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15 Clever Little Hacks That Teachers Can Use

15 Clever Little Hacks That Teachers Can Use

Teaching is a hard job. After four weeks of it, I now believe that teachers do have special talents. In these four weeks, I delivered interactive workshops to young people across the southwest of the U.K. as a mission for a startup I work for. I came across a lot of what teachers come across every day and have gathered together a list of little hacks to make their jobs a little easier.

1. It’s all in the palms.

One thing that we teach students is body language, and you will be surprised how little tweaks in the way you hold yourself impact you. Your palms can be useful if you direct them towards the people you are talking to. If you keep your hands open with palms down this helps to communicate that you are certain about what you are talking about. You can let your hands speak for you.

2. Get students engaged with technology.

Smartphones and tablets can be useful if used in moderation. We got students engaged with using Google to search for certain things on their smartphones. This went well for the students, as utilizing their web-enabled phones is something that they do in the real world. They need resources at hand, literally. Try starting off with something as simple as suggesting each student research what happened on a particular date. There are many ways to use technology in the classroom, and taking advantage of the technology they have every day (i.e. smartphones) will make a huge impact.

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    3. Keep your tables relevant to your subject.

    You need to keep constant relevance with your work. If you teach science, you need to immerse yourself in science.

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    You need to create table labels with inspirations of that subject. For example, when teacing science you would have famous scientists (Einstein, Newton, Galileo) tables. For business, you would have famous entrepreneurs (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey, James Dyson).

    This will help motivate the table to work together and be inspired along the way.

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      4. Always keep time focused, make sure they always see a timer

      With tasks you need to replicate the real world. For tasks greater than 10 minutes, add a timer on the board. This will push them to work towards deadlines. Start this from an early age and it will be very effective for their future. When they are in jobs, they will need to be very time focused. Simply type “Timer” into Google and one will pop-up.

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      Screenshot 2014-09-20 at 13.21.28

        5. Rules (hand in the air)

        Hands in the air is a fantastic tool for control. This may sound extremely simple, but being able to plaster your room with the rules can be a small gauge that can have massive impact.

        6. Use PicMonkey.com to create positive posters

        When you assign your students to create a poster or flyer, I would recommend using something a little different that doesn’t limit them. Free tools like PicMonkey can be very effective in coming up with beautiful designs.

        7.  Engage with your parents through email

        Use MailChimp to engage with the parents. MailChimp is a email tool that will allow you to set up a class newsletter. This is a great way to keep updating parents about important dates, homework and details. Many teachers send home notes in folders that can get lost in backpacks, or stuffed in pockets and run through the washer. Ensure the parents get their notes by putting them right in their email inbox.

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          8. Make a student opportunity board

          Organize one side of your wall to be a space for students to collaborate and promote opportunities to each other, like a community board. This will give students the chance to see key opportunities and dates to change their lives. This can also be a great way to engage with motivation posters (if you are so bold).

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          9. Inspire the entrepreneurs–the sweet sellers

          If you find sweets and price tags in a student’s bag, don’t get mad straight away. Instead, call them aside after the lesson and chat with them about how they won’t be able to sell sweets anymore, but they could run a new project/small business of their choice that is within the school boundaries. This will excite them and kick off their entrepreneurial side in a more valuable way.

          10.  Visualize the mission–use cool software

          Screenshot 2014-09-22 at 22.33.25

            There are so many great tools out there where you can visualize and map a class’s progress or the tasks over the week. One that I’ve found success with is Casual. It’s a nifty website that will allow you to organize events, dates and more. Try it out; it will impress you and get you organized.

            11. Use Evernote + their email feature

            Evernote is another one of those cool tools on the web and accessible on smartphones and tablets. Spread the word to your students. This will be a useful center for sending them information to work on and edit right away, like an on-the-go portfolio. See the Emailing guide from Evernote for more information.

            12. Use Noisedown app

            There is an app called Noisedown that helps monitor the decibels (sound) within the room. If the sound goes over its limit, it will alert the class that the noise is getting too loud and that they should lower the volume. It is very interactive for the students, as it becomes a “mini-mission” for them to work together to keep it below the alert tone. The app is free and easy to download.

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            13. Velcro on the carpet

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              I found this tip on BuzzFeed. Velcro on carpets will help to distinguish seating positions, a great and cheap way to keep order. You can also place Velcro on the carpet, have the children stand in a circle, and use different colors to divide the children into groups (all blues together, all greens together, etc.).

              14. Start with a joke

              To help keep your students engaged, get a book of jokes. Read one aloud to your class every morning, or ask for your students to share their (clean and appropriate) jokes. Start the day with laughter and see the results.

              Check out these jokes if you need suggestions: http://www.prongo.com/jokes/index.asp.

              15. End with a quote

              Have a quote book and do the same. This is an awesome way to inspire the students before they head towards home.

              To get you started, here is a great resource for finding inspirational quotes: http://www.inspirational-quotes.info

              Featured photo credit: the map/Sylwia Bartyzel via unsplash.imgix.net

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              Last Updated on July 17, 2019

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              What happens in our heads when we set goals?

              Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

              Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

              According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

              Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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              Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

              Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

              The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

              Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

              So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

              Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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              One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

              Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

              Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

              The Neurology of Ownership

              Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

              In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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              But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

              This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

              Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

              The Upshot for Goal-Setters

              So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

              On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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              It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

              On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

              But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

              More About Goals Setting

              Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

              Reference

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