School Daze: Information Overload

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School is a place to learn and grow, as we all well know. It is a place to make friends and develop with the people you surround yourself with. School is where you learn things that will educate you on the world around you and help you use the things for a long time to come. It is a place to become your own person and learn to be creatively progressive. But so many students seem under-enthusiastic about going to school, and even about learning at. It becomes more of a habit than an enjoyment. But could this be the cause of the school set up, and not just the student?

Currently, the way schools are set up is smothering the ability to be creative. The cogs in our head are getting rusty. There is a leak of water and it is turning into a steady stream. That rust might seem to be caused by kids not using their brains, but could it be something else? Perhaps the problem lies in having too much school, or rather, too much school in too little time.

So is sitting in school literally frying our brains?

The word school, for many, does not ensue enjoyment. I hear it all the time in the halls of my school, from the mouths of the teenagers I am surrounded by, from friends who go to many other schools. Disregard for education it is depicted on television shows and in movies– it is everywhere. And it sadly seems like an accurate depiction. But why is this happening? Why are teenagers not excited to learn new things in a school setting? There may be some things we can change about the way the school system is set up to help achieve the best academic outcome and greatest excitement of learning in students today.

In Pre-K and Kindergarten children are allowed snack time, naptime, and lots of educational playtime. When they are in elementary school they are often allowed recess to get wiggles out and get energy moving. But as children get into Middle School and High School the days become longer, the workload becomes heavier, and the desire to learn diminishes. It seems like kids are simply less interested in what is being taught, and while this may be much of the case this is not the source of the problem. The problem lies in one major problem: losing the ability to absorb what you are learning.

Students often seem to be disinterested in anything academical. This may not be entirely they fault of the student. Studies have shown that the brain can only truly focus on something and absorb the information efficiently in chunks of about forty-five minutes at a time before the absorption of information decreases drastically; yet, children and adolescence are put into classroom settings for eight hours a day and are expected to retain everything they are taught each day. This eight-hour time limit does not include other academic responsibilities such as extracurricular activities or homework. Our brains do not have the capacity to absorb or retain that much information even on our best days.

Let us use just the high school years as an example. High school lasts four years: ninth to twelfth grade. When you repeat the cycle of remaining stagnant for eight hours a day every day for four years, without adding in any other school related requirements like homework or otherwise, it is no longer such a wonder why kids are always exhausted and never feel inclined to learn in school. Students become physically drained because their mental agility has been so dried out.

One other major problem with the eight-hour a day schedule coincides with information absorption and that is the problem of being too stagnant or sitting too much. There have been recent studies about sitting for long periods of time that add to the importance of taking breaks and allowing your body and mind time to catch up and soak in what it has learned. Scientists are still trying to understand all the problems with sitting for long periods of time but remaining stagnant for extended periods of time has been shown to lead to decrease in mental health, obesity and even heart disease. Studies also say that there is a “50 percent increased risk of death”.(Levine, MayoClinic) When you combine the results of this study with the fact that your brain stops being able to retain information efficiently after a certain period of time it would seem that we are quite literally burning our brains out, and not only that, but decreasing our lifespan in the process.

The solution to this problem is to align the scheduling of school more like colleges. College classes are around fifty minutes long and they are not back-to-back. They may nor even be every day, depending on the classes that you take and in between classes you get up and move from class to class with more than 5 minutes between classes. This allows time for your brain to absorb the information it has just taken in and also allows your body to get into its normal flow again. A student can achieve their associates in two years time in college and their bachelors in four years, so why would it be so different if we were to adjust what we teach to more of a college type time-schedule anyways? It would do better at preparing them for college and it would aid in their brain and body function.

If we were to give students the ability to get their body moving, get their blood flowing, and take a break from all the information they are trying to intake in an eight-hour time crunch then I believe the success of students learning would increase drastically and their creativity will increase because their minds and bodies will be functioning in the way that they are supposed to. Students will learn more because they will retain more. Their minds will be more able to try new things and look at things more creatively because they will not always be trying to recover from the information overload. In the case of your mind verses time, less is more.

