6 Beneficial Things They Made You Stop Doing in School
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 ...
"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.
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."
"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.
"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?"
"Stop Fidgeting and Pay Attention!"
You know that kid. Hell, there's a good chance you were that kid. The one who wouldn't sit still in class, constantly playing with whatever he happened to have lying on his desk. Give him a pencil and he'll start tapping it, shaking it, fidgeting with it until somebody screams at him. Then, five minutes later, he's at it again.
He, incidentally, is just doing what comes naturally ... and making himself healthier in the process.
"This is my yoga."
Children are, by design, active creatures who tend to repeat motions. Your average kid is characterized by bouts of bursting energy, then periods of rest. Hence, when forced to sit still or do monotonous activities for extended periods of time, fidgeting comes naturally to them. And since a fairly large chunk of your average school day consists of those exact elements, all those erasers and pencils are going to start looking really attractive in their eyes before long.
Now, we understand that the teachers get annoyed by this. Watching a classroom full of squirming, fidgeting children for an extended period of time would be enough to make Gandhi spin-kick a hole in a brick wall. But sadly, restricting this behavior is a huge dick move on teachers' part -- by doing so they will actually risk the very health of their students. Because fidgeting is what keeps you skinny. Seriously. And that's a big deal, when methods for fighting childhood obesity are the subject a raging debate worldwide.
Fat kids: Sad or adorable?
Fidgeting, like all movement, burns calories. If you make a habit out of it, as in, learn to do it as a kid, it contributes heavily to something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis aka NEAT (see what they did there?). This is basically the amount of calories you burn just by going about your day. Fidgeting adds no fewer than 350 extra burned calories to this amount. That's the equivalent of a 30-minute run, without any extra work. Daily.
According to research, NEAT could actually be the very reason why some people are fat and some skinny; people with low NEAT rating tend to sit more still than those with a high one. See, that's the best thing in the NEAT scenario: The rating is thought to be modifiable in children, so they make a habit out of it. How? By encouraging fidgeting, that's how.
If Jimmy here keeps being an asshole, he might just make it to 100.
The implications of this are mind-boggling: It is a possibility that within a couple of decades the whole Great American Weight Issue could be solved, or at least greatly diminished, if Mrs. Stevens could just stomach the fact that little Billy likes to play with his ruler.
"You have two choices. Volleyball, or an hour of acting like hyperactive little bastards."
"Stop Doodling and Pay Attention!"
If you're an adult, you probably indulge in idle doodling whenever a notepad and a boring meeting collide. If you're a kid, it's every time there is a boring lecture. Many tens of millions of stick figures and band logos have made their way onto the printed page thanks to this. Then you got caught and your teacher showed the whole class that flying unicorn you had been idly crafting, to the amusement of everyone. Cue laughter, childhood trauma.
"One day, I'll build a unicorn so huge it destroys them all!"
You can see why it would irritate the teacher so much; visible doodling is just short of falling asleep on the spectrum of ways to show somebody you're bored by what they're saying. But for the kid, it's usually not even a conscious thing -- you may hate drawing and you still find your hand automatically reaching for a pencil when things get really boring. That's exactly what makes it so offensive -- it is a visual cue of your involuntary zoning out, giving away the fact that the teacher has not captured your attention.
It's a bit unfair, really, because all you were doing was helping yourself concentrate on what the teacher was saying.
Every page of dicks represents hard-won knowledge.
Doodling is in fact the exact opposite of what people think. By preventing the brain from lapsing into a brainfart-coma during boring tasks such as, you know, lectures, it actually helps you concentrate a lot better than a non-doodler is able to.
Another sociology student concentrates on the lecture.
So, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, doodling plays an important role in keeping you alert and preventing your fall into total daydream mode.
Hey, speaking of daydreaming ...
What? This, too? Is science seriously trying to tell us that every time we zone out and inevitably start thinking about boobs -- only to get rudely dragged back to reality by our teacher -- we're actually doing something even remotely beneficial?
Well, what if we told you those idly imagined mind-boobs are one of the greatest problem solving tools your brain has?
"There's a symphony of tits inside my head right now."
Yes, of course it turns out daydreaming itself has its benefits too.
While daydreaming may seem to be procrastination of the highest degree, it can actually be extremely useful both as a thinking tool and stress relief. Which is just as well, seeing as we spend up to a third of our waking hours daydreaming.
More, during math class.
You may be familiar with the fact that we only actively use a small fraction of our brain at any given moment. That's the part you use for, say, worrying about a difficult presentation or trying to figure out what the hell Teach is trying to say during class. That's also the part you use for thinking about all the random stuff that pops in your mind while daydreaming.
The thing is, underneath that surface you have a whole damn ocean of problem solvin' brain cells that sometimes just get annoyed by your surface thoughts and kindly draw your attention to that Saints Row 3 pre-order or, indeed, the ever popular boobs. That's what daydreaming is -- while you seem to be far away mentally, huge chunks of your brain are activated and problem solving like there ain't no tomorrow. This is why you'll hear people joke that they have some of their best ideas in the shower, or on the toilet. Sometimes solving a problem requires you to stop concentrating on solving the problem and letting your mind drift.
He's planning his D&D campaign and curing AIDS right now.
Really, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to stop your mind from wandering because, if you think about it, bacon is like the best, isn't it and you know this building wouldn't be very secure in the event of a zombie attack and oh look that that stain on the floor is sort of shaped like Texas.
Pauli Poisuo is a member of the Wordplague writers community. Go say hi on their forums or take a peek at his blog.
For other ways your teachers have mislead you, check out 6 Books Everyone (Including Your English Teacher) Got Wrong and 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention.