Mar 2, 2020
Welcome to episode 27. Last week, we explored the importance of savouring - not just food but moments and experiences. So let’s talk a little more about the importance of experiences.
Do you go out of your way to create enjoyable experiences for yourself, the people you love, and your students? Do you spend your money and any free time you have on experiences or possessions? I’ll admit I am a bit of a shopaholic - though it’s a habit I am working on curbing - but as I’ve got older, I have found I increasingly value experiences, especially if I can share these with the people I love. Whether it’s an evening spent with friends, watching a favourite TV show with family members, or going for a walk in nature by myself, it’s those experiences that bring me the most joy and contentment, and that ground me when I find life hectic, stressful or worrying.
Research (1) has shown that spending time and money on experiences rather than possessions is linked to increased happiness. One piece of research (2) which involved a number of separate studies looked at whether extraordinary or ordinary experiences make us happier and found that this very much depends on age - specifically how much time we have ahead of us. The researchers found that younger people generally value extraordinary experiences more, whereas as we get older, we tend to value the ordinary everyday experiences. Yet another piece of research (3) found that when we spend money on experiences - or indeed on other people, incidentally - this promotes happiness because it enhances our social relationships.
So how can this research help your personal flourishing? Have a think about the experiences that have brought you joy, serenity or allowed you to reminisce happily time and time again. Consider whether these were everyday ordinary experiences or extraordinary life moments. What do these experiences have in common? Can you deliberately bring more of these kinds of moments and experiences into your life?
And how about your students’ flourishing? Perhaps, in conjunction with conversations about savouring, you can help them focus on the experiences that they find helpful to their wellbeing. When it comes to your lessons, can you build in some exciting experiences to make those lessons more fun and more memorable? I know one physics teacher who brings so much excitement into his lessons. I’ve never been interested in physic, but I think if he’d been my teacher when I was at school, I may have viewed the subject very differently! I also remember a Year 9 class in my second year of teaching - it was a school where, until Year 8, all students studied two foreign languages, but afterwards, only those who did particularly well in languages carried on with both; the others just continued with one language. Year 9 was a bit of an anomaly though - students carried on with a second language, but those that weren’t considered to be gifted in languages were not assessed in any way in their second language.
After my initial confusion and panic about what to teach that particular Year 9 class, I realised that this gave me immense freedom: No compulsory curriculum or learning objectives, no exams, no restrictions! I could have fun with language lessons with this group. So I made the lessons fun, with lots of language games. Learning a language, for this group of students, became fun, rather than a means to an end. These were students that didn’t generally engage very well with education, but in this particular lesson, they had fun, and made tremendous progress in their language learning.
I’d like to think that, had I stayed in the teaching profession longer and gained more experience, I could have found a way to bring that element of fun to my other lessons, too. I see plenty of teachers who do this very well. If you can turn more of your lessons into ‘experiences’ for your students, you will not only make them more memorable and help your students’ learning, but you may support their wellbeing in the process, too.
Let me know how you bring ‘experiences’ into your life and your teaching. I love to hear your stories!
And, as always, I look forward to catching up with you next week. Until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!