> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: Am I boring you?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Am I boring you?


Vicki Davis blogged recently about a story that she had seen on another teacher's blog, concerning a Canadian pupil getting into trouble for writing an essay about being bored. According to a local newspaper the pupil was not allowed to deliver his essay in front of the class, because the school deemed it to be disrespectful to a teacher. Here's the original story as reported in a local paper.

I was interested in the story for a variety of reasons, not least, because like most teachers I think a lot about how to teach in an engaging way and get disheartened if I think I'm being boring.

Also, right now, in school, I have my S3 (14 year olds) writing a persuasive essay on the future of education and have asked them to look at what they think helps pupils get involved at school. A lot of them are looking at the link between boredom and bad behaviour :) Interesting reading.

I should also confess that I wrote an essay when I was in S3 complaining about boredom which ended up with me in the deputy headteacher’s office. And, no she wasn't delighted with my wit and perspicacity.

I like the comments that this blogging teacher made - ‘Teaching students how to deal with boredom is teaching them a life skill. They think they are bored now-just wait until they hit life outside of school.’ At the same time, as a teacher I am hoping not to provide too many pointers in this area...

In the Canadian story above however, the real issue for me as a teacher, is not about providing pupils with ways to combat boredom, it's about teaching pupils how to critique their world effectively and responsibly. This story after all was not about someone expressing an opinion alone, but about giving the speech in front of a class.

So, the school exercised its judgement and deemed the speech disrespectful to the teacher. They saw the speech, and made a judgement on it. Good for them. Who taught the pupil to write and frame a speech, and gave him the confidence to express his opinion in the first place? Presumably the school. Would they really be doing him a favour failing to teach him about when it is appropriate to use those skills?

Being bored is a complex issue. 'Boring' is code for a lot of things. I know that Pupil X says ‘This is boring!’ because she is finding something difficult to understand. Pupil Y says it because he is trying to get a reaction from me, or as a way of avoiding work. Pupil Z really does find my subject (and me) boring and -sometimes -I will be able to do something about it.

The touchstone I use is ‘Do I find this boring?’ because if I do I will certainly find it difficult to create enthusiasm. If I have to teach something uninspiring, I try to find ways to make it more interesting to myself first.

Why did I write my ‘this is boring’ essay in third year. I was bored. But not for long…




6 comments:

Neil Winton said...

I know what you mean about not being inspired at times by a topic and so not being as enthusiastic as you might otherwise be when teaching it to pupils... the words 'subject-verb-stereotype-sentences' spring to mind!

Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

Well, yes. I find myself resorting to Latin. Seriously.

Sid O'Neill said...

Interesting post. I particularly liked the part where you described what various pupils mean when they claim to be bored.

Wendy said...

Very interesting post. Would love to know how you structured the persuasive writing unit on boredom.

Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

Wendy: I didn't start out with it on my list of topics :) I got my pupils to read a few articles on education (like the Time magazine article 'Bringing our schools out of the 20th century' December 10th 2006) -and they got onto the subject of what makes education engaging. The 'what makes it boring' issue was a corollary.

Cass said...

Interesting post. I think young people definitely need to learn how to deal effectively with boredom, and not just in a school environment. After all, boredom definitely seems to be a contributing factor to anti-social behaviour such as vandalism etc.