Frequently you will notice a student in your class how is either bored or simply lazy. The definitions of these two words are different but the effects and symptoms are the same. Some children are in fact truly bored in school which in our NCLB driven world often happens to our bright kids. Even in a perfect world of individually applied differentiation boredom would exist and that is a reality that our parents and students must accept. Many of us face at least some boredom issues in our day-to-day lives as adults. To totally protect our children from boredom is to deny them a lesson in adult living.
It is nearly impossible in most cases to tell if a child is bored because they already know what you are teaching or because they refuse to participate in learning it. Testing can sometimes gives us a clue to the answer to this conundrum. But I have seen more than one smart kid tank a test on purpose from lack of any desire or need to prove what they already know. Beware of the apparently bright student who always gets exactly a 70% ‘C” on tests, for they can do the math in their head even when the test has 67 questions on it.
The student’s, ” I’m bored,” or the parent’s” he or she is bored,” is possibly now the most common of student and parent excuses/complaints.
First of all to understand this common complaint we, like Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man , ” gotta know the territory.” School, when compared to HDTV sports, action packed video games and phones that have more computing power than the antiquated computer on the teacher’s desk, is going to suffer by the comparison. The entertainment value of school , to paraphrase Lincoln, boring for some students all of the time and all of the students some of the time. Many students today are way too far down the primrose path of instant gratification and lack of any reasonable self-discipline habits. Many live in a world of rapid fire positive reinforcement and constant no penalty do-overs that was created not by them but by the adults around them. This is currently endemic in our society. It is difficult for some kids and parents to understand that school must operate under a different set of rules than those found at home or in video games. Things have changed from when the statement, ” I’m bored,” resulted in a request to go mow the lawn with a push mower or clean the basement floor with a scrub brush instead of the current. ” let’s go buy you a new video game.” As Hamlet might say in response, “Aye There’s the rub.”
In too many cases when faced with the now ubiquitous ‘I’m bored,” plaint as a teacher I was never able to tell if the students were bored because they already had mastered everything or they were bored because they had never mastered anything. I would guess that it may be about 50/50 for the truly bored.
I have seen cases where boredom was a clear factor in lack of “measurable” student progress but in most cases it was more of a “why should I have to do this when I don’t want to” problem rather than boredom.
I believe the genesis of the boredom problem lies most often in the home not in the school. Students too often learn the need to be entertained constantly and the avoidance of all responsibility for their own entertainment, while at the same time failing to learn the valuable lessons of creativity and taking pride in accomplished work that introspection and self-reliance generate. Most students have learned this lesson long before teachers and schools have anything to do with it.
The boredom claim, like ignorance of the law as a defense against criminal behavior is not a valid excuse for bad behavior or failure to work in school because as Seldon told us, “all may claim it and none may prove it.”