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References and Citations:

Levine, James. “Sitting Risks: How Harmful Can It Be?.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 12 June 2012. Web. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005&gt;.

Doheny, Kathleen. “Sitting Your Life Away?” WebMD. WebMD, 7 Apr. 2014. Web. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/20140407/sitting-disease-faq?page=2&gt;.

“Sustained Attention.” Natural Health Care Canada. Natural Health Care Canada. Web. <http://naturalhealthcare.ca/glossaries.phtml?term=sustained attention#.VSC9P5TF95A>.

Photos obtained through Flickr:

Creative Commons, Eaglebrook-School-Country-Fair-2014-Classes201410167737, Uploaded on October 16, 2014 by EaglebrookSchool (Copyright: EaglebrookSchool. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

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The Secrets Behind the Sadness

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Depression is a mental illness that it seems almost everybody has heard of, and yet it remains very seldom understood. What seems to be signs of depression may be very obvious in some and yet they are hardly noticeable in others. Often people who come in contact with or are close to people experiencing depression do not know how to aid the person suffering. Depression is extremely difficult for the person experiencing first hand it as well as the person experiencing it second hand.

But if depression is left without being discussed or unattended to, it can prove permanently damaging and even fatal to those experiencing it.

People experience depression for a number of different reasons. Some may experience feelings of depression because of a major event that is perceived as life changing such as not getting into a desired college, loss of a job, going through divorce, and other such events. Others experience depression for little things like hurting someone’s feelings, perceiving that they are the problem or the cause of someone else’s grief, or stress that becomes overwhelming to the individual.

Sometimes people who experience depression have no reason at all for experiencing it; it just suddenly happens. Another big reason that seems to add to the variables of having depression verses not is genetics. If the family is known to have a history of depression then that can impact the risk of depression significantly.

There are other reasons that may also come into play besides events and genetics such as the way the brain develops during childhood. If someone has had physical or psychological abuse especially when they are young that can be a heavy contributing factor to having depression.

So why is it such a big problem?

It seems that many people conceal their fear of having depression because so many people turn a blind eye to it, even when it is right in front of them. This happened with a boy named Kevin Breel.

On a TEDtalk in September 2013, he talked about how he felt like he was split between the person he wanted to be and the depression he was struggling to overcome, but he also felt scared of trying to get help. He tried dealing with depression on his own for the same reason that a lot of people who struggle with depression do. He felt that because he did not seem to have any reason to be depressed that people would shove him off and tell him to get over it.

You can view the full TEDtalk here:

Because depression is a hard thing to understand for so many people, it is given many definitions and stigmas. This seems to happen most because we give names to things in order to make sense of them, even if sometimes the name is not what it truly is. For depression, some alternately known stigmas are self-pity, “the blues”, and it is often accused of people using it simply to draw attention to themselves.

Benched Thoughts

Depression is almost like an awkward child who no one really understands what makes them so awkward, and that makes it even more awkward to deal with. Since they don’t know how to deal with the child they hope that by leaving the child alone something good will come out of it and somehow the child will magically become less awkward. Depression, contrary to popular belief, is not something that can fix itself. If it is left unaddressed and untreated it can prove permanently damaging socially, mentally, and even physically to the people experiencing it.

There are varying forms of depression from depression that occurs due to poor diet, depression related to the change of seasons, bipolar disorder, MDD or Major Depressive Disorder, and everywhere in between. Because there is such a vast expanse of different kinds of depression it would seem like it should not be such a big issue and that people should simply get the help that they need in order to overcome it. As easy as that sounds, it is a bit more complex than it seems. Often people are afraid to look for help because of the mental barriers that hold them back from telling someone they are having problems or experiencing these symptoms. Outsiders who are not experiencing depression can help by abstaining from labeling, not judging those going through depression, and not always trying to fix the person who has depression like they are a problem to be solved.

