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Brain Training for Teachers

Being a teacher means that you don’t just help young people to learn on a daily basis, you also learn a lot yourself in the process. From new words to historical dates, chemical compositions to artistic styles, teaching is the perfect career for people who are passionate about lifelong learning.

However, though you’re always busy, schedules and general repetition can lead to the brain being excellent in some areas but a little sluggish in others. In order to keep your grey matter growing, here are a few brain training tips that are perfect for fitting into your personal time.

Write using your non-dominant hand

Here’s a nice and easy one to start with. The majority of us have just the one hand that’s dominant, using it for everything from turning a screwdriver to flipping a coin. Whilst the muscles in that arm will naturally be a little stronger, you can also bulk up your brain by trying some writing exercises with your non-dominant hand.

By carrying out a task that’s usually very simple but which is suddenly quite complicated, your brain really kicks in to improve your hand-eye coordination. Even just writing your name or a simple sentence over and over again is a great brain workout, plus you’ll improve the overall dexterity of your non-writing hand in the process.

Draw a map of your neighbourhood from memory

This is a fun challenge that can really keep you busy. Start by drawing a basic bird’s eye view of the area around your house – where the individual houses are, backyards, alleyways etc. Now go more in-depth by adding in other items and structures, such as telegraph poles, post boxes, trees, flowerbeds and so on.

Now spread our into other streets and go into as much detail as you wish, such as thinking about which houses have solar panels and how many cars each driveway usually holds. The more minutiae you can add without cheating by looking out of the window, the greater your memory capacity will become.

This doesn’t have to be done all in one go. In fact, you can look around each morning on your way to work and memorise new information, then add it to your handmade map later in the evening. The key is to keep on going for as long as you can – maybe you’ll end up mapping the entire city on sheets of A4!

Do sums in your head

No pencil and paper for this one, and certainly no calculator. Doing mental arithmetic doesn’t just improve your numerical skills, it also helps you to get better at plotting, memorising and thinking logically. Start small in relation to your current maths skills, then make it harder as you go along. This could be a case of incorporating larger numbers, ratios, square numbers, sequences – whatever will work up a mental sweat!

Put your taste buds to the test

This is an interesting one that you may not have come across. When eating a meal or drinking something like a smoothie or herbal tea, take your time and try to detect the individual ingredients and flavours. Even if you’ve prepared the meal or beverage yourself, focusing on the unique herbs, spices, characters and sensations will keep your brain busy whilst you refuel your body.

Learn a new sport

It’s tempting to think that physical training and brain training are totally separate things, yet learning a new sport requires mind and body working closely in unison.

The more you have to think and respond, the better, so try something like tennis, golf or yoga. If you don’t want to get too tired out, even playing pool or darts allows you to move your body whilst calculating factors such as angles, trajectories and possible outcomes.

Get in touch

We specialise in marketing and design for the education sector. To find out more about how we can help, get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365.

Students: Make This Your Best University Semester Yet

Calling all universities and lecturers out there! If you’re reading this article, we suggest that you share it with your students to inspire them for the coming semester. You never know, it might make your own semester run a bit smoother too.

Plan ahead

First off, even if you love a classic student wall planner or physical diary, we recommend that you also use an app such as Google Calendar. This way you’ll always know where you are and what’s coming up – just make sure to add updates to each format you use, which is much easier if it’s a maximum of two.

Secondly, put everything in your planner as soon as you find out about it. Obviously you’ll add things like essay deadlines, exam dates and so on, but it also helps if you include social events, fitness sessions, time with friends and family, even things like dentist appointments and haircuts. As a university student you have a lot on your plate, so logging it all in a calendar helps you to stay on top of things whilst removing the risk of double-booking.

Final tip for this section, if you’re using a digital planner, make the most of any features it may have. For instance, different colours for categories such as lectures, deadlines, socials and sports can make everything super clear. Also, set pop-ups to a timeframe that works for you – receiving a notification fifteen minutes before an event when you live twenty minutes from the campus isn’t going to do you any favours.

Look after your body and mind

Student living is awesome, isn’t it? Takeaways with friends, plenty of social events, lots of late nights and as few early mornings as you can manage. It’s fun, we get it, we’ve been there ourselves, and that’s why we understand the toll it can take on your physical and mental wellbeing.

We’re not saying you should become a teetotal hermit who eats nothing but quinoa (unless you want to be), but you need the self-awareness to know when you require more sleep, healthier food, better exercise and prolonged fresh air, combined with the self-discipline to put it into effect. This will ensure that you don’t burn out and can enjoy partying alongside a productive learning journey.

Grow up a bit

We don’t mean this in a patronising way, it’s just that it’s very easy to live like a student even after you leave uni. For instance, some graduates still rely on their parents for everything from money to mealtimes – this dependency can always be lessened in some way, from getting a part-time job, to offering to cook meals for the family.

As for you, you’re still at university and most likely live in student accommodation; if this is the case, start adopting good habits that you know you’ll need in later life, such as maintaining a clean home, always paying bills on time, checking the post instead of putting it to one side, and investing time into seeking out interesting opportunities that will aid your continuous personal development.

Work on your personal brand

This is an interesting one that you might not have expected, yet it’s very important. Your personal brand is how you market yourself to potential employers and evolves constantly. It may sound a bit corporate but it covers all aspects of your individuality, from your academic achievements, to membership of any societies and sports clubs, volunteering or charity work you’ve done, causes that you’re passionate about, enriching pastimes, and anything else that you feel sums up who you are.

