention enough to parrot back answers to me. Which is a start.

I watched a biology teacher give a verbal quiz where she showed a student a state of cell division through a microscope and they had to tell her what state it was in. If they couldn’t, they got a 50, and if they could, they got a 100.

Whatever I do, I have to do something. My test scores are getting worse and worse and it’s because the students aren’t learning, no matter how much practice I give them.

Do you recall taking a class where the set up made you be more focused on learning than on just completing the assignments? What made it that way? If you’re a teacher, have you ever implemented something to try and make the class more learning-focused? Did it work? Why or why not? If you’re not a teacher, but have a suggestion, I would love to read it. Perspectives from teachers, students (past or present), parents, and concerned community members are always useful and appreciated!

Self Growth

Our Need for a Purpose

A friend of mine recently made the comment that she was wanting to “find a purpose”. I think that’s something we all share. We all want to find our purpose in life. We all want to find a way to make a difference, to better ourselves, and to better the world. Sometimes we feel this desire so strongly that it feels like a need, like we might die without it. But where did this need come from? I guarantee you that my cat has no such need or desire. He could care less about finding his purpose or bettering himself in some way. He just wants food, water, belly rubs, head scratches, and to finally catch that elusive red dot. He is purrfectly content playing, napping, eating, and grooming all day long. So why aren’t we?

While it certainly seems like we are content working just enough to pay the bills and watching Netflix all day, deep down inside most of us aren’t. We may enjoy it at the time, but there’s that nagging voice deep within us telling us we should be doing more. We should be reading, writing, creating, exercising, and planning in order to improve ourselves. We look for our purpose in the things we make, the ways we improve, the volunteer work we do, and the career path we choose. We want to find a way in which we can contribute that will give us that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Where does this come from? What part of our brain developed this inner voice pushing us to do better instead of being satisfied with just enough? Where along the evolutionary trail did we develop this need? And why do we have it? What purpose does this almost primal feeling serve that drives us to work harder and nags us when we relax?

Perhaps it’s sociological. Improving oneself and the community is rewarded with praise, admiration, and increased social status. Whether it’s having a fit body, working with a charity, or being knowledgeable in trivia, we are impressed by skills, knowledge, and selfless acts shown by others.

Or perhaps it’s instinctual. When the community is improved, it improves our own lives as well. Being fit or talented can help when threatened. And when people are in awe of someone, it’s easier for that person to manipulate his/her fans for self-gain.

Whatever the reason, we all have this drive to find that sense of purpose. That one thing that will give us a sense of fulfillment and help leave our mark on this world. Have you found yours?

What do you think causes this need for purpose? Why do we need this type of fulfillment? What purpose have you found for yourself? How did you discover it? Or are you still searching?

Me? I want to be a teacher, a writer, a mentor, and a mother.

Simple Green Tip

Simple Green Tip: Reusable Shopping Bags

Many of us have them, but we often forget to take them into the store, making it seem silly that we got any in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you go green and actually use your reusable shopping bags.

  1. Get shopping bags that you like. The more you like the bags, the more you’ll want to show them off. I got my reusable bags from an Etsy shop called TheGeekyHomemaker (although she appears to be taking a break at the moment). If you can find a shop that will make custom ones, I suggest doing that. I simply told the maker a bit about myself, what I liked, my hobbies, my favorite colors, animals, and mythical creatures and told her to have fun with it, and I loved the result. I love taking my bags into any store and showing them off, and I especially love receiving compliments on my bags. You can also ask for specific patterns or colors if you have a more specific idea of what you want.
  2. Keep your bags in your car. Until you get into the habit of taking the bags into the store with you, I recommend keeping them in the front seat so you see them. Additionally, if your phone has the ability to remind you of something when you arrive at a location (like iPhone does), then set a reminder to grab your bags when you arrive at the grocery store.
  3. Put your bags back in the car immediately after use. I suggest making this part of your unpacking habit after getting home with your goods. I personally hang each bag on the doorknob of my front door after unpacking them and take them out to my car the next time I go anywhere. But I also live on the third floor and don’t feel like running them down to my car when I just brought them up.
  4. Take them everywhere you shop. Remember, these aren’t just grocery bags, they are shopping bags. Take them into the drug store, the pet store, clothing stores, the mall, or anywhere else you are likely to make a purchase that will go into a plastic bag. Not only will this help lower the number of plastic bags in the world, but it will help develop a habit of taking your bags with you that will eventually become second nature.

Where did you get your reusable bags? What are some tricks that you use to help you remember to use them? What’s your favorite thing about using your bags?

Poetry

What is Engineering?

Engineering is the application
of science and mathematics.
It’s the medicine you injest
to fight off a cold.
It’s the chemicals you spray
to kill off the mold.
It’s the engine that runs in your car
and the plane that flies you so far.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you.
It’s the sidewalk on which you jog,
the boat on which you sail,
the room where you rest and slumber,
and the computer where you read your mail.
Engineering is where art and practicality collide.
It’s the stain-glass window you see in a church
that casts multicolored sun rays across the pews.
It’s the colored concrete that looks like red brick
that you walk on as you cross the street.
It’s the school cafeteria
designed to look like a chapel.
It’s the large swimming pool
that looks like Mickey Mouse
and includes two slides and fountain.
Engineering is the creative solution to life’s little problems.
It’s the volume button on the steering wheel
and the microwave that cooks your frozen meal.
It’s the e-reader that saves you space
and the map app that takes you any place.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you and me and all across society.

Community, Self Growth

The Evils of Pride and Judgment

There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”

We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.

Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.

Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)

If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on  differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.

I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.

In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.

What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?