Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Real Value of Money

It's Not About the Stuff

One summer afternoon, a group of recent college graduates decided to visit their favorite professor at his home. The grads had been out of school for about a year and they were each making their foray into the quote-unquote ‘real world’ and dealing with all of the frustrations and confusion that come with it.
Over the course of the afternoon, the grads complained to their professor about how difficult life was after school. They complained about the long hours, the demanding bosses, the competitive job market, and how all anybody seemed to talk about or care about was money, money, money.
After a while, the professor got up and made some coffee. He got out six cups, one for each student. Three of them were cheap disposable cups and the other three were made of his nicest porcelain. He then invited everyone to get up and help themselves.
Within seconds the bargaining had already begun. “Wait, why do you get that cup?” “No, let me have it, I drove here.” “No way, I got here first, go get your own.” The students laughed and gently chided each other over who got to drink what out of what. A silent competition among friends.
When the kids finally sat back down the professor smiled and said, “You see? This is your problem. You are all arguing over who gets to drink out of the nice cups when all you really wanted was the coffee.”
We think our money is our worthMany of us associate our self-worth and identity with how much money we make.

Money and Self-Worth

Money is a touchy subject. That’s because most of us, to a certain degree, associate a lot of our self-worth and identity with our job and how much money we make. It is, quite literally, a market valuation of our skills and competence as a person, and therefore we all get a little bit testy and scooch around uncomfortably in our chairs whenever money is brought up.
But money is merely an arbitrary store of value. It is not value itself.
There are many stores of value in life. Time is a form of value. Knowledge is a form of value. Happiness and other positive emotions are a form of value. Money is often just the vehicle of interchanging these various forms of value with one another.
Money is not the cause of wealth in one’s life. It is the effect. Similarly, when people assume that money is the cause of their problems, they are actually mistaken. Money is usually the most noticeable effect of their problems.
Money is fluid. Its value only becomes realized when it’s put into motion. Therefore, money is a reflection of the owner’s values and intentions.

The Things You Own End Up Owning You

Most people mistake being rich for owning lots of stuff or achieving some sort of fame or status. I could max out my credit card buying VIP tables in Vegas all weekend and take selfies with Ivanka Trump, but that doesn’t make me rich. On the contrary, it would make me kind of a douchebag.
Materialism is a psychological trapMaterialism, by and large, is a psychological trap.
There is that old saying from Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” Materialism, by and large, is a psychological trap. No matter how much you own, how much you buy, how much you earn, the disease of more never goes away. Meanwhile, you’re working longer hours, taking bigger risks, foregoing more and more parts of your life.
Money is inherently neutral. It’s merely a vessel for the exchange of experience between two people. You make your money by creating experiences for others. You then give your money to others to receive experiences in return.
Even when you buy some material good, like a sports car or a diamond necklace, you’re not just buying the physical goods, you’re buying the experience of driving that car or wearing that necklace. You’re buying the experience of power, speed, or social status that’s associated with it. You’re buying that ornament to your identity, that knowledge of what owning and using it feels like and whether it makes you happy or not.

What are You Really Buying?

Arguably most of the value of any purchase is not monetary.
When you buy food, you are, in a sense, buying away the experience of hunger. You’re buying your own temporary health and happiness. When you buy a trip with your family, you are buying the opportunity to experience something new together and strengthen your relationships with one another. When you buy a new suit for work, you aren’t just buying the fabric or the brand, you are buying the social signals that you invest in yourself, that you take yourself seriously and can be relied upon by others.
It’s not about the stuff. The stuff is merely there to shuttle you into some form of experience. Everything you spend money on is simply experience.
Money and experienceEverything you spend money on is simply experience.

Experience Cycles

Because money is an exchange of experiences, money often results in experience cycles: we give up one (negative) experience to earn money that then purchases the opposite (positive) experience. Once the money runs out, we’re forced back to the negative experience and the cycle starts again.
Stress Cycles–Some people earn money through a great deal of stress. They work a high-pressure job or in a role where they are constantly criticized or threatened in some way. They then spend their money primarily on stress-relief to compensate for the rigor their job creates. These people end up in a constant cycle of stress-generation and stress-relief, while failing to actually build much wealth.
Ego Cycles–Some people work in environments where they feel powerless, insignificant or useless. These people then take out their insecurity by spending their money on superficial status symbols (see: the thirty thousand dollar millionaire). They earn their money through insecurity and then spend their money on quelling their insecurities, thus never actually building wealth.
Pain Cycles–Other people actually hurt themselves to make a living. It may be physically (professional wrestling, sword swallower) or it may be emotionally/psychologically (sex work, demeaning jobs, abusive bosses or co-workers). These people then spend their money on pain relief—alcohol, drugs, and other diversions.
True wealth occurs when the way we spend our money is not simply compensating for how we earn it. Wealth occurs when the way we earn money and the way we spend money are aligned with one another—when our money is earned through a positive experience and spent on other positive experiences.
Slave to moneyPeople become a slave to earning money.
People who fall into these experience cycles with their money soon become slaves to earning a buck. They begin to see money as the singular purpose of their life. It becomes the whole of their motivation.
Once this happens, you no longer own your money; your money owns you. It is not the currency, you are. And money will spend you as long as it can, until either you stop it or you die.