There are many levels of depression and varying time constraints that depression will last for. The long-term affects of depression can be related to the cause of the depression itself. It can come for a couple of days and never be seen again for years or it can come for weeks, sometimes months, and not dissipate at all. It becomes increasingly more difficult because it is hard to tell the difference between grief and depression, and researchers are still trying to figure out all the specifics of depression in order to more accurately assess and treat it.2505409908_559871e344_b

Depression can be treated but in order for it to work to the best of its ability it has to be in the right circumstances. Depression is like any disease or bodily problem: it needs to be treated as soon as possible in order to do the least amount of harm. If you had artheritis and you needed help to stop the pain then you would go to the doctor because because your body cannot compensate enough to take care of itself on its own. The same rules apply to depression: the brain has to be treated and assisted in the ways that it cannot overcome on its own. Because depression is something that is not physically seen but more psychologically felt it often gets shoved off or reasoned away by the person experiencing depression or by outsiders who no not understand the weight of what someone is experiencing. This is why it is so important to be informed about depression and treat it, as well as those suffering from it, accordingly.

Some of the most used treatments of depression are medical prescriptions, as well as psychotherapy. But these are not the only contributing factors to helping people with depression. Social and emotional treatments are just as important. It is extremely important for someone suffering with depression to have a good, supportive, understanding, and patient surrounding. People who suffer from depression cannot be reasoned or explained out of it. All the reasons not to be depressed, sad, or empty feeling may make sense to an outsider but the person experiencing depression cannot help that they feel depressed and giving them reasons not to be depressed may make them feel more hopeless. The best thing to do for someone who is suffering with depression is to be kind, nonjudgmental, to listen, and just be there for them. People with depression often are not looking for a solution; they are just looking for someone to be there for them.

Allie Brosh, author of her New York Times Best Selling book “Hyperbole and a Half”, wrote about about her experiences with depression on the blog that the book is derived from. She described depression as the comparison between when she was a child and she found so much enjoyment in playing pretend with her toys to when she got slightly older and suddenly did not find the same amount of enjoyment. She said that this is how depression is. You are doing the things you love and then suddenly all enjoyment, life, and happiness that was in those things is sucked out of the activity and somehow sucked out of you as well.

So many people never seek professional help or even help from friends or loved ones because they live in the state of fear: fear almost of being contagious in a way or that it will come off as simply self-pitying. This seems to be the stigma that follows depression. This may be why so many people struggle with depression and never say anything.

Depression is not easy to understand. It is no easier to deal with, whether you have depression, have had it, or are experiencing the affects of it through people around you. But it is important to understand. Understanding it can literally save someone’s life. So let us become more informed, less judgmental, and more understanding. This is the key to bringing light to a dark place: depression.

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References and Citations:

“Depression (major Depressive Disorder).” Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic, 21 Feb. 2014. Web.

Breel, Kevin. “Transcript of “Confessions of a Depressed Comic”” TEDtalks. TEDtalks, 1 Sept. 2013. Web.

“Depression.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Web.

“Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Mental Health. Web.

Brosh, Allie. “Depression Part Two.” Hyperbole and a Half. Blogspot, 9 May 2013. Web.

Pictures obtained from Flickr. In order of appearance:

Creative Commons, Alchemist Killing Hamlet, Uploaded on January 28, 2010 by Hartwig HKD (Copyright: Hartwig HKD. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

Creative Commons, Benched Thoughts, Uploaded on March 5, 2005 by Brian Auer (Copyright: Brian Auer. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

Creative Commons, Clinical Depression, Uploaded on November 22, 2007 by Yuliya Libkina (Copyright: Yuliya Libkina. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

Social Exclusion (PSA)

A problem that some classmates and I saw in our school is that of Social Exclusion. We did a lot of extensive research about it and decided that we should make a video PSA about it.

We got a lot of our research from all over the world– places like Australia, UK, and European Countries, but we wanted to focus on social exclusion in the United States. The research in the United States is a bit lacking, but we still felt like it needed to be addressed and this is how we addressed it.

