Monday, September 25, 2017

On books suggested in my social work classes

Well, folks, I’m back in school. Grad school has a lot of reading involved and I’m loving it. It’s also limited how much reading I can do for fun - all my reading is currently directed at learning more and becoming a better student and social worker. And there's a lot of reading in grad school. Like, a LOT. In light of this, here are some books that you can read that will help teach you about issues that social workers confront and issues in our world in general:

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
Orange Is the New Black
Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality
The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar

If this still isn’t enough reading material for you (or if you’re already a social worker who’s read everything on this list), check out this Goodreads list with more suggestions.

What books would you add to this list? Which of these books have you already read?

Friday, September 22, 2017

On how to find a passion to learn more about

This month, we’ve talked quite a bit about learning, why it’s important, how to do more of it. We’ve given you a lot of the how and the why and helped make it very possible for you to keep learning once school is done. One question I had when I first finished school was - what are my passions and interests? For me, school took so much time and energy that I felt like I didn’t have time to pursue many of the things that I loved. For me, it was a bit of struggle to remember what I loved and to find things that new, post-school me was passionate about.
For those of you who are in a similar boat, here are some ideas for how to get started:
  • Think back to what made you happy as a kid - Often, these hobbies and interests are more important to the core of who you are than you realize. If you loved catching bugs as a little kid, try reading a book about different types of insects or visit a butterfly sanctuary. If you loved hiking, try a new trail or follow a blog about outdoor adventures in your area. If you always liked to cook, buy a new cookbook or watch a cooking tutorial on Youtube. Find a way to take your passions as a child and translate them into something you can do today.
  • Talk to your friends - If you’re looking for a new hobby, then see what your friends are doing and tag along. Even if you don’t find something that interests you, you’ll connect more with your friends and they’ll appreciate your efforts to try their hobbies. Go to the poetry slam your buddy is performing at or tag along to the knitting circle your friend frequents.
  • Wander through the non-fiction section of your library - You don’t necessarily have to check anything out (though it’s always nice to read a new book). Just wandering through and looking at the different topics available can really help you see what sparks your interest and what bores you to tears. If the books of different parts of a car engine stand out to you, check one out and see if it’s still interesting or start watching Top Gear to test the waters.
  • Take a class - Many local recreation centers, libraries, community college, and even craft stores offer classes that you can take to learn basics of many different hobbies. I took a 6-week painting class once and, while it was fun, it didn’t ignite any new interests for me. Your story could be different - the 4-week photography class at your local library might be just what you need to get started.
  • Become a renaissance person- If you’re still struggling to find something that truly captivates you, then focus on learning a little about a lot of things. If you end up knowing enough about a broad range of things to get by, chances are that you’ll eventually find something that really intrigues you. Even if you don’t, it’s an opportunity to connect more with people and to learn more about the world. Or perhaps learning new things could become your hobby.
  • Read this list of hobbies from Wikipedia - If all else fails and you’re still desperate to find a hobby, then check out this list and see if anything on it appeals to you.

How do you find new hobbies? Has anything from this list worked for you?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On adding textbooks to Goodreads

