This weekend, I attended a TEDx conference in Manchester. For those of you who are not familiar with TEDx, it is an independently organised event devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. On the day, a multitude of live speakers from across the globe combined to spark deep discussion and connection with their audience.
This year, the theme was ‘Insight and Inspiration’.
As my Year 4 class know, I enjoy a good debate. However, whilst I could write about and comment upon all of the captivating talks I listened intently to, one particular speaker, James Wallman, struck a chord with me. I paid particular attention to what he had to say, as I came to realise that I closely aligned with his ideologies. Wallman’s ideas felt too true to ignore and became ingrained in the forefront of my mind.
So, who is James Wallman and what does he have to say?
James Wallman is an ‘Experiential Expert’ and the author of the best-selling book, Time and How To Spend It (2019). Within his TEDx talk, he explained how we so regularly feel as though we have so little time, and went onto suggest ways that we could increase the quality of how we spend it, in order to lead more fulfilled lives. Wallman highlighted that our focus should not be on materialistic things, but that we should be richer in experiences.
After researching Experientialism, I came across a study by psychologists, Leaf van Boven and Tom Gilovich, that proves experiences are more likely, than material goods, to lead to happiness. It would seem that if we are to immerse ourselves in Experientialism, we must think beyond wanting the most up-to-date iPhone for example. We should be thinking from the perspective of what an experience should feel like. What state-of-mind it should evoke. What luxuries it should provide.
Going back to Wallman, one vital question he posed to his audience on Saturday afternoon was this: ‘Since we now know spending on experiences rather than ‘stuff’ makes us happier, which experiences lead to the most happiness?’
Now, of course, there is an argument that ‘quality’ time spent with others, perhaps away from screens and the tribes and tribulations of the modern day world, is of most economic benefit to oneself. However, it was at this point that I considered how I could bring this back to my classroom. How can I teach my class to spend their time wisely? What leads to experiences that result in pure and true satisfaction? How can I teach them to appreciate what they have in experiences?
Throughout this year, I have had various discussions with my class about the United Nations’ Global Goals and ‘what it takes’ to be, (including the benefit of being) a global citizen. Both as teachers and parents, we have a unique opportunity in which we can help to lay the foundations to create a morally ‘good’ society for our future generations. By endeavouring to instil within children a set of core values, we can help to shape them into well-rounded, astute individuals that do their best for themselves, others and the world around them.
At Brabyns, providing a nurturing atmosphere and creating exciting opportunities for new experiences is something that we already execute well. To address, though, what is currently being described as an ‘experience revolution’, we can use this opportunity to create a sort of manifesto for change. We can start by helping and guiding children to be happier, by encouraging them to spend less time thinking about the things that they want, and more time doing things that will help them and also others.
Changing our thinking
One way in which we can embed this type of thinking, is to think of ways we can invite discussion and debate into lessons across the curriculum. Currently, In Year 4 we are doing just that. Within English, I have chosen to use the story of The Lorax as it creates lots of opportunities for this to occur. In addition, our Rainforest topic also creates similar opportunities. What both The Lorax and the Rainforest topic do, is allow the children in Year 4 to explore what we want versus what we need, understand tricky concepts such as consumerism and materialism, question and reflect upon characters’ actions and drive them to consider whether we, as members of society, are doing enough for the world around us.
It has been wonderful to see the (sometimes emotional) responses that come from the children as a result of this learning. Now, we must harness this passion and offer children experiences that allow them to make a difference. Becoming richer in experiences such as these, I feel, will be time well spent. They will lead to true and pure satisfaction. They will help to teach children to appreciate what they have. This then, as James Wallman suggests, will allow children to lead more fulfilled lives, both now and in the future.
Happily come and debate it with me if you wish!