Genre of the Week: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

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As we look at ways to control the sale of guns and put an end to gun violence in the United States, one of the aspects that was brought many times is mental health.  People who think that we should focus on the issue of mental health claim that the majority of shooters happen to be people who are loners, suffer from some sort of depression, schizophrenia, or have some sort of narccist personality disorder, have come from broken homes where they had been abused by (foster) parents, have been bullied by others, are bullies themselves or a combination of the factors.  In other words, if a student is alone, doesn’t have many friends and always keeps to him/herself, then that person is at risk of committing a violent crime such as a shooting spree, as we have seen with the last school shooting in Florida or the bloodiest massacre in US history at Las Vegas in 2017.

Yet little has anyone realized that there are some advantages of being a loner. Introverts are people who thrive when they are by themselves, creating things with no one around that in the end others can benefit from their inventions. Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Arthur Miller, Thomas Edison are a few very popular examples of introverts who never liked being an outgoing entertainer towards others- a primary characteristic of an introvert- and prefer to work on tasks on their own, as they can better concentrate and be creative in their thoughts and imagination. Unlike extroverts, who present proposals to others during meetings and try to make the best out of thriving from attention, introverts prefer to be in the background in group conversations, listening to others and only contributing when absolutely necessary.  This makes them excellent in art (or any kind of fine arts) but lousy in a forensics competition, where they are forced to talk even though they don’t really feel like it.  Admittedly in high school, I was one of the introverts who thrived that way- in art and music- but really sucked in sports (except track and field) and forensics.  😉  And even as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, while I enjoy telling stories and helping people out with improving their language skills, in the end, when the bell rings at the end of the day, my place is in the office with the doors closed, brewing up something for the next day (or week) with no people around to “pester” me. 😉

Introverts unfortunately are the most easily targeted individuals as they are seen as outcasts- bullied by those who don’t like their secret “behind-the-scenes” talent (because they don’t have it in them), pushed by their parents so that they can get recognized by the public (this one I can fully relate while growing up) and forced into the conversation by teachers who think introverts are a sign of a bigger problem- if a teacher looks at each student’s own personal book, they can read between the lines in terms of their personalities and the reasons for that.  But as Susan Cain mentions in a TED-Talk presentation in 2012, introverts are a lot brighter and more sophisticated than what others think, and therefore should not be mistaken for someone who wants to do harm to others.  Sometimes by getting to know them further and giving them space, they can thrive better and provide others with something that surprises and dazzles them.

Some of their inventions can become the household product in the future. 🙂

So let’s have a look at the Genre of the Week and the theme of Introverts:

 

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In School In Germany: Inventions

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Look at the picture above. In your opinion, what materials were used to create:

a. The lighting            b. The bridge            c. The church (in the background)?

 

Name an inventor you know and his/her invention.

What you are going to watch is a presentation by journalist Steve Johnson about the origins of inventions. There are some questions and other activities that follow. 🙂

  1. What musical instrument was made out of bones?    a. French horn  b. flute    c. violin

 

  1. Inventions are made because of the need to s_________e (verb), but others are made for the purpose of f_______ (noun).

 

  1. What was the origin of the computer? (Think carefully!)

 

  1. What was the origin of the typewriter? What was it first called?

 

  1. The Music that Plays Itself was an invention by three brothers in ___________, but in reality, it is known as _______________.  How does this work?

 

  1. That device was replaced with a robotic flute player by Jacques de Vaucanson. True or False?

 

  1. Punch cards were invented by Babbage and was made with papyrus.  True or False?

 

  1. Music is one of the key founding aspects that has played a substantial role in inventing other devices. Do you agree or disagree?

 

  1. Origin exercise:  Look at the following devices and objects below. Trace its origin as far back as you can, using the arguments presented by Steve Johnson.

a. Computer      b. tuba       c. basketball (both game and ball)     d. bicycle       e. paper               f. Smartphone    g. insurance      h. school/education      i. coffee cup      j. clock

 

  1. Future exercise: What inventions do you think will come next? Look at what you have and brainstorm some ideas?

 

Author’s Note: This video and exercise is suitable for all classes, including foreign language classes as a way of broadening one’s imaginary thoughts and foster ideas and communications. Other activities by teachers and educators can be supplemented to this one. Any ideas of how you furthered this exercise are welcomed. Just add them here or on the Files’ facebook page so that others can have a look at and use for their classes. 🙂

 

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Genre of the Week: The Beauty of What We’ll Never Know by Pico Iyer

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Take a few moments and ask yourselves these questions:

  1. What is beauty in your own terms? Is it what you look like, what you see, what you hear or feel, or is it based on a personal experience that you’ve encountered?
  2. What moment in your life was considered the most life-altering and how did this experience change you in a positive sense?
  3. What place (or person) would you like to see before you die? What about an activity or event?

