It’s Okay If Your Class Is Sometimes BoringJan 25, 2022
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As a first year teacher, my primary goal was to make my students happy. To do so, I tried to be awesome… a lot. Be funny. Have intricate handshakes with six different students. Hold poetry slams at the local coffee shops for my English classes. Teach entire classes with a Scottish accent. Play Eminem Spotify on the sound system while students were working (When I do this nowadays, most students have never heard of Eminem).
And more than anything else, I did everything in my power to NOT let my class be boring.
I thought about it like this: If students get bored, they stop liking me, and if they stop liking me, they stop liking my class, and if they stop liking my class, they will lose all inspiration to succeed in life, drop out of school, and end up in a van down by the river.
Okay, maybe that was a little overdramatic, but I did equate boredom with a lack of engagement and learning.
A boredom-less class is not realistic for teachers.
Honestly, boredom was my biggest fear and I thought their boredom signified that I failed them. And so I was forcing myself to turn every activity into a huge simulation or dynamic project. I spent many late hours planning after school. I was constantly on Pinterest trying to find new ways to spice up the bland walls of my classroom. I rarely if ever sat down during the school day, and was always on my feet trying to engage every single kid at every single moment.
This fear and belief was very taxing. It takes a significant amount of work and energy to make sure 31 students are having fun 100% of the time.
Maintaining this kind of energy is not realistic as a teacher. It is not sustainable. However, just as important, it’s not realistic for students.
No boredom is not realistic for students.
To me, life is an adventure and often times it is exciting and fun. However, doing taxes isn’t exciting; it’s actually quite boring. Filling up my gas tank is not very fun. Going to the doctor isn’t fun. School improvement meetings aren’t fun. GRADING PAPERS IS NOT FUN.
The truth is, life can be boring.
And that’s okay.
There are things we must do in-between those moments that are memorable and exciting, the things that make paying bills and taking your dog to the vet worth it. I want as many of these exciting, uplifting events in my life as possible.
And I want them in my classroom a lot too.
Yet, when it became clear that maintaining a constantly-not-boring classroom was unsustainable, that I could no longer burn at that temperature without burning out, I realized school does not always have to be exciting. Entertainment is not the same thing as learning, and actually, some of the best learning happens when we are bored.
Boredom is okay.
After this realization, I still played Eminem on Spotify while my students worked (Content filter: NOT explicit). I still convinced 14 year-olds to read their poetry at public open mic nights. You better believe I still talked like a character from Braveheart during class.
But I also had students sit in silence and research the history of South African diamond mines. And drilled in the concepts of simple and compound sentences. And gave assessments that let me know if they learned anything from our class time together. And I sat down to grade papers while they silently read.
I let my students be bored.
And it is in these moments where students pushed through the boredom because they know that what they are learning is meaningful and will have an impact on their lives, that I can sit back and be proud of the work that I am doing- even if it is sometimes a little boring.
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