Thou shalt not bore students. When did that become the 11th commandment?

Teachers are wearing themselves out performing for kids. Shouldn’t students be the ones performing in class?

My friend used to offer a standard retort when his son complained he was bored. “If you’re bored, it might be because you’re boring.”

I marvel that any kid today complains of boredom. Their rooms are multi-media lairs; they have Instagram, Snapchat and, if they’re really bored, their mother’s Facebook page to peruse. Netflix delivers hot new shows to their laptops; Home delivery brings them hot wings while they watch.

Parents often report their kids are bored in school, usually for one of two reasons; their child is not being challenged because the material is too basic or the teacher delivers lessons in the dullest way possible.

Whenever my children told me a class was too easy and they spent the period daydreaming or looking out the window, I had my own standard response: “If you already know everything being taught and can’t bear to listen, you should have no problem getting an A.”

As someone who covers a lot of speakers, I understand some are more spellbinding than others. But I usually always find something interesting in any speech I hear.  Would I prefer all my children’s teachers be engaging, fascinating and inspiring every minute? Yes. And I wish all my bosses were that way, too. Heck, I wish I could be that way.

But we make a mistake when we expect teachers to be entertainers. And we do our children a disservice when we lead them to believe classroom is theater and they are the audience. Somehow, we have come to a point where we expect teachers to perform rather than students.

I read a wonderful essay on this topic where the writer contends we now believe teachers have to make school fun to hold the attention of a generation that cannot, will not and should not be bored for even a minute.

Teacher Laura Hanby Hudgens writes:

In a workshop I recently attended, teachers were told that kids are so attracted to video games because of the constant feedback – the progress, praise and prizes. We were encouraged to design our instruction more like a video game. How else can we expect to hold their attention? That is a frightening mentality because it has created a generation of consumer learners. Many students don’t see education as a privilege. They see it as a product. And if they don’t like the salesperson, if they aren’t impressed with how it’s packaged, they aren’t buying.

The fact is that it’s rare (except in the movies) that even the most brilliant teacher can motivate an apathetic student to embrace a lifetime of learning. On a really good day, we can spark a child’s interest in the lesson. But in the long term, the desire to learn and improve has to come from within.

The world isn’t a video game. It doesn’t always offer fun and exciting paths through the mazes of life. So unless we change the way we approach education to include an emphasis on student responsibility, and unless we give our students the basic tools they need to accept that responsibility, we really haven’t taught them much at all.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

14 comments
DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

I respectfully submit that engagement, not entertainment, is the goal that teachers should strive for. The ability to engage students in meaningful academic activity is a cornerstone of a highly accomplished teacher as defined by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Bright children should not be expected to sit quietly and fight boredom because of lack of challenge. I further submit that requiring children to be grouped in birthday-based cohorts by grade level is one of the chief drivers of this problem. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@DrMonicaHenson My observation, respectfully, is that most of the kids who complain of being bored are NOT the bright ones.  They have learned how the "bored" charge takes the pressure off of them.  I think this is an important observation.


My experience is that bright kids, rather than being "bored," find other avenues for their attention after completing that "boring" assignment.  It might be independent reading, or working with classmates, or sketching.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I was not above some theatrics to get a point across, I admit. My students (according to their parents) enjoyed being in my class.  I also experienced, as a push-in, some classes I would not have wanted my children to be in due to teacher attitude, but that is another story.


My own kids, although reasonably bright, knew never to say they were bored in class.  When I occasionally had parents say their child was bored, I would look over their grades with the parent. Then, no matter what the grades indicated, I would suggest I assign additional work to be completed at home to "take the learning to another level."  That usually ended the "bored" complaint for both child and parent.


I agree with other posters: Too many of our children expect life to be like a video game or tv show.  It isn't.  Some is about as much "fun" as watching paint dry.  Too many parents are not willing to step up and teach their child that simple fact.  There will be zoom zoom time, and there will be things that go s  l   o  w  l  y.


I remember being in first grade during reading group thinking, "Why don't they (the child reading aloud) just get ON with it!"  In my mind's eye, I would look down at my hands and watch them gnarl up into crippled arthritis hands, the other kids would read so laboriously. Now that my hands really ARE gnarled up with arthritis, I know I learned a valuable lesson.

redweather
redweather

Teachers can engage just about any student by being genuine and passionate.There's a reason they don't call teaching rocket science.

kaelyn
kaelyn

The world really isn't a video game. Every waking moment of a child's life should not be filled with fun and games. Kids don't know what they don't know, but responsible adults do. It's our job to let them know that getting an education involves hard work. It will sometimes be fun, but most of the time it won't be.

I've had it up to my eyeballs with the notion that kids need to be constantly entertained, happy all of the time, and lead to believe that they run the show. It's a recipe for disaster.

Christie_S
Christie_S

@kaelyn "I've had it up to my eyeballs with the notion that kids need to be constantly entertained, happy all of the time, and lead to believe that they run the show. It's a recipe for disaster. "


I'd also add that this is one of the major factors in classroom disruptions.  Kids truly do think that they run the show and unfortunately, many parents back them up if the teacher dares to call home.


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Christie_S @kaelyn The kids run things at home, too.


I had a parent tell me her son was easy to get along with, as long as you did what he wanted.


Hello?

readcritic
readcritic

@kaelyn Unfortunately, the TKES evaluation process allows the  administrator carte blanche to nail the teacher who does not provide the TV/video version of classroom entertainment during the observation. 

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

I have been teaching for more than forty years and I have never considered myself to be in the entertainment business. I have had the privilege of teaching many young people who have gone on to become professional people, including doctors, lawyers, and even one sitting Superior Court judge. Am I sometimes "boring?" No doubt, but every worthwhile endeavor is challenging, which may assume a certain amount of boredom. Parents, if your kids are bored, give them a book to read and put away those silly video games. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@TaxiSmith Or give them some chores to help others, unpaid.  That provides a great attitude adjustment, if done every time.  And you might be starting something good for your child!  Altruism is a cure for "boredom" as well as self-centeredness.

cuppa
cuppa

"So unless we change the way we approach education to include an emphasis on student responsibility ..."

But the message coming out of the media is that, in life, it's way more convenient to blame others for your own irresponsibility or lack of effort.