These questions may be simple from the outside but have an important meaning when looking at them and ourselves more closely. We live in a society where we have a choice between two paths: one where we settle down, have a family, job, house and a set of friends to hang out with, talking about politics and sports and contributing to the good of the community. There is the other path, where you explore new places and experience new things that help you think about the beauty of the world and what it has to offer.

One can jump to conclusions and assume that Germans are wanderers of the world, travelling four or five times a year and exploring new areas, and Americans love to stay put and enjoy the local scenery- especially when looking at the younger generations starting with the ones born in the mid-1970s. However, when speaking from experience, I would go as far as saying that each of us have the urge of being a wandering family- having a partner and a child or two, while exploring both new places as well as our own surroundings.  It doesn’t matter what previous knowledge we have- if we have the urge to do something, we do it for a reason- for trying something new, experiencing the unexpected and lastly, being open about it.

And this is why we are looking at this Genre of the Week, entitled The Beauty We’ll Never Know, a TED Summit talk by Pico Iyer. Born of parents of Indian origin, who were both scholars of their time, Iyer was a Buddhist, born in Oxford, England in 1957,  and after having studied literature at the colleges of Eton, Oxford and Harvard, he started his career as a journalist at Time Magazine in 1982, before moving to Japan in 1992, having been married to a Japanese wife, Hiroko and settled down there, writing full time about life and his travels, while teaching on the side. He has written several British essays as well as those about Indian life, but has written several novels, including the famed Video Night in Khatmandu. He has done a lot of TED talks in the past five years about life and how we should take it for granted, as society has changed to a point where knowledge alone will not help in us understanding the process.

In this talk, he doesn’t talk about his experiences in Japan per se. That is only a side-dish. However, his theme of the talk deals with the way we should take in life and not worry about settling down and letting things happen, for after all, we learn something new every day, including all of the tiniest aspects that we don’t understand as a mainstream societal audience. Furthermore, there is beauty in everything we see, even if we don’t see it right away.   So have a look at the talk and think about the following aspects:

  1. Look at the environment around you and see it from outside the box. How beautiful is it? What aspects do you love about it? What would you like to do to make the environment even better?
  2. What things in life would you like to explore before you die? Could be things, people, places or the like.
  3. What holds you back from going out there boldly and learning something new?

Remember: The best knowledge is what we DON’T know.

 

 

For more on his work, please check out his webpage with details on his life as a British author of Indian descent, living in Japan and making the most of life. Pico has spoken many times at TED summits on many subjects. You can find this and other talks here.

 

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Genre of the Week: Your Body Language by Amy Cuddy

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When encountering people from different cultures, how do you interact with them? Are you outcoming and talkative or shy and introvert? Do you need time to warm up with a new person or do you judge them after the first two sentences? And how about your body language: are you forthcoming when speaking with them or would you rather leave the person out? What factors influence your behaviors and have you thought about making some changes?

Sometimes the smallest changes can make the largest difference. This is the closing slogan of a talk conducted by Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University’s Business School. A specialist in social psychology, Ms. Cuddy focuses on stereotypes, discrimmination, non-verbal language and the effects of social stimuli on the hormones. In October 2012, Ms. Cuddy conducted a talk through TED Global in Edinburgh on how body language can make a difference in how people interact with others. TED is global platform where people from all aspects of life present their speeches live- whether it is on politics, psychology history or even personal endeavors- and they are accessed online. A food-for-thought website for people wishing to acquire some knowledge for use, TED is available on the Files under Educational and Cultural Links.  Ms. Cuddy first classifies the types of people based on their posture and body language, but offers a word of advice to people wishing to change that habit, based not only on her experience with her students, but also a tragedy early in her days as a college student.  She just recently released a book entitled, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challengesa book that is as interesting as the talk. 🙂

When watching her talk, it reminded me of some events in my life with some people which had I done things differently, we would not have had misunderstandings. Yet, as she even points out, if a person works with the flaws, they can disappear and make a person better than before. Practice makes perfect, and here’s why, as the Flensburg Files presents this Genre of the Week- especially useful when dealing with different cultures. Have fun! 🙂

 

 

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