It's easy to think of a classroom as a battle of wills between kids who want to dick around all day and teachers who actually want to make them learn. But it's not that simple.
A lot of the things that will get you yelled at in a classroom are, in fact, beneficial to learning. They're just really annoying to other people (and the teacher). Consider this the next time you hear ...
#6. "Stop Wasting Your Time Texting Your Friends!"
Teachers must look at the cell phone as the modern plague on their profession. If you are in school now, or went to school during the era when text-capable phones became common, chances are you've been scolded for texting in class at least once. If you're really unlucky, you might even have been on the receiving end of the dreaded "Why don't you come up here and read us what you've been writing there" treatment.
"You can have it back at the end of the semester, if it doesn't sell on eBay."
But teachers have a reason to hate texting above even other high-tech time-wasters like portable games. After all, texting is also ruining our ability to spell, what with all the L8Rs and rampant use of the letter Z. It is seen as the scourge of new generation -- and even the death of English language as we know it.
Everybody should stop and take a deep breath, because texting actually improves both your language skills and your ability to pay attention in class.
"Holly balls, I understand calculus!"
Yes, you read that right. Research says texting actually improves language skills. And the earlier you start, the better it works. The data shows the correlation is direct: The better you are at texting, the better your reading and writing skills, even if you use that horrible textese shorthand.
Mark van Laere
It's not Hemingway, but it is a form of literacy.
Sounds counter-intuitive? Really think about it. The kids aren't texting instead of writing flowery essays about the state of modern democracy. They're texting instead of not writing at all. How many kids would ever willingly write a sentence if texting and email didn't exist? Hell, how many would write poetry? Thanks to texting, we have a whole new generation of writers, getting massive amounts of practice at forming thoughts into words -- and concise words, at that, thanks to character length restrictions.
And as for texting in class: It has its place too, provided it is used in moderation. Texting, being a quiet and fairly nondisruptive type of communication, has been found to improve the ability to concentrate. This is only in relation to other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, email and face-to-face conversations, though. Still, in the hectic environment of a crowded classroom, sometimes "They could be doing worse" is as good as it gets.
"Well at least they aren't selling drugs. Openly."
#5. "Spit Out That Gum!"
Gum-chewing students are to many teachers what chaps are to exotic dancers -- a chafing yet often unavoidable occupational annoyance. Unsurprisingly, the teachers' forums are teeming with instructions on how to cut that nasty habit at root.
From the student's point of view, that seems like an arbitrary rule. Who cares, as long as you chew quietly and don't stick it in some other kid's hair? Well, maybe they're worried that chewing gum will make you too smart.
This kid is planning mayhem. We can see it in his eyes.
Chewing gum can and does help you focus and concentrate, not to mention relieve your boredom and tension. Hell, the military uses it to keep the soldiers sharp. It can also improve your memory for as much as 35 percent.
Oh, and it can help you with weight issues, being an appetite suppressant.
"I'd recommend at least three hundred gumballs a day. Or cigarettes.
Literally anything that isn't more fried chicken-and-gravy."
Now, what kind of demographic could find use for a memory enhancer that helps them concentrate and perform tedious tasks, like, say, all-nighters before exams with minimum stress?
Some teachers are slowly getting the hang of this, but many schools still tend to view chewing gum as if it had slept with their mom. Or, more accurately, like it had forced someone to spend hours scraping petrified wads from the bottom of desks with a chisel. If they could just invent a gum-proof desk, we'd be set.
If that's a public high school desk, a good half of that is nicotine gum.
#4. "Put That iPod Away and Concentrate On Your Reading!"
Kids tend to like their music, and they tend to like it wherever they are. This has been a source of annoyance for teachers since the days of the transistor radio (prior to that, children were forced to hire a group of minstrels to follow them around, which were much easier to spot). This source of conflict has only gotten worse with the advent of MP3 players, prompting many schools to try to ban them completely.
"We've banned cell phones, MP3 players, gum, drugs and good food. How could attendance possibly be down?"
After all, what could be worse than a kid listening to noisy, thumping beats when he or she is supposed to be studying? How could anyone possibly concentrate with that racket banging around their ears?
Actually, not only is it possible to concentrate despite the loud music, the music actually helps.
These guys have Amon Amarth playing in the lab 24/7.
Music can absolutely be used to improve your studying. You have to use it correctly, granted, but isn't that the case with all learning tools? A ruler can take someone's eye out if used improperly.
Now, we're not talking about the "classical music = big brains" theory known as the Mozart Effect -- that theory, as least as it's popularly known, is largely horseshit. But there are still a lot of benefits with music for somebody trying to focus on a task. First, the obvious: It blocks out annoying distractions. This improves performance and helps you concentrate and relax. The only real limitations for listening to music in the classroom are that it should be moderately paced, nonpercussive and preferably instrumental. That last part makes sense -- if you're trying to read words, having a guy screech other words into your ear could divide your attention. You're trying to memorize Shakespeare, but all you retain is the lyrics to "My Humps."
"I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk, Get you love drunk off my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump ..."
But what if you enjoy harder music, and enjoy it good and loud? Surely rock, metal, trance and other musical styles with a beat that induces spastic fist pumping can't be good for classroom?
In the classroom, probably not. But when studying? That's another matter completely. Evolution is your friend here, as it turns out that "music with a prominent beat stimulates an increased arousal in students which overrides the effect of environmental distracters." Also, it was found to improve the students' short-term memory and decrease hyperactivity.
These kids are all studying for their dissertation.
See, it turns out our body is pre-wired to derive pleasure from loud musical beats. So when suitable music (your body prefers rock and sports chants) hits it loud enough, it stimulates said pleasure centers to create a kind of high. This acts as an aural drug that helps you become calmer, happier and more responsive -- all traits affecting positively on your learning and studying ability. Just keep it on a non-deafening level and use good enough headphones that won't leak noise -- people nearby will feed your iPod to you otherwise.
"Is that Matchbox 20? And you're out in public?"