Boredom Ignored’em

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April 1, 2013 by k. liz

I’ve been studying how to increase motivation and confidence in the second language academic writing classroom, and I am in the last week of my teacher inquiry. It’s fitting then, that I have been asking for feedback from my students on different activities that we have tried to do regularly throughout the course. The two main activities that we have talked about so far are journaling and writing letters with American university students. In my mind, those are both far better activities than writing academic essays every day, and yet it still gives the students the opportunity to write and practice and improve.

In reviewing their answers, I was surprised by how many noted that they did not like journaling or writing letters because it was “boring.” (Not all students, mind you, but a significant number.) This at first made some little red flags go off in my head. As a 21st century teacher the word “boring” can be a huge stigma. Nothing in the class should be boring, everything should be creative and perfect and objective oriented and humanistic and learning enhancing . . . you get the idea? So, what was I supposed to do, how do I write my research paper when that word “boring” is stamped all over my students’ feedback?

That’s when I started thinking about it. Some of these kids actually enjoyed the activities. Those students did improve their writing throughout the module. The other students are probably going to be bored doing anything after they have swiped their ID card at the front door of our school. And you know what? How many people, normal people, not those of us who get excited about applying for the next educational venture, but how many normal people get excited about academic writing? It’s not really a “fun” activity. But, that doesn’t mean that we can just bypass it and do something else. We buckle down, we set timers, we work hard for a while, and then we reward ourselves with something fun.

I heard on the radio this last week that kids don’t have enough boredom in their lives to enhance creativity. I tend to agree in a sense. When every activity is so carefully calculated to keep their attention every minute of the class hour, what does that do to their daydreaming, or their imagining, or the need for them to push themselves at least a little? Learning isn’t always about having fun, though I do think that learning can be a ton of fun. Sometimes, learning is about being disciplined, and doing the hard things. It’s easy enough to have fun on our free time, sometimes the lessons need to be work. If they’re not, then are we really teaching our students what they need to live and succeed in the world?

And if students are insistent on being bored, then they will be bored even if you bring a three-act circus into the classroom. So, you know what I decided to do tonight?

I ignored ’em.

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