Teacher Survival Kit: When a Student Says, “I’m Bored.”

Time goes by slowly when one is bored!

 

You have channeled the active energy of the new school year into a positive learning environment and worked hard to create meaningful learning experiences, while building a sense of community.

 

Classroom arrangement promotes optimum engagement. And yet, a parent tells you, “My child is bored in class.” You ponder solutions and/or your shortcomings. Never a good thing.  

 

What does it mean when a child says s/he is bored?  

 

It’s impossible for any teacher to keep boredom at bay for all students, all of the time. Despite relevant content and a positive learning environment, students have different interests, needs, and strengths. Engaging content for one student may be boring for another. Students learn in different ways, and what works for some students, may not work for others.

 

Todd Rose, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says the American education system treats boredom as a “character flaw. We say, ‘If you’re bored in school, there’s something wrong with you.’” He recommends adding more choice to the classroom by assigning more hands-on projects, in which students have control over their learning.  

 

The impact of choice and student interest is also highlighted in an Educational Leadership article that describes how “when 5th and 6th graders were asked to draw their typical learning experiences, they often put books and teachers and chalkboards in their pictures—but not themselves (Bishop & Pflaum, 2005). But when they depicted learning they liked, their own images were front and center.”

 

“I’m bored” can be a result of assigned work that is too difficult or too easy. Sometimes, hard work is boring. A National Association of Elementary School Principals report explains how learning multiplication facts requires time and work that may not be fun.  

  • A child may question, “Why bother learning that stuff when I have a calculator or a computer?” (Some children also learn that saying “I’m bored” is a way to get their parent’s attention.)
  • The report suggests helping children learn to take responsibility for boredom to increase independence and maturity.  
  • Much satisfaction comes from completing routine tasks well and on time. My sixth grade flute friend is thrilled she can perform a three octave chromatic scale. It’s routine now, but it took dedication and practice.  

Conversely, students who learn and retain information quickly may dislike the routine and drill of learning math facts. They have already mastered the facts and need to be challenged. These “fact masters” require learning experiences that have a higher degree of complexity such as:  

 

The product of the two numbers is 27. The quotient is 3.

What are the numbers?  

 

What do you think are the causes of classroom boredom? Learning choices and differentiation are two approaches to prevent it.

 

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity

debra@ifthencreativity.com

 

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