Things I Know 233 of 365: Kids could do with a bit of boredom

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.
- Buddha

Any classroom observation form worth it’s government subsidy includes a box for the evaluator to note engagement. Sometimes it’s a likert scale – Suzie was very engaged. Sometimes it’s a percentage of the students – 75% of the students were engaged. Sometimes it’s a percentage of the class period – the majority of the class was engaged during 65% of the observed lesson. It could even be a checkbox – Were the students engaged during the observed lesson? X
Among other standards, we’re obsessed with engaging our students. If they’re not looking at us, talking to their peers, copying notes, raising their hands, tracking, SLANTing or otherwise participating, the train has clearly jumped the track.
Any sign of inertia and the lesson is damned, the teacher is ineffective and the children have been failed.
I say inertia.
When I was a little kid, we called it boredom.
There’s space for boredom in the classroom.
A few years ago, on the advice of an occupational therapist, I started having my students make a single sound together. Somewhere between a om and hm, the sound was a bit of a “mmmmm.” Everyone took a deep breath together. On the exhale, we all started making the sound. As individuals’ air ran out, they fell silent – no forcing it or trying to outlast your neighbor. After a bit of practice, we finished in complete silence. Our brains were a little bit empty.
“Can we do it again?”
“Yes. Why?”
“I feel calmer.”
“Good.”
The Buddha knew what I’m talking about. He understood the power of doing nothing and thinking about nothing.
We pretend to do this sometimes in classrooms.
“I’m going to give you some ‘think time,’” the teacher will say to the class. “I’m going to wait five seconds before I call on anyone.”
In my experience, it takes more than five seconds for the answers to come.
According to the Wall Street Journal, at Boring 2010, journalist and author Naomi Alderman put it best, “When we learn to tolerate boredom, we learn who we really are.”
I’m not arguing for classrooms of total inertia or a return to authoritarian silence as the teacher readies his lessons.
Some boredom, some interia, a piece of quietude, though, could be a lovely thing.
If every once in a while we helped students jettison their warp drives and find some silence, maybe it would help them find out who they really are.

2 thoughts on “Things I Know 233 of 365: Kids could do with a bit of boredom

  1. Pingback: 10.3.11 Weekly Learning Links | Teaching & Learning @ Trinity

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