I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it first hand. I see it in all grade levels, first through fifth. Students disengaged. Students going through the checklist of school. Students not putting thought into work. Students asking, “Is this enough?” “Is this OK?” Is this good?” “Do I have to do this?”
I never liked when students, or my own children, for that matter, say they are bored. I remember in a graduate course an instructor saying that kids are bored because they are not choosing to be involved in what is going on in the classroom. She said, “Boring people are bored.” But are they? I’ve been bored in my life but I don’t think I’m that boring to be around. Here’s what happens when I’m bored, I find something to occupy my thoughts. So yes, when I was sitting in YOUR meeting, when you showed me a power point with a thousand bullet points. I read it faster than you read it to me and I was bored. But, I didn’t accept the boredom as mine. I saw the boredom as yours. It’s not me, it’s you. Instead of “being bored”, I found something to do. Maybe I started the biggest, longest, most colorful flower vine doodle of my doodling career. Or I hopped on my email and started reading and answering messages. Or I may have started texting a friend on the outside to know that life still existed out there. Or maybe I jumped into my Google Drive and continued working on something that I had been procrastinating on and found you just gave me lots of time to take care of it. Some of us who get bored, find something to do within that boredom. So do our students. They doodle, talk, fidget, etc because of boredom. It’s not them, it’s us!
How do we give our students experiences that remove or at least lessen the boredom? I don’t think the answer is a song and dance. Entertainment does not take the place of boredom. I believe high interest and a need for thinking does. I could use all the educational jargon: engage, empower, choice, voice, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t want to go there. Those words don’t have the same meaning to me as they used to. They have been overused, misused and feel useless in many conversations. Let’s just talk straight. Kids need to feel like they matter, their opinions matter and that they can be in charge of their learning!
How can we overcome this epidemic? The solution is simple: put students in charge of their learning. Give them the tools, experiences and space for conversations that allow them to go after their own learning. Let them know their opinions matter and will be heard and honored in your space. Give them chances to form and express their opinions. Let them know they matter to you, to their community, to their world. Give them opportunities to make choices that matter for others as well as themselves.
Less of me, more of them.
Stop doing to and start doing for. There is a difference.
Thanks to Educon 2.9, PETE&C 2017, @TFerlick, @1RossPollack and Harvard Ed Magazine: Bored Out of Their Minds for the help in formulating my thoughts.