So when I say, on the first day of term, that the first rule is to refuse to be bored, students are surprised. For one thing, most adults going back to upgrade their skills expect to be bored. Their experience of school is one of large stretches of boredom, accompanied by more or less anxiety, and interspersed with flashes of panic. Why would my class be any different?
This rule challenges their expectations. Always a good thing on the first day.
I go on, “When you’re bored, I get bored. I hate to be bored, and when I’m bored, I get crabby. So as soon as you’re bored, your job is to say so. Your job is to refuse to be bored.”
And then I wait. If I’m lucky, it will happen very soon. Someone will test the rule (and me). “Oh, this is boring. I’m so bored…”
Secretly gleeful, I try to keep a straight face. “Well, thanks for saying you’re bored. That’s exactly what I need to hear. Let’s figure out how it’s boring, so I can find something else to do.”
Then we get to have a brief conversation about what’s boring. Too easy?? That’s boring after about 30 seconds. Let’s move on to the next step. Too frustrating?? I can tolerate total frustration for about 90 seconds. Let me think of another way to teach it. Not connected to anything real?? Let’s leave it and find another way to work that is better connected.
Notice I don’t say “Why are you bored?” which implies that there may be something wrong with the student.
Instead, we focus on the activity at hand. What is the matter with it? Why is it not meeting our needs and desires at the moment?
This focus on the activity puts me and student both on the same side. We are the teaching team, trying to find a strategy that will result in learning. The student is assessing the activity, rather than being assessed by it.
But mostly this rule works because it is cool to tell the teacher that the work is boring. And much easier to say “I’m bored,” than to admit “I’m confused,” or “I feel stupid.”