Thursday, November 3, 2016

Defining Happiness.

Once we all learned to pronounce SCHOOLOGY the way it was intended, (as opposed to School OLOGY), people seemed to settle in and appreciate the new technology.   Schoology is, as I explain it to parents, sort of like Facebook for school.  Teachers have the capability to assign and collect assignments electronically, and grade them within the program.  Quizzes and tests can be designed and scheduled to be released, with multiple variations of the same test to accommodate the differentiation needs of learners.  Calendars exist, with assignment dates running in the right-hand margin to make sure a full accounting of pending homework can be seen by students, teachers, and parents who are brave enough to sign up for their own accounts.

Clubs and groups within the school post updates and links, principals post agendas for faculty meetings, and students and teachers can send private "email" messages to each other through the platform.  This is the second year for Schoology as an active, all inclusive tool, and it is finally being embraced by everyone.  This year, no one dares to say "I don't ever LOOK at Schoology," as an excuse for missing a meeting or an assignment.  It's a paper-saver, a time-saver, and a nice introduction to 21st century learning.

Being the Tech Savvy individual that I am (NOT!), I am challenging myself to explore new options in lessons.  Last week I posted a "Discussion," asking students to take all of their current knowledge about Happiness, and actually write and share their own definition.   The Discussion feature allowed students in all three classes to read and respond to the definition of classmates, and aside from some rambunctious flamingos, most contributed mightily to the discussion, in an articulate and respectful manner that permitted everyone to be heard.  

I am amazed, delighted, and very proud of their efforts.

The current assignment is to assimilate all of that reading into a revised definition of happiness and defend the reason for the change.  Here are three samples:

Old Definition-Happiness is a feeling that comes from giving to others, finding yourself, and finding a purpose in life.
New Definition-Happiness is feeling content with how you are living, but also having a purpose to works towards.  Happiness is also finding virtues that are most important to you, and living by these ideas.  It can also be influenced by your environment, but happiness from an external influence, such as an item, is usually temporary, as this item could be destroyed. When the sense of satisfaction comes from within or from a decision you made, the feeling tends to last longer. 
After our discussion yesterday, I realized that happiness is limited when you rely on material things to make you happy.  You are happier when you find a purpose or something to work towards, because this gives you a sense of satisfaction.  For example, people who volunteer are generally happier, because they made the choice to help, and it made them feel good.  The volunteerism could also go along with living by virtues that you believe in.  Ultimately, you are happy when you believe that what you are doing is the best thing for you, so I wanted to incorporate that into my definition.

Old definition: 
A state of contentment and bliss 
New Definition: A state of contentment and bliss derived from one's experience and circumstance
I believe that in my definition, God has a large part in my happiness. I believe that realizing the beauty in the world that he has given us, along with gratitude for what he has given us allows us to be content, which is part of my definition of happiness. However, I do not think that God is a part of everyone's happiness. For those that do not believe in God, or follow a religion, i think they derive their happiness from other things. I think that their definition involves contentment and bliss in what they are experiencing, similar to my personal definition, but attribute those experiences to circumstance and not a higher deity.
Original: Happiness is a word defined differently by everyone. To me happiness is an overall feeling of fulfillment. In my eyes people are only truly happy when there is no weight on their shoulders, and no worries in their mind. However sometimes little things in life can bring small "spurts" of happiness or enjoyment.
Revised: Happiness is different in everyone's eyes. A word containing many subcategories such as joy, elation, and laughter, happiness can not be defined by one person. Therefore I am happy when I feel there is nothing for me to worry about, and I am happy when little things happen that bring a smile to my face. In MY opinion happiness is rather spontaneous and shows up at times you don't expect it, and generally makes your life a bit more interesting.
Throughout this lesson in class, and by reading these fellow classmates responses I have found out that our happiness is something we hold very close to our hearts. The fiery discussions are the effect of each persons happiness being defined, and being that we all view it differently, as rather intelligent students we defend our happiness. Therefore I reworded my original response because it needed to be emphasized that what I believe to be happiness can be the exact same, or the polar opposite of what you believe. Happiness does not have a definition because it is more than just a word.

So here's the reality:  Online discussion, in the case of this assignment, has been a powerful tool for all of us.  We're finding our way, communicating and respecting each other.  The coolest thing for me is that the three classes' responses are co-mingled, so there are discussions happening in the library, cafeteria, and Commons, as the discussion continues.

Take the challenge yourself, and share it in the comments.  Discussing happiness, even with some different opinions, will bring joy to you as you share understanding with others.

Clearly, such enthusiasm, deep thinking, and engagement makes this teacher very, very, HAPPY!