191. Boredom

I’ve often heard children say they’re bored. When I first started hearing it, I took it quite personally. I was their teacher. An exciting, dynamic teacher, I thought. I’d had boring teachers, and I certainly wasn’t in their league. I thought I should hurry up and become more exciting, more dynamic.
I later learned that children use the words “bored” and “boring” to describe a multitude of problems, and while it sometimes may help to try to be a little more exciting and dynamic, that’s only a piece of the solution, and not always an appropriate piece.
“Bored” may actually mean “frustrated” or “baffled.” A child may be “bored” because he/she can’t understand what “everyone else” (seldom an accurate phrase) understands. It’s hard for a child to say, “I don’t understand what we’re doing because I’m not smart enough,” but that’s what may actually be going on in a child’s mind. It’s easier to say, “I’m bored,” or, “This is boring,” and to the child, that complaint is accurate enough.
“Bored” can also mean “uninterested” because what is being taught is “too easy.” Sometimes, though a teacher may try to plan lessons that cater to children’s ability levels and learning styles, a lesson misses the mark,
and teaches children what they already know well. This phenomenon can thrill some children; it’s a relief, sometimes, to be able to coast through a lesson. But eventually, children want challenge. Learning is fun, and “learning” what has already been learned can be a drag.
A lesson can be boring even though it’s neither too easy nor too hard. It can be unrelated to anything that touches children’s lives. Children do get excited about other forms of life, other cultures, other times, and so on, and when they get excited, they start to connect. But if connecting is too difficult, they end up bored.
The teacher’s voice and style can also lead to boredom. Teaching styles and learning styles vary, and teachers need to keep that in mind in planning lessons. There are many teachers in each class, and often only one of them is an adult. The adult is in charge of coordinating the learning experiences, but even if the adult is totally fascinating, most children are not able to stay fascinated by one person all day. It does get boring.
I haven’t told you all the possible ways to interpret “boring” and “bored.” I think to do so would require more space than I have, and more to the point, it would require more time focussing on this issue. And it’s getting boring. But I ask you to treat children’s complaints of boredom not as problems, but only as symptoms of problems.

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