Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
I’m sure there isn’t a teacher who hasn’t heard the complaint, “I’m bored!” Well, let me tell you, boredom, or the state of feeling bored, is a self-induced state—meaning, we have control over the feeling of boredom.
So what are we to do when students say they are bored? First, we need to help our kids define their boredom. Feelings are individualized—my feelings of boredom may be totally different from my best friend’s feelings of boredom. Therefore, we need to ask kids what they mean specifically by being “bored.”
People become bored for many reasons, such as being under-challenged, over-challenged, or just not interested. In most cases, I believe that students mistake lack of interest for boredom. Helping our students identify the root cause or source of their boredom can help us, as teachers, refocus students on overcoming their own boredom.
There are three ways we can help students conquer their feelings of boredom: adjust, adapt, and advocate.
How we perceive situations can affect the way we feel. Ask students to adjust the way they think about a situation and reframe it in a way that is appealing. For example, in a math class where I am overly challenged by the content, I might think about how getting better at math can significantly impact my future career options. Shifting our mindset about a class, a teacher, or an activity can help us change the way we feel about it. By taking control of our feelings, we avoid being helpless and at the mercy of others’ influences.
Sometimes, we may not be able to control our feelings about a situation. In these cases, we have to learn how to adapt—to find some value in what is being taught or happening. Focusing on interactions between individuals, documenting who is asking and answering questions, or finding imaginative ways to take notes are ways students can adapt to boring situations.
Finally, we should teach our students how to respectfully advocate for themselves. If students can’t find value or interest in a situation, helping them find a way to infuse their interests into the content can help them overcome their feelings of boredom. In a social studies class where the students are learning about the U.S. Civil War, students who are interested in sports could research games played by children during that period of time or study Abner Doubleday (the supposed inventor of baseball) and his role during the civil war. Helping students find interest in a topic—or figure out how to infuse their interest into a topic—can be a valuable way to help them avoid feelings of boredom.
Students who are self-regulated rarely succumb to boredom. They have learned how to manage their affect, behaviors, and cognition (ABCs) to find interest in or to benefit from most learning situations. Self-regulation is one of the most important skills our students can possess to be college and career ready.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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