How well do you think you really know yourself?

You probably have some idea of your capabilities. If you are dining at a restaurant with a group of friends and they ask you to figure out how much each person should chip in then you are probably ‘good at math.’ If you prefer more pictures than words in printed materials then perhaps reading is not your forte. But there are so many other kinds of capabilities to explore.

Nowadays the challenge to ‘find out about yourself’ is a bit more difficult because many of our natural interactions in our environment have been overtaken by virtual ones. It is a common everyday occurrence to be engaged in constant yet remote dialogue with others through devices of artificial intelligence (via texting, tweeting, etc). A whole generation is born into cyberspace to view itself through “face books” with “screen names.”

No this writing is not all about the internet and the lost morals of social media. Nor is it all about using computers for instant gratification or how eventually online classes will replace going to school. (Well alright there may be a few words about these issues later…) The main concern is how to restore our self-knowledge in this digital age. Do we learn more about humanity through live natural group settings or through isolated remote and artificial ones? Let’s start with an observation.

Aquatic Group Fitness Class
As a lifeguard at a fitness facility I get to watch a few aquatic group exercise classes. During most classes people will move their bodies in the water with some degree of effort to follow an instructor. In nearly every class their effort is usually minimal. Some people are there mainly to socialize, which is really not a bad thing when done the old fashioned way (they cannot bring their cell phones into the water!).
One instructor, Liz, has tried several things to motivate her class so they can get more moderate to vigorous exercise out of it. She is quite innovative. Unlike other classes in which participants seem to tread water in a perfunctory way, her class flows into a variety of arrangements and extensions. Mostly people work at their own rate next to each other, but occasionally she will pair them up, or send them into groups and on one occasion into a large single group.

There is no set routine. Always there seems to be something new. One day she introduced resistance bands in the shallow therapy pool. Another day she called them each by name to do an aquatic exercise using the width of a swimming lane. A couple days later she started playing a new soundtrack of music selections that had a few people smiling and even humming along. In short Liz does not shy away from trying new things and engages her class through lively interaction.

Amazingly the one thing that actually motivated her class to perform moderate to vigorous exercise was beyond the creative plans and thoughtful preparations detailed above. It was simply the fact she became pregnant and continued instructing.  Now she is nearing her third trimester and really beginning to show.

It first occurred to me when she instructed everyone to raise one arm while kicking out the opposing leg in the water. She demonstrated this as she usually does (perhaps with a little added effort since she was exercising for two!). Oddly I noticed nearly everyone put forth an excellent effort and maintained good form. She has done variations of this exercise before and at best I have observed sluggish swaying of limbs but not this forceful range of motion currently and clearly on display. The only difference from her earlier classes was that her pregnancy was certainly not showing as much.

I spoke with Liz shortly after this observation. She agreed with this conclusion and added that this happened in her non-aquatic exercise classes as well. She demurred slightly and suggested another explanation could be her pregnancy naturally leads her to provide more alternatives for each exercise (typically less strenuous ones). The key is she knows her body and therefore can adjust her exercise effort up and down appropriately.

How well did the people in the class know their own bodies? It seems that for the longest time in this class “they didn’t know they had it in them.” I strongly suspected the people were motivated by a pregnant woman leading exercise class since they could have quite possibly been saying to themselves; “Hey…if a pregnant woman in her last trimester can do that…I should be able to…”

Know thyself.

A natural living human connection was made in a group environment. Can we reproduce this effect by showing a DVD of a pregnant woman leading exercises for other classes? Actually quite the opposite might occur. Liz had in fact mentioned that a few people were put off by a pregnant instructor and decided to stop going. “Live” events, at any rate, are more stirring than recorded ones. This alone makes me believe online courses will never be as effective as actually ‘going to school.’

To know thyself implies an awareness of one’s literacy.
noun: literacy
1. the ability to read and write.
"literacy and numeracy are the first goals of education"
competence or knowledge in a specified area.

Presently educators are contending with critics who question the value of teaching in America. Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on a desire for student achievement and our placement in world ranking. These assessments focus on math, reading, and science literacy. Certainly in the digital age it makes sense to adding computer literacy to our educational goals.
What other literacy may be needed to prepare people to be able to function throughout their lives? Certainly we should try to balance the goals of intellectual achievement in traditional subject areas with a desire for lifelong health and wellness of our student body. To do this the core curriculum must include physical literacyThen perhaps our education could really make a splash!