The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
– Ellen Parr
Noah and I were chilling in my godmother’s living room earlier tonight.
He and his family had caught a 5 AM flight from Topeka to D.C., so I assumed he was a bit frayed.
He told me no. He’d fallen asleep before takeoff. I asked him about missing the in-flight movie and he stared at me blankly. Evidently, this is not a feature of the Topeka-D.C. run.
I switched the subject.
“I’m guessing you’re in third grade?”
Noah shook his head.
I stopped short, noticing a decided uptick in Noah’s head shaking.
This is why I’d sat down next to Noah. He was easily the youngest person at the party in that way I remembered meaning I needed to entertain myself when I was his age.
Plus, I like talking to little kids. They give the most honest answers.
As he didn’t have the air of a dropout about him, I began to ask Noah about school.
“Who’s your teacher?”
“Do you like him?”
“What do you think about school?”
The last one surprised me.
Noah had been keeping himself busy for the better part of an hour and a half – following the dog around, walking around in circles, entering a room and whispering “Does anyone want to play Follow-the-Leader” so he didn’t get in trouble for interrupting. The kid was pretty fantastic by all accounts.
I’d totally love to teach him.
By fourth grade, though, Noah was broken.
“I don’t like school.”
“Wait, school’s awesome. How can you not like school? Give me the top three reasons you don’t like school.”
“I can give you four,” he said, and held up four fingers. “Boring, boring, boring, and boring,” he explained ticking off each finger as he spoke.
In some ways, I’m a little relieved. After four years in Philly, I was beginning to worry we could only bore the creativity and curiosity out of children in urban settings.
Noah was offering up evidence young children’s imaginations were being neglected in the rural Midwest as well. It’s a striking display of continuity of message.
It’s easy to argue I’m making snap judgements about Noah’s education after only a few seconds of conversation. As I said, though, little kids give the most honest answers. Imagine, though, what systems must be in place so that Noah can so quickly and self-assuredly jump directly to boredom when asked his opinion on school after only 5 years of what I’m certain his parents hope will at least be a 16-year tenure in education.
Some Topekan had the chance to make this funny little guy think and create, but he’d gone and bored him instead. That’s damage it’ll take years to repair, and faith in his teachers-to-come that Noah might never regain.
It made me sad.
So, I did what I do.
“Does your teacher know you’re bored.”
“Um, I don’t think so.”
“Have you ever told him?”
A smile, “no.”
It might have been wrong of me. I might have just set Noah and his parents up for a parent-teacher meeting. Then again, I’m sure Noah has had to sit and listen to what his teacher thinks and knows and feels for the better part of the school year. I’m a little bit ok with the tables being turned.