I’m a student, so obviously, I do a lot of reading - textbooks, journal articles, non-fiction books, Powerpoint slides, syllabuses, notes from class, essays, pertinent newspaper articles….you get it. Once school started, my reading-for-fun time got significantly diminished and that hurt my heart a bit. And then I started to fall behind on my Goodreads challenge. For me, this was the worst part -I was doing A TON of reading, but most of it was not something that I could count for Goodreads...or was it?
Here are my thoughts on why you should add textbooks and other school books to your Goodreads (and why I’ll be adding all my textbook at the end of the semester):
  1. You took the time to read them, didn’t you? If you spent hours reading a huge textbook on human development and you legitimately read every chapter in that book, you definitely deserve to add it. You spent the time and energy to read it and you deserve to show off and reap the benefits for your Goodreads challenge.
  2. Show off your skills. Taking classes on subjects that interest you can be fun, but difficult to find people who want to discuss your new-found opinions and knowledge. Goodreads is an excellent place to not just brag a bit that you’ve done a lot of intellectual reading, but to connect with people who also care about this topic and are interested in discussing it at greater length. A lot of Goodreads comments are more “Oh, that looks like a cool book!” or “Congrats on reading something so long!” but I’ve seen plenty of comments more along the lines of “What did you think of the author’s argument that blah blah blah?” or “I was really intrigued by the final anecdote in this book and the implications of that,” or even “There’s a better textbook out there for this topic.” Goodreads can be your place to start these discussions.
  3. Keeping track and branching out. Learning more about any topic can be difficult and classes help to make that easier. If you’re interested in learning more on a topic (maybe a few years after the class is finished), looking back on the books you needed for a class is a good starting place. Not only will you be able to see which books you’ve already read on a certain topic, but Goodreads can help suggest similar books or guide you to lists on a specific topic. This is especially useful once some time has passed and you’ve forgotten exactly which materials you’ve already consumed.
  4. Teach your children. Even if you aren’t seeking to become a formal teacher, you will be given opportunities to teach individuals in your life. It might be your kids, your nieces and nephews, your friends, your peers, your family, your classmates - whoever. Having access to the materials that you used to learn more about a topic gives you something to reference back to when trying to teach someone else and it also gives you something to suggest to an interested learner. And then, if you are in a position to formally teach a class, you’ll have access to exactly what textbook you used when you learned about that topic and textbooks you used in other classes that may complement the lessons in your less.

Do you add textbooks to your Goodreads? Why or why not?

Monday, September 18, 2017

On a random mix of non-fiction books you should read

Often, you don’t want to delve too far into a topic and it’s a little more fun to get an overview of the generalities of topic rather than spending the next ten years researching it intensely. Sometimes, it’s fun to get to know one small aspect of topic really well, too, instead of having to thoroughly research a topic in order to find that tidbit. The following books are a random mix of non-fiction that should help you learn a bit about a lot of different things - and maybe spark an obsession that’ll lead you to reading much more.

What non-fiction books have you been enjoying lately? What motivates you to read a non-fiction book?

Friday, September 15, 2017

On how to keep learning once you're done with school

Once you’re done with school, it can be a relief to take a break from learning. After a while, however, the smoke will clear and you’ll probably be in a position where you want to keep learning - whether it’s for work, for connection, for fun, whatever. Here are a few ways that you can keep learning once the final bell has rung.