In terms of conveying your personal brand, this can include multiple platforms, such as your CV, social media activity, LinkedIn profile, business cards, a personal blog or website, testimonials and references, and a network of people who can support you when the time comes. That last one is tailored around your activity – your lecturers and any previous employers are key members of your network, plus you should get to know your university’s careers advisors, reach out to potential mentors, and try to meet up with members of the community (business or otherwise) who you think can offer invaluable knowledge and guidance. By getting your personal brand up to scratch, you’ll find that post-university life becomes a whole lot smoother.

Get in touch

We’re here to help schools, colleges and universities to get the most out of their marketing, benefitting teachers and students alike. To find out more, get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365.

Mental Health Tips for Students

Whilst it’s an accepted fact that students at secondary school, college and university will succumb to periods of stress, there are plenty of techniques and practices for staying on top of not just studies, but also mental wellbeing.

Take things one step at a time

This may sound like obvious advice, yet it’s amazing how many students go through times of intense anxiety simply because they’re thinking about everything all at once. Whether it’s a good old-fashioned handwritten timetable complete with colour coordinated areas, all the way to clever digital tools that make it easy for them to picture their day, week or semester clearly, encouraging students to plan their time will pay off no end.

Work together

When students discuss subjects in groups or do homework and assignments with friends, so much more can be achieved when they have a study partner. This can be applied to almost every area of learning, including the memorisation of facts and figures, the analysing of difficult topics, giving feedback on each other’s essays, or simply having someone to ask questions when a subject is proving to be difficult territory.

Make time for life

No one ever got anywhere by working constantly. Reading a book for pleasure, getting a little exercise, grabbing a glass of water and a bite to eat, catching up with friends and family – all of these small activities help to refresh the mind and body, which can mean the difference between burning out and doing a fantastic job.

Set realistic goals

You can’t excel at everything immediately and all in one go. A student needs to decide what they want to achieve within a certain amount of time, be it an afternoon or an entire academic year. The key is to aim high but not to the point where they’ve set themselves up to fail. If goals are achieved, always make new ones; if not, focus on new ways of tackling problematic areas.  

Take mental breaks

Even if a student takes regular breathers to eat, watch TV or go outside, chances are they’re still thinking about their studies, at least a little bit. The path to achieving the best results is to allocate times when you simply don’t think about them at all. This could range from meditation, mindfulness techniques, prayer, relaxation exercises, or taking a stroll through a green space and living in the moment. If they do this on a regular basis, they’ll find that their brain works a lot more efficiently.

Learn how to deal with stress

Even when following all of the above tips, stress can still rear its ugly head. When this happens, it can be incapacitating and ruin an otherwise productive study session. As soon as a student starts to feel stressed, they should turn away from the books or computer monitor, take a deep breath and think about something that makes them happy. This might sound a bit corny, but it can be extremely effective and sometimes causes serotonin to be released by the brain, which can have a speedy calming effect.

Get in touch

Whilst we’re here to help educators with their design and marketing, we’re also experts at developing strategies, methodologies and company cultures that help teachers and students to get the most out of education. We’ll help you to take the stress out of education through powerful planning and clever implementation. Get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365.

Teaching Children About Climate Change

With retailers of all shapes and sizes adopting ecologically sustainable practices, not to mention 15-year-old activist Greta Thunberg speaking at high-profile gatherings around the world, it may come as no surprise that climate change is making its way into the curriculum in a big way. A recent development was four young students from Cheney school in Oxford launching a petition that called for more lessons on the subject.

With over 81,000 signatures, this petition will hopefully mean that it won’t take long for climate change to be properly integrated into everyday teaching, rather than as a minor add-on to geography and science. In the meantime, some educators in the UK have fast-tracked the process by enrolling at the Climate Change Teacher Academy, which is run by the United Nations.

The specially designed CCTA online courses offer training to primary and secondary school teachers so that they have all of the knowledge required when confronted with tough questions. For instance, though every teacher may know a little about plastic waste and global warming, potential discussions are often cut short due to lack of in-depth, up-to-date knowledge on a topic that will affect the rest of every young person’s life. In fact, ongoing damage to the environment has a large impact on them right here and now, as younger people are often more susceptible to heat exhaustion and respiratory conditions.

Meanwhile, the local authority of North of Tyne plans to become the first place in the world to have a UN-accredited climate change teacher in every state primary and secondary school. Its new mayor, Jamie Driscoll, says that this will be achieved by giving all schools in the area the opportunity to train a member of staff in giving lessons on global heating and the impact of the climate crisis.

This is all amazing news and we hope that more schools commit time and resources into tackling the climate change problem. If you want to start right away, here are some tips and topics that you can incorporate into lessons very easily:

  • The first thing that children and their families can do together is decrease the amount of waste created in their homes. From turning the taps off whilst brushing their teeth, to taking bags to the shops and replacing plastic straws with metal ones, these small and simple practices will make a very big difference.
  • Composting unwanted food is another great move, which can be achieved by either creating a compost heap in the garden or using the food caddy that’s provided by most local authorities. If neither of these are possible or available, many families ask neighbours or nearby allotment owners if they’d like food waste for their compost heaps.
  • Encourage children to fall in love with nature by exploring ecosystems both in your lessons and outside the classroom. Something as simple as taking a moment for the class to appreciate blue skies or getting a little fresh air on the school’s grounds helps children to engage with the natural world more often.

We specialise in marketing and design for the education sector, with environmental responsibility at the core of everything we do. To find out more about how we can help you to teach climate change topics in your school, get in touch at hello@bigpinkfish.com or call us on 0161 507 3365.