The Purpose of Education

Educators must supply new experiences of suffering for their students.  The purpose of education is to learn how to overcome new obstacles.  Amazingly simple.  This may be why teaching has been so difficult for me.  I never want to harm anyone.  I want to help.  But, I’ve come to realize teaching includes both aspects.  More specifically, teaching in public schools does.  I must plan to deliver the new problem for the students to practice solving and help the students solve it.

I had this same thought before.  In my past, I called the problems “puzzles.”  This felt more positive.  But, I think if students understood that the purpose of school was to help them understand how to reduce suffering, then more students would want to be there.  Who doesn’t want to know how to reduce their suffering?

In case you are wondering, I believe science is the best way to reduce suffering.  Make your life into an experiment.  You’ll learn so much!

Keep Growing

Growth.  It makes us feel good.  Remember all those amazing first steps: tying our shoes without help; signing our name in cursive; hitting a pitched baseball; running our first 5k; getting our license.  These moments stand out in my memory, and I am assuming yours.  I hope you, too, are smiling.

Maintaining the feeling of growth is a challenge now that I am an adult.  I was told what to achieve while growing up, but now I have all this freedom.  And this abundance of freedom causes stress.  What are some ways to reduce or eliminate this stress?

There seems to be one all-encompassing way to reduce stress: Mindfulness.  Live in the current moment and act in ways to reduce the current cause of stress.  This is extremely difficult because our minds are extremely creative.  If you are anything like me, then your mind identifies the stress and creates an elaborate story stemming from it.  For example, I’ve played out entire conversations with troubled students in my head (and the real conversations NEVER end up like my imagined story).   We must practice realizing and stopping our wandering mind.

What would be helpful to replace the elaborate story with?  First, we should create an action plan to eliminate the stress.  Then, we must implement the action plan.  For me, my teaching is a main cause of stress.  I consistently feel overwhelmed.  But, I also know my use of time has been poor.  Here is a new cause of stress: the feeling of wasting time.  So what causes us to waste time?

I waste time for two reasons: 1. Not understanding why I should do something, and/or 2. Not knowing a next step to take.  We can work to fix both of these.  To fix number one, we must ask ourselves, “What good might come from doing this project?” An easy answer would be, “My stress will go down once it is over,” but I think there will be much more motivating answers to this question.  To fix number two, asking the question, “What are the pieces of the project I am doing?” will be a good start.  Afterward, we can plan steps to build the pieces and then how to arrange them in order to complete the project.

Once you do a couple of projects, you might find that you ask yourself the same questions over and over.  This happened to me while lesson planning.  From there, I created a template to use, which is posted below.  Watch for patterns in your mind and create something to help make those patterns efficient.  Especially if they work!

Lesson Planning Helper

 What big idea is being taught?

Why is the big idea important to know? How has it impacted the community and me personally?

What are three ways to show an understanding of this big idea? How can the students apply this knowledge?

What is needed to understand this big idea?  What skills are required?  What facts are required?

Turn the above concepts and skills into questions.

For each question, identify resources to use to help answer the question.

What will be used to assess the students?



Escaping the Pit of Pessimism

I’ve been in a pit of pessimism lately.  I feel like I am alone. I feel insignificant.  I feel like trying is fruitless.  I feel like people don’t notice me.  We all experience these feelings from time to time.  But, what causes us to experience this feeling?  Where do these feelings grow?  Under what conditions enable us to have them?

Expectations.  Expectations with tough, out-of-my-control obstacles.  My pit of pessimism is just a grown-up version of a tantrum.  I am not getting what I want when I want it!  It’s funny viewing it from this perspective.  Here are some of my recent expectations digging the pit.

  • My students behaving because I am nice to them.
  • The “why” to teach something will be extremely obvious.
  • My students being able to perform experiments independently.
  • My necessity of being present at the science fair.

Each of these expectations are not in my control.  For example, I can’t control my students’ behavior for they live their own lives.  A set-in-stone purpose doesn’t exist for emotions cause purpose and we experience different emotions.  And, I can’t control the person who allowed my students to sign in and register without me at the science fair.  How can we avoid this pit of pessimism?

One thing that just worked for me (literally) was realizing I could not control these expectations.  I can influence, yes, but I cannot control.  Being mindful of what we can and cannot strongly influence would help avoid this feeling.  A second idea is to think about what gains we’ve made in getting closer to our expected outcome.  I will wrap this post up by doing just that.

My students speak to me openly which happens when they trust me.

I am conscious of the need of having a reason to learn something.

Some of my students have designed their own experiments.

I went to my first science fair as a mentor.

What have you achieved that gets you closer to one of your own expectations/goals/values?