Both Jenny and Evelyn commented on my last post, “Refuse to Be Bored” to the effect that the rule is easier to describe than to implement. I agree, because I know I found it difficult to learn to do.I’m writing this blog with the benefit of hindsight; and the rule about refusing to be bored, as I set it out in my post last week, did not come easy to me, nor did it fall into place all at once. I know that at first when students had the temerity to suggest that they didn’t want to do something, I got, as Jenny said, defensive.
Student: Why do we have to do this? It’s too easy—I’ve done it all before.
Me (thinking): I know you’ve done it before—but you didn’t do it well, or you wouldn’t be here doing it again. Too easy you say? Well let me skip ahead two or three chapters. I can show you hard!
Student: Do we have to do this? It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t know why we need it.
Me (thinking): Well, if you’d paid attention for the last half hour it might make sense. And since you only come half the time, I have a hard time planning a lesson that would make sense to you!
I nearly always managed not to say those thoughts out loud, but they came from my feeling defensive, and unappreciated. After all, I had spent a fair amount of energy preparing for the class. And me—boring? How could that be? What a blow to my own estimation of myself as a teacher!
To make matters worse, the complaints about the work being boring or useless or frustrating were usually delivered in whispered asides or exasperated sighs or by a certain way of pushing the work across the table; nothing in the open; nothing that was easy to respond to.
So I began to say it out loud when I noticed people drifting away—“I can see that some of you are bored. Can we stop for a minute and figure out what the problem is with this activity we’re doing? How could we make it interesting again?”
Later I developed it into the class rule that asks students to refuse to be bored—to be pro-active in saying they’ve lost interest, instead of leaving it for me to do.
So they say they’re bored. I focus on the activity—what is wrong with it? How does it need to be changed to help the learning process? I don’t say, “Why are you bored?” because that might imply there is something wrong with them.
In a similar way, when I focus on the activity, I shift away from blaming myself. I’m not boring; it is the activity that is not working here and now. As Evelyn says, the pressure is off, and I can breathe easily enough to change my lesson plan in the moment.