Sometimes we fail to connect with our students. We can see on their faces that they are not tuned in to what is being taught. Often these are the students who are disruptive in class or the ones who seem to drift off into some very creative daydream. Sometimes their parents tell us that they’re bored.

English: A bored person

Image via Wikipedia

Ok, so, let’s look at that. It’s true there are times when they are bored.

Think of times during your education when you felt that boredom. Sometimes it might have been an overwhelming heaviness and tiredness that made it so difficult for you to focus and learn. Times when you fiddled with things, distracted the person next to you (a bit like the young man in the picture), wrote yourself notes, doodled, talked behind your hand to someone else, or maybe you thought about all the things you could be doing instead of sitting through this terrible class.

Why was this? Why were you bored?

Apart from the possibility that you or your students hadn’t been getting enough sleep or that there could be something going on at home that makes it difficult to focus, there are a couple of other reasons I wanted to think about today.

Remember those parents who say their child is bored? Have you noticed that they are the ones who often are concerned that the work you are giving them is too easy?

In the learning context there are two possible reasons why students could be exhibiting boredom –

  • it is quite possible that the student does understand the work already and it is indeed too easy;
  • on the other hand, work that is beyond a student’s understanding is frustrating, can lead to anxiety and a shutting down into boredom.

At the in-service mentioned in my last post, Rhonda Filmer said, “Success is not boring!” And yes, what she says is true. This was said in defence of the possibility that students could become bored with repetition.

Rhonda was talking about the difficulties experienced by students who have dyslexia. They need specific teaching appropriate to whatever type of dyslexia they might have.

There are two main types:

  1. Children who have difficulty learning because of auditory processing (sound-based) problems. These children usually cannot hear vowel sounds in particular. Their writing reflects this. They are usually considered to be visual learners and need to be encouraged in these visual strengths; and,
  2. Children with visual processing issues, who require auditory means of learning.
  3. To complicate matters further, there are some who have difficulty retaining information through both channels. These children will not have the benefit of having either strength to help them. They will need support using a multi-sensory approach.

Rhonda told us how important it is to train those children who have sound-based problems to first of all realise that words are made up of smaller sounds (phonemes) and, then to help them relate this knowledge to letters that make up printed words (the rules of phonics). This is where some of the work done with these students can be perceived to be tedious by some and perhaps “boring”.

But as Rhonda said, “Success is not boring.” We have ourselves experienced pleasure and satisfaction when something we have worked on or practised for a long time finally “clicks” for us. Yes, we may have experienced frustration and even boredom learning the skill or concept, but maybe we have to accept that boredom is part of the journey.

If we stop something because it has become boring we may never achieve what we could have. We need to keep our eye on the goal and encourage our students to do this as well.

Let’s not be afraid of that little word “boring”. It might be part of the process.

What do you do when you’re bored?

How do you react if your students tell you they’re bored?

Next post, I will talk about some other strategies that can be used to help children who have the various types of dyslexia.