Stop Using Money as Your Metric for Success

The way to short-circuit these cycles, the way to escape the endless chase for another buck and the way to create genuine wealth, is to stop using money as your metric for success.
Just as there are many definitions of value, there are many definitions of success as well. Money is often a means towards success, but it is rarely success itself.
The real value of money emerges when we leverage it as a tool towards our success, rather than making it success itself. When we channel it towards the experiences and values that we find more important. When we use it to build an innovative business, when it fuels our creativity or infuses our community, when it supports our family or shares love with our friends or adds to our personal health and satisfaction.
The real value of money begins when we look beyond it and see ourselves as better, as more valuable, than it is. When it’s not about the accumulation of stuff but rather the enactment of experiences. When it’s not about the mug but rather the coffee that’s in it.

Measuring Happiness Instead of Productivity

Robert F. Kennedy asked: Why does Gross National Product “measure everything…except that which makes life worthwhile?”  We all want to be happy, but happiness (unlike how much ‘stuff’ we have) is rarely measured directly.
Statistician Nic Marks is working to change that. In this video, he introduces the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which tracks national well-being against resource use–because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth.  Discover which countries rank highest in the HPI. You might be surprised.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Positive Discipline - Guide for Teachers and Educators

By Kyle Aken

Positive discipline is a more effective way to manage misbehaving students in the classroom, rather than using punishment or rewards. It allows students to learn and adapt their behaviors to meet expectations in the classroom, while simultaneously teaching them how to make better choices in their path to adulthood.

Classroom Discipline

If a student misbehaves in the classroom, a teacher must have a few techniques that they can use to reduce or eliminate the unwanted behavior. From misbehaving in the classroom to not doing the assigned work, there are many ways to deal with unwanted behavior including punishment, discipline, or even using rewards. However, the most effective method for dealing with students that are misbehaving in the classroom is using positive discipline. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are many types of positive discipline, and whatever technique is used to prevent or reduce misbehavior will only be effective if:
  • Both the student and teacher understand what the problem behavior is and what the expected consequence is for the misbehavior
  • The appropriate consequence is consistently applied every time the misbehavior occurs
  • The manner you deliver the technique matters (calm versus aggressive)
  • It gives the students a reason for a specific consequence to help them learn
In most cases, using punishment or rewards is not needed, as the majority of problems or misbehaviors can be dealt with using positive discipline.

Difference Between Punishment and Positive Discipline

Punishment can bring negative responses, while discipline can bring positive change.
The meaning of punishment is simple - it's an action or penalty that is imposed on a student for misbehaving or breaking a rule. However, the impact on students can be very detrimental, from inducing physical or emotional pain to not being effective in reducing future misbehaviors. Punishment is used to control the behavior of students, in two different ways:
  1. Negative discipline involves verbal disapproval and reprimands
  2. Corporal punishment involves severe emotional or physical pain
Alternatively, positive discipline is the practice of training or teaching a student to obey the code of behavior or rules in both the short and long term. Instead of controlling the behavior of students, teachers can use positive discipline to develop a child's behaviors through self-control and making positive choices.
According to Teachers Unite, which is a movement of public school teachers fighting for social justice, punitive punishment toward students — suspensions, aggressive policing and reactive strategies — go against human rights and fail to address the real problem. However, preventative and constructive approaches that use positive discipline create a positive school atmosphere and also teaches students conflict resolution and behavior skills. In the end, positive discipline can help shape a child, by using encouragement rather than meaningless and even painful consequences, like punishment.