  • Learn a new skill - Take up knitting. Learn to build a bookcase. Fix that old radio your grandfather passed down to you. Learning a new skill may not always translate into a bunch of book learning, but it will give you an opportunity to expand your horizons, find a new hobby, and connect with people who also know (or are learning) this skill. Check out a book to teach you or find a YouTube video to get you started (I learned a lot of my knitting via YouTube)- it’s easy to learn new things if you set your mind to it.
  • Listen to podcasts - There are plenty of podcasts with plenty of information about plenty of topics. Whether you want a podcast with interesting stories, pop culture chit-chat, or new perspectives, you’ll find one that sparks your interest. Check out this list for some podcasts to start on.
  • Read non-fiction on a topic that interests you - Reading is (in my opinion) one of the greatest ways to expand your knowledge. I’ve always had an interest in Gender Issues, but in the past few months, I’ve sought to learn more by reading any non-fiction book I could get my hands on about women’s issues. It’s been fascinating and I’ve learned so much - and I also have plenty of books to recommend to anyone with questions.
  • Follow blogs/news outlets/trade publications - It’s easy to find blogs within your interest - it can be more difficult to keep up on them. You can follow blogs directly or you can do what I do, which is use Feedly to keep track of blogs that interest me. I follow book blogs, knitting blogs, music blogs, genealogy blogs, and news publications that I keep up with every day. It keeps me interested in the world and constantly learning new things.
  • Build your vocabulary - Reading the dictionary is the stereotypical dull activity, so you may want to try a different tactic for learning new words. Pay attention to words and phrases that you aren’t familiar with that people around you use or that come up in your reading. Look them up when you have a minute and pick a new word each week to incorporate into your active vocabulary. You may be surprised at how much bigger the world is when you’re frequently using new words.
  • Take free classes - There are plenty of free classes available through Khan Academy, edX, Open2Study, Coursera, and various universities. There are also tutorials and classes on plenty of topics available on YouTube. Check your local university for discounted classes or free options on campus - my grandmother took several Spanish courses at her local university for $25 a class and was able to write letters in Spanish to my brother while he lived in Peru. A college course is a wonderful thing - even if you aren’t getting college credit.
  • Keep a blog - If you enjoy learning, but often struggle to motivate yourself to keep learning, starting a blog can be a good way to force yourself to continue learning. For me, keeping a book blog motivates me to keep reading and writing - something I needed to get back in the habit of doing as I started graduate school. It also forced me to take a look at what I read and how those books changed or influenced me - a perspective I’ve been grateful for.
  • Network - Do these ways of learning more seem like a bit much or unhelpful to your professional career? If that’s the case, networking can be an excellent way to continue learning. Making connections with people in your field can help direct your studies and open up new learning opportunities for you. For example, a recent training I attended gave me new knowledge about my field and introduced me to an individual who is an expert at what she researches. Our conversations gave me new perspective on my work and on my field and I’m working to learn more about this aspect of my field and apply it to how I work. It’s also given me a new perspective in many of my classes and someone to connect with in my field. Trainings and networking are endlessly useful in a professional world.
  • Talk to people with different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives - Maybe all these tactics still seem like a lot of effort for you. That’s okay. Expanding your group of friends/contacts can help expand your world as well. I’ve learned bits and pieces of so many things from the people I’ve interacted with. I learned about video game music from a friend of mine who is a composer. I’ve learned about teaching tactics (and American history) from an old roommate who teaches high school history. I’ve learned more than I wanted to know about computer programming from Loverboy. Surrounding yourself with people who have diverse interests, backgrounds, and perspectives expands your world and ideas and gives you easy opportunities to learn more about your world.
  • Join/start a club - Find a local running group to help you learn more about running gear and trends. Join a chess club to become more skilled and find a new group of friends. Start a book club to give you some new reading material and a chance to connect with people in your community. Not only will you make new friends, but you’ll have a chance to geek out about your interests and learn from others in your field.
  • Attend lectures (not just at school) - If taking classes seems like a big commitment for you, that’s okay - plenty of places offer lectures for interested parties. Many bookstores have lectures and book signings from local or big-name authors. Craft stores offer lectures/classes on specific craft skills. Local libraries often host interesting (and bizarre) lecturers. Look around your community for lectures and short classes that interest you.
  • Take field trips - For some folks, sitting down and picking up a book to research something can be dull and make them ansty. For these people, field trips are the way to go. Find interesting places to visit and learn everything you can about them- either from the signs and placards in the area or from doing research beforehand. A few years ago, I read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara before visiting Gettysburg. My research made my trip so much more meaningful and gave new perspective and depth to visiting the site. My dad likes to learn about old legends surrounding National Park sites before he goes camping and hiking at them. Finding a way to use your field trips to learn more can give your traveling a new and interesting edge.
  • Get outside your comfort zone -If you want to learn more, there’s no better way than doing something that pushes you a bit. If online knitting tutorials are something you enjoy and excel at, maybe it’s time to sit in on a knitting circle or take a craft class. If you read a lot, maybe it’s time to join a book club to get reading material you wouldn’t have tried on your own. Whatever you choose to do, don’t be afraid to let your learning make you a better and different person - that’s the ultimate purpose of learning, after all.

If these tips aren’t enough for you, check here, here, here, here, and here for additional thoughts and tips. Happy learning!

What tips would you add to this list? How do you keep learning?