Monday, March 31, 2014

My Brain May or May Not Be Turning to Oatmeal (aka Brain Food Experiment)


Sometimes I miss being in school.

Isn't that weird? I mean, I'm literally "in" school 50-60 hours a week, but being the teacher doesn't exactly hold the same "in school" feeling as being a student does.

There are some things I don't miss about being a student of course--I don't miss staying up until two in the morning writing papers or having all my time at home hijacked by homework and studying. But I do miss the challenge of learning, the thrill of new information, the pride of mastering a new skill or concept.

And lately, while I feel that in some ways I'm getting smarter (like in how to tell if a 13-year-old is lying to me or not), I'm not exactly sharpening my mind daily like I used to be. I mean, as much as I love reading blogs, most aren't exactly intellectual, and I find it sad that I spend more time playing Candy Crush most days than I do developing talents.

It's for all these reasons that I've imposed a new daily experiment---every day for about two weeks now, I've set a little "brain food" challenge for myself : for at least ten minutes a day, I need to do something that will sharpen my mind. Some ideas of things I've done (or that I'm thinking of doing):

- listen to a clip on YouTube of a classical melody I'm unfamiliar with
- read the newspaper
- listen to a TED talk
- participate in a free online course at Coursera
- study a section in a textbook
- find five new words in the dictionary
- spend ten minutes studying an unfamiliar artist's work
- read an article out of Time, National Geographic, or The New Yorker
- try out a few algebra, geometry, or calculus problems to refresh my skills
- next time I hear an interesting study mentioned in the newspaper or in a magazine, read the actual study report and statistics
- pick a religion I don't know much about and Google it
- watch a clip on a historical event on PBS, the History Channel, or YouTube

I know ten minutes isn't much, but many days, I find that I've far exceeded the ten minute limit because I become so absorbed in what I'm doing. And on the days I just get the ten, I figure that it's better than having spent that time playing time-sucking games on the tablet, right?

Do you ever miss being a student? What do you do to become more autodidactic (self-taught)?


  1. I definitely miss being a student. Any time I'm near a college campus (here in Nashville there are several) I get a little jealous of those students. I'm not so good at the brain food thing although some of my favorite podcasts are probably acceptable (Ted talk, a way with words, radio lab). I like your ideas, though, and I'll have to use them!

  2. Yes! I totally agree. I miss learning big time. I love that list of things. I feel like everything I learned in college is fading away from my mind and there has to be something I can do to retain it. Last year i started listening to NPR on my commute to and from work. I can barely listen to regular radio anymore. I just like how informed it keeps me and they have a lot of random stories that make my brain happy.

  3. I often cringe when I think back at how much I took going to school for granted. I love when I get the chance to learn something new. I think I'll definitely give some of these ideas a shot.

  4. Being a student is a million times better than being a teacher! I miss it so much! But my dad taught me from an early age how to educate yourself when things interest you. We loved watching the history channel together and he was always researching different topics online. I definitely take after him that way. I'm trying to learn spanish with my Rosetta Stone app (provided by my job) and I've really gotten into reading non-fiction and biographies, lately. Sometimes I forget that it's something I need in my life and I rot my brain in front of a computer or tv screen, but I'm hoping that I can get better at doing it. I'm much a much happier person when I do.

  5. Wow! I admire you! Even though im a medical student here in cold Europe, i feel like i should start doing something like that.. After school while waiting for my hubby to come home i spend time on things that are not so..wise :D I want to become more efficient!


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