What does it mean to be alive?

alive

What does it mean to be alive? This was a question one of my grandmothers asked me recently after we were reflecting on just how precious life is. Why does it take death or the process of losing someone dear to you to realize what truly matters in life?

You could be in a place thinking there is no clear pattern to your career and you are looking for direction. Sometimes it takes you doing what you don’t like or seeing the world from a different lens to actually realize what your gift is in this world and what your purpose is on earth.

On the airplane home after an inspiring trip with family and friends, I couldn’t help but reflect on how valuable life is and the mark I want to leave on this world.

Coming home from that weekend, I received several messages like this from friends and relatives:

“You walk in a room and make everyone there happy – you magnify their inner light – you make them see and believe the light. You make others shine. Your physical presence does – you’ve got some spark!  You’re an inspiration yourself with your boundless positive energy and persistent optimistic way of seeing people and life in general.”

So kind! These sentiments made me realize what impact I want to make in this world.

what does it mean to be alive

People want to define you by a label, which defines your specific role in society. Hence they always ask what your job is.  It’s taken me a long time to realize what my role is and to own my power; for me, I’m an educator.

When I reflected on my career on the plane ride home, it became clear that everything I do is a form of education, whether it be teaching, research, counselling, creating curriculum, writing books & media, etc. The term ‘educator’ is very broad and can have different meanings and roles. What was causing fog in my career path was focusing on the differences of the positions I held and not on the core element that tied all the opportunities together.

Since graduating high school I have been teaching individuals to become their best through various mediums (i.e., writing, speaking, instructing, or counselling). Meeting people where they are. Making resources accessible and offering a variety of formats to meet their needs.

I teach people to have respectful relationships with themselves and others, as that is at the core of our daily lives – interactions with others. My personal mission is to bring warmth and love in life by helping people smile in stressful situations.

Being an educator through various forms is one of my strengths and where I feel most alive. I love learning and then sharing/applying with others what I have learned. Perhaps, it seems fitting then that I pursued my Master of Education degree in Human Development and Applied Psychology from OISE.

I learned early on that teaching is so much more than standing at the front of a big lecture hall and simply talking to the audience. I have been in those lecture halls as a first-year and second-year student with three or four hundred fellow students – just sitting there for 3 hours absorbing course materials and taking notes.

I agree that these intro courses are needed to get the material out to the masses, but do the students actually absorb what they are fed? I remember sitting in a lecture hall and fellow students were in attendance yet they were on their laptops the whole time watching television shows. I remember sitting in the lecture hall and thinking, “I want to help make learning engaging for the students; after all, they pay to be there.”

Teaching someone isn’t about telling students exactly what to do – it is about letting them figure out the solutions for themselves. This is a lesson I learned in my first couple weeks when I was teaching at a college – even though you want to give the students the answers to help them – letting them come to the solution themselves by providing the steps is more empowering for them and more meaningful too.

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What does education mean to you?

I’m a big supporter of experiential learning: making meaning from direct experience. Think about the first-year students sitting in the big lecture hall like sponges absorbing material and then taking finals. Doesn’t sound like too much fun does it?  I know many students who skip these classes because there is no point; all they have to do is show up for the midterm and final. Some things can’t be learned in a textbook or without actually doing it yourself.

Imagine instead if these students were involved in interactive activities that got them learning different ways to understand the course material and excited about the content. What if they asked questions to the professor, shared their stories, and had conversations with their peers? With these ideas in mind, I started this blog with the intent to expand the conversations I was having in my small Master’s courses beyond the research and the classroom. I wanted to add a richness to the conversations by hearing the perspectives and experiences of others outside our classroom.

Social connection is so important and so valuable to learning. One thing that has really helped me on my journey is feedback from others – either my classmates, teammates, coaches, professors, friends, or bosses.

That is why community is such an integral part of this space. Through interviews from mentors and peers sharing their personal narratives as well as my own, Arianna’s Random Thoughts has grown into an interactive forum (i.e., virtual classroom) that provides individuals with the practical strategies, a supportive community, and mentorship to reach their full potential. The site was built on the belief that when you share your story with others, you give them permission to do the same.

You can't control

Learning is a process of exploration for the students and the educator. One of the best lessons I have ever learned is that educators aren’t perfect and do not have all the answers. There is an unrealistic expectation for educators to know the all the answers so some make something up to save face and feel worthy. Yet one of the most empowering lessons for students and educators is for the teacher to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find the answer together.” This answer shows the students that educators aren’t perfect and are human too.

Not knowing is really important as that is where learning starts. You don’t know something or are curious about a topic so you take steps to figure it out.  So I encourage you to ask questions and start talking.  Arianna’s Random Thoughts is a place where we talk about the journey – our successes and our failures to help keep momentum going en route to reaching our full potential. Providing thoughts, advice, and experiences to be a guiding light on your path.

We can all cheer each other on! Through sharing your story with others, you give them permission to do the same. For example, by talking about your special life journey of how you achieved your goals, you are teaching others to keep going in the face of adversity. You are teaching others from your story, and they are learning from it.  That is learning. On your life journey, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to fail sometimes, but you keep going.

Learning doesn’t stop after you graduate; the process continues throughout our lives. Instead of looking for mentors and leaders in the classroom, you need to look for educators in your communities and your work environments.  We are all educators in our families, communities, and social networks.  Let’s start off this year by empowering each other through education to reach our full potential!

Here’s to 2015! Wow!

how can I help

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the Comments section below.

See you at the beach!