Positive Discipline Techniques

Positive discipline often breeds positive results.
There are tons of techniques that teachers can use to reinforce good behavior with positive discipline, including:
  1. Set the classroom rules at the start of the year
  2. Have consistent expectations
  3. Set goals at the beginning of class
  4. Appropriate behavior should be reinforced
  5. Remain neutral during conflicts
  6. Search for the root cause of the misbehavior
  7. Student dignity matters
  8. Create individual plans for students
  9. Use Praise
  10. Model appropriate behaviors
  11. Provide students with different choices
  12. Remove objects in the environment that cause distractions
  13. Listen to students
Using these positive discipline techniques will help teachers maintain a positive atmosphere and support an inclusive learning environment. In fact, when addressing a specific child, it is important for teachers to work closely with the caregivers and the student to develop a positive discipline plan that works. One of the most critical parts of positive discipline is to help students learn the new behaviors that meet expectations in the classroom, home and elsewhere.

Using Rewards and Privileges

Another alternative to punishment and positive discipline is the use of rewards and privileges for good behavior in the classroom. A reward system can be put in place to encourage good behavior in students that are misbehaving, from helping out other students to raising their hand instead of blurting out the answer. On the other hand, a system that uses privileges, such as being able to go to class without an adult, focuses on good behavior over a period of time and accumulating points toward a certain privilege. However, using rewards and privileges in the long term can lead to negative outcomes, like rewarding students just for participating. To avoid a reliance on a rewards system, positive discipline uses positive and negative consequences to help students learn.

Benefits of Positive Discipline

Many students react more positively to good reinforcement/discipline.
Using positive discipline techniques can help teachers overcome the many challenges in the classroom and help students learn and make better choices in the future. In fact, using positive discipline in the classroom not only increases academic success in the classroom but provides many other benefits, including:
  • Students show respect for the teacher
  • Students are on task and engaged
  • Less disciplinary measures are needed
  • Fewer suspension and expulsions
  • Students see rules as fair
  • Attendance improves
These are just a few of the benefits that can be seen from using positive discipline techniques in the classroom. On top of this, the benefits also extend beyond the classroom, into the home life, sports and social environment of the student, from being more respectful to everyone to understanding the social norms in different situations.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What’s one thing that you’d like to see educators try out in 2018?

We asked the TED-Ed Innovative Educators to share their favorite ideas. Here’s what they suggest:
  1. It’s 2018! Drop the double-negative zero. Let students revise until they get it right. And get your students to deliver TED-Ed Club talks! — Josefino Rivera
  2. It’s time to realize that as long as we keep telling our students that their average matters more than the value of their creativity and the quality of their character, we will continue to graduate generations of young people who only see school as a hoop to jump through. Students deserve more. — Karen Goepen-Wee
  3. Expose students to the process of design thinking. This allows them to solve real-world problems and to expand their creativity. — Jenny Lehotsky
  4. Explore more technology options, so that students are exposed to a global classroom. Both teachers and students should be willing to change the way they learn in a classroom. — Maggie Muuk
  5. Encourage students to embrace difficult and courageous conversations, leaning into discomfort of disagreements for understanding and empathy. — Nola-Rae Cronan
  6. Empower students and teachers to explore Sustainable Development Goals. — Yau-Jau Ku
  7. Let the kids think for themselves. Teach the kids to be curious and act upon it. Teach them to research. — Sharon Hadar
  8. Bring mindfulness into the lives of our students and educators to create more peace in the world. — Pen-Pen Chen
  9. I think its time to introduce more critical/independent thinking. I would love to have TED-Ed Clubs in the curriculum. — Malgorzata Guzicka
  10. Let’s design more learning experiences that build on our students’ strengths. — Della Palacios
  11. Assign a super-ambitious project, and go through the entire process yourself before the students give it a shot. — Jimmy Juliano
  12. Transform schools into hubs for critical thinking, creativity and innovation. We can do this by supporting project-based learning, design thinking and maker-space initiatives. — Jorge Alvarez
  13. Let’s allow students the flexibility in their research, writing, speaking, and projects to explore ideas and topics that matter to them. Let’s stimulate intellectual curiosity. — Mitzi Stover
  14. I would love to see a concentrated focus on teaching conflict resolution skills and healthy means of expressing civil discourse. — Shannon Brake
  15. Build/modify an activity that asks the students to interact with another student, teacher, parent, or friend outside of their classroom. The goal is to work with someone different as a team and be available for feedback or give a different perspective. — Corey Holmer
  16. Create a classroom full of globally literate students with empathy and understanding. — Kim Preshoff
  17. Inspire an overall LOVE of learning in your students by connecting them to people and places outside the walls of your classroom or school. — Jen Hesseltine
  18. Empower students to create their own lessons about things that they learned and love and want to share with peers. — Lisa Winer
  19. Use the power of interactive storytelling to create memorable and engaging classroom experiences. — Tim Couillard
  20. I’d like to see teachers try thinking and operating outside their comfort zones. We come to the profession with our own biases, and I’d love to see people throw that out and try something that makes them uncomfortable and let their students watch them grow and learn alongside their students. And salsa dancing. Every teacher should try salsa dancing. — Carla Staffa