Here are the resources we used for our research:

The Pain of Social Rejection.–Kristen Weir

Social Exclusion and Bullying.–Sameer Hinduja

Social Exclusion at School.— Quirky Kid Clinic

A New Bullying: Social Exclusion.–Dustin Petty

Social Life in Middle and High School: Dealing With Cliques and Bullies.–Joshua Mandel

Being Excluded.–Louises Burfitt-Dons

Shunning and Exclusion.— Irene Van Der Zande

It is important to pay attention to the things going on around you. And what is more important is knowing when to pick your fights.

A Haircut for a Wedding (Memoir)

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My mother always joked about how she knew best, so you can imagine her glee when the movie Tangled came out and Mother Gothel started singing Mother Knows Best. Evidently, that has become one of my mom’s favorite songs and whenever I begin to doubt her on things she likes to sing it just to remind me that she really does know best. But it took a lot of trial and error on my part to find that her words were always more or less true.

I have always been quite the stubborn and headstrong child. I never let anyone help me tie my shoes or pick my clothes out for me. I always had to be the one to do things my way, unless I just could not figure out how to do it. Then I would demand help as if I had always needed it and was simply waiting for someone to give it to me.

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There have been several occasions when my stubbornness got me into a great deal of trouble. One such occasion, I was five. And it was spring. My Aunt and Uncle had asked me to be the flower girl at their upcoming wedding. I was about as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. I was going to be in a beautiful white dress holding a little basket and throwing flowers for everyone to see, paving the way for the beautiful bride. In weddings, everyone always wants to look their very best. That is why the bride wears a dress she will only probably wear once in her entire life, and the groom wears a tuxedo that is much to tight in all the wrong places.

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About two weeks before the wedding my mother decided to get a haircut so that she could look her very best and since I was mommy’s little girl, I wanted to be just like her! So I wanted to get a haircut, too. When I asked if I could get a hair cut as well, Mom told me very firmly, “No,” that I could not have a haircut because I did not need one. My hair was already long and black like a raven’s back, and she told me that I would look pretty just the way I was. This was not what I wanted to hear.

Mom did not budge on the “No haircuts for Hali” stance, which seemed entirely unfair. And to add to the unfairness, I had to go to her hair appointment with her! This made me furious as I had done absolutely nothing wrong… yet. I made it absolutely impossible for Mom to ignore my frustration. I darted around the salon, looking at the hair products on the shelf, touching them and playing with them. My mother had always told me to, “look with your eyes and not with your hands,” or in other words, don’t touch things that don’t belong to you. I was certainly not going to listen to this advice now. I made sure that I was a complete and utter nuisance. After Mom was finished with her haircut appointment she whisked my mischievous little self out of the hair salon and back home.

I was very upset with her for a few days after Mom’s haircut appointment but I finally simmered down a bit. The time of the wedding was drawing more and more near, and even though I had gotten over my anger and resentment towards my mother, I still wanted a haircut. So I decided I would take matters into my own hands.

It was a few days before we were to leave for the wedding. Mom was preoccupied with watching a show on the television in the family room, or doing laundry, or some other motherly past-time but either way she was busy doing something else and this was the perfect moment to do my mischievous deed.

I was very sneaky about it. I was rather like a female child version of James Bond. I snuck around the house searching for my weapon of choice– making sure to be very careful not to get caught by the great and terrible Mother. I searched and searched for that most deadly weapon. Finally, I had found it: one pair of purple handled scissors. I had located them in a desk drawer in the schoolroom.

I grabbed them and snuck into the living room. This was one of my favorite rooms. The walls were a dark shade of Kelly green and the carpet was a ragged mustard yellow. I loved how this room lit up with color and life and warmth, no matter what time of day it was. But today it was not a room of warmth and color, it was a room of rebellion.