Life skills education is more than teaching skills

by Christina Kwauk and Amanda Braga

Editor's Note: 
This blog is a summary of our new report “Translating competencies to empowered action,” which can be downloaded here.
Today the buzz around life skills education for girls is at an all-time high. Policy and civil society actors—from United Nations agencies to grassroots community-based organizations—have made great strides developing life skills programming to help girls achieve a wide range of empowering cognitive, health, social, economic, and political outcomes. But in many cases, such newfound empowerment is met with violent backlash by family and community members, particularly when girls attempt to apply skills like communication, negotiation, or leadership outside of the safe spaces provided by a program. As a result, the burden of social change has been largely placed on the shoulders of the girl-child.
At Brookings, we are examining how policy and civil society actors can do a better job shifting that burden of change from girls themselves to her broader social and political context. As part of our larger work on Skills for a Changing World, we’re asking questions about how girls’ life skills programming can be better linked to transformative social change and the disruption of structural inequalities that sustain barriers for girls and women.
One answer is that life skills education should be more than just about the girl’s own skills development. Practitioners should also be focused on the girl’s agency (her capacity to see and to make choices) and whether enabling opportunity structures (like policies, social norms, and institutions) exist in her environment.
In our new framework on girls’ life skills education, we draw on the fields of gender empowerment and the psychology of learning to help practitioners better design life skills programming that connects girls’ life skills development not only to empowerment but also to wider social change. We’ve summarized this into four guiding principles:
1. Consider a broader range of competenciesFor starters, practitioners need to conceptualize life skills as a range of competencies (what one can do) that enable girls (and boys) to function, thrive, and adapt in their lived realities, rather than a narrow set of skills for life. These competencies are comprised of networks of Knowledge (what one knows), Skills (what one has), and Attitudes (what one believes and values), or KSAs. Conceptualizing life skills in this way well help encourage practitioners to be more purposeful not only around the whats of life skills, but also the hows of applying such competencies to navigate unique challenges at pivotal moments across her life and in different contexts.
2. Design for five touch points in programming
Moving the focus of life skills programming beyond the girl means designing programs that begin with 1) the dynamic process of building girls’ competencies, but continue on to focus on: 2) whether the girl can translate her skills into 3) empowered action amidst a host of mediating factors that can influence the degree to which her action is empowered. And, if actors seek to achieve wider goals for girls and women, programs must also take into account 4) the range of life outcomes impacted as well as whether 5) systemic change has been achieved. (Watch our animation below for an illustration of how these five touch points come together.)
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3. Be intentional about development and changeEvidence from the psychology of learning stresses the continuous, dialogical, and non-linear nature of skills development over the child’s life. Life skills development is no different. Practitioners must therefore be more intentional about building upon foundational KSAs throughout key moments of the girl’s life, including early childhood through adolescence and young adulthood.
But tied to development is change. This rings true not only at the individual level of the girl, but also for her wider social context. As girls build KSAs important for her empowerment, there is a consequent reaction and response by her peers, family, and community that must be accounted for by programs. This interaction can lead to the strengthening of her agency, as well as to the weakening of it.
4. Support girls to “read” context, gender, and powerFinally, if there is one “life skill” that we believe is foundational for girls, it is the ability to read her social, political, and economic contexts with an understanding of how gender and power have structured her realities and opportunities. Life skills programs must support girls to recognize, navigate, and leverage the dynamic structures in her life if she is to translate KSAs into empowered action. Without this, programs risk girls’ life skills development getting “stuck” in the safe spaces in which they are learned.
As the girls’ education community continues to center life skills across program, donor, and government policy priorities, we must ensure that actors take into account the urgent need to focus on more than just the girl’s skills development—lest we continue to place the burden of social change on girls themselves rather than on the gender unequal societies in which she lives. We acknowledge that this will be difficult to apply in practice, but catalyzing transformative social change has and will never be a straightforward process. Our hope is that by focusing on the above four principles, policy and civil society actors will be to push the field even further to ensure that life skills initiatives move girls and women toward both improved life outcomes and wider systemic change.