I went and stood near the window in the sun. I was not very methodical in the way that I used the purple handled scissors. A snip there. A chop here. “Schnk, shk” went the purple handled scissors through strands of recently detached hair. I had always hated the cowlick that sat at the very front of my forehead, in the very middle of my hairline. That certainly had to go. Shnk. There the pieces went– the left over remains of my bangs fell to the ground.

I continued to prune very haphazardly at the rest of my hair when suddenly there appeared a figure whose feet were coming through the doorway into the green and yellow room. I tried to hide the scissors behind my back. I put on the biggest smile I could manage, but that did not seem to help my cause in the least.

I’m not sure what gave me away: the huge Cheshire cat grin on my face, the hands that were so obviously hiding some treacherous thing behind my back, or the fact that there were pieces and clumps of hair that had been mysteriously detached from my head laying around my feet.

Mom glared down her nose at me, trying to muffle her amusement at what I had done, and yet tame her fury that I had, in fact, done it. “What is behind your back, Hali?” She asked, knowing all to well what I was hiding. She obviously knew what had happened, but she was making me do the humiliating act of telling her myself what had happened.

“Nothing,” I replied. I thought, somehow, that saying it in a long drawn out way would make me sound more honest.

“I know better than that,” Mother scowled, but very forcefully because she was still trying to hide her amusement. “What is behind your back? Are they scissors?”

I hung my head. “Yes,” I replied sheepishly. I revealed the purple handled scissors and held them out to my mother. She took them from me and proceeded to tell me how bad I had been and how much I would dislike my hair now.

But, I didn’t dislike my hair in the least. At least, not for the time being. I liked it quite a lot in fact. Or perhaps it was more that I liked the fact that I had gotten away with getting a haircut even when Mom had told me that I couldn’t. I had conquered this battle and defeated the great and terrible Mother.

Mom made me clean up the mess I had made on the mustard yellow carpet, and as I did so I knew that I was triumphant in my attempt. I had given myself a haircut. And I had done so against all odds. I was able to finish the job and had only gotten caught after I had been successful in the act.

But mother was right. A couple days later I disliked how my hair looked very severely. I had not only cut my bangs, but in doing so I made the cowlick worse because now there was just a tuft of hair that sprang out from the front of my head. And to add to that, my hair was as short as a boy’s cut in some places, cut sideways in others, and oddly long or mismatched in the rest. There were half strands cut and others that were completely abnormally detached. I disliked it so much that I began to cry, and would not stop crying because I thought I looked ugly with my new, self-made haircut. Mother had proven her point. Mother was right. Mother knows best.

A few days before the wedding, Mother wound up taking me to a salon near where my aunt and uncle were having their wedding. She asked the people at the salon to do the best that they could to fix my hack job up, and they certainly had their work cut out for them. They had the hardest time fixing me up and making my look nice, but I was all the merrier for it. After they had finished I was once again satisfied with my hair and I thought that I was the cutest little girl on the face of the planet, and I think that the pictures prove the case:

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But that satisfaction was very short lived. After the prettiness of the wedding and myself had blown over, with my hair no longer done up in pretty curls to hide the unevenness thereof, I resented what I had done and promised myself that I would do better at listening to my mother.

I broke that promise on several occasions. I am still learning that mother really does know best and every time I think I might know better than her, I learn that I should always listened. When mother says, “It looks like it’s going to rain. You should bring a jacket,” and you don’t listen, it will always rain. And you will always need that jacket.

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Pictures Copyright and Citation (In order of appearance)

Creative Commons, Cleff Wedding, Uploaded on February 12, 2010 by CleffArtWorks (Copyright: CleffArtWorks. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

Creative Commons, takoma park beauty salon, Uploaded on September 23, 2007 by Susan Sermoneta (Copyright: Susan Sermoneta. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

All Rights Reserved, Little Hali, Taken: Around 2004 (Copyright: I own this picture and I reserve all rights to it)

All Rights Reserved, Little Hali with Doll, Taken: Around 2004 (Copyright: I own this picture and I reserve all rights to it)