Saturday, 24 September 2011

how do you fight boredom in the classroom?

As a teacher, my worst enemy in the classroom is boredom. If my students don’t understand what I’m saying, they’ll ask – or I’ll notice and try to fix things. If they’re shy, angry, tired, or just puzzled, I’ll help. But if they’re bored, there’s no way out. They won’t listen to me, they’re actually not with me. And if it’s me being bored – it happens to teachers as well – I’m not with them and no matter how experienced I am, a barely-there teacher is the worst possible teacher.

Now, you cannot possibly come up with something new, engaging, challenging, every single time. But European projects (eTwinning, Comenius, self-financed) can. That’s what they do for me: they actually bring people in my classroom – new pupils, new teachers, plenty of new ideas. Interest comes from novelty, learning comes from sharing.

It’s funny to see how the partners, thousands of kms away, are actually with us all the time. I can remember the warm feeling experienced during a History lesson, when one of my pupils suddenly came up with a bunch of questions “What are they doing now? Are they studying this as well? Our same History?”. A reflection started from there and has never stopped since.

Conferences, meetings - and awards as well - came through the years. We met other teachers and students, experienced different teaching styles, different ideas and realities. My teaching developed and widened, as I met and shared ideas with lots of teachers, experts and especially with pupils.

You can’t enter a community and keep unchanged, and this applies to the pupils as well. A bored student/teacher is isolated, while in a community you’re never alone. Via Comenius and eTwinning, the whole school system (including parents) could experience the power of team working and the importance of building bridges between individuals. Now we don’t just have lessons, we make experiences. And “experience” and “boring” just won’t go together. “Experience” means actually being there – together.

Now, here's the funny way Dr. Diana Hicks represented the student's school day:

What about you? Do you agree with her? And how do you fight boredom and keep your pupils involved?
Looking forward to reading your comments!


[more about this in my articles in Voices of eTwinning - European Schoolnet 2011]


  1. Dear Laura,
    Dear Colleagues,
    yes, the boredom is one of the worst classroom experiences.
    And,yes, it happened with me too. Sometimes we, teachers are not in form. For example, if I am too tired, or happened something, (even if I would like to do that), it happends, I can't teach well.
    And of course this time my lessons are not so interestings for my pupils(.
    But, I feel, boredom - panic - boredom, as a school day (or many days??)... and at the end the panic part would be my part as a teacher.)
    I think, we teachers also need new experiences. (Maybe it's the reason why we use the words: teacher refreshing course..?)
    A course, European projects, meeting good people can "upload" us.
    Laura, I agree with you, common projects bring new pupils and teachers in our classes. And it is a way for sharing experiences and being really together.
    The motivation this way is very natural, because we would like to be together. And our partners -children and teachers- (as happened with us)are with us, and are our friends.
    Because of the project and friendship, one of my pupils decided, she would like to study at the University too Italian languague in the future.
    I am very happy because of this. :-)
    Hugs, Mónika

  2. Hi Laura,
    I'd have to agree with Mrs Hicks. The boredom-panic-boredom day in my opinion is too often the normal schol day. To fight this, I try to involve the pupils with personal activities, something where they can be centre of attention for a while. Sometimes taking them into consideration as individuals and making them feel special and interesting can do the trick.
    Have you seen this?
    I think it can be a nice start of morning activities.

    And Monika, you are right: in the boredom-panic-boredom day, the teacher is the one who should panic !!!


  3. Dear Teresa,
    Dear All,
    I visited the site what you recommended for us. I find, there are nice activities for junger children. In our school, for example on Monday we often start the week with sharing our weekend experiences. I think, it is a good idea.
    After it is a problem when we always have more and more things to teach, and we need more and more time..
    It is not good, we can lost something important: talking really together.
    I don't know, if in your countries there is a kind of lesson what we have. The name could be: lesson with your form master. It is a lesson, when form master and class can be together, talking about their problems or happiness, or organize programmes. It is a possibility..of course, a lesson without any marks and exams.)
    I find, my pupils need a lot to talk together. And, I need it as well. It could be very good to have more time in our schools for this kind of activities.

    Have a nice day, Mónika

  4. Hi all of you.
    I'm happy to read you again.
    It's nice to see your are still so enthousiastic not withstanding how big the pile of tasks to fulfill at the beginning of the course .
    I find your topic highly interesting. I think it becomes a bigger issue when the teacher gets older;)
    Although I mostly agree with you when talking about pupil's and teacher's boredom,I would like to introduce a bit of controversy in the discussion.
    Don't you think that coping with routine and unattractive matters is one of the important things our pupils have to learn. Not everything in this life is enjoying, I would say that most of it for most of the time and for most people is not at all funny.
    I personally believe there is a great correlation between boredom and learning, boredom and intelligence.Here is what I use to tell my pupils when they complain about a topic they find uninteresting or whenever they tell me they don't see the point in studying or doing something: The more you learn about the world the less you'll be bored. What you study makes you able to see the reality from a new point of view which is a good way of fighting boredom. Study helps you to get interested in aspects you even ignored they were there before you are told about them by your teachers. That's why it's so important to have different subjects on the school and you always can win some insight even from the less appealing to you.
    As language teacher I must give my pupils drills for learning the tricky ancient Greek morphology and Latin grammar which sometimes can be felt as tedious by my pupils. Although I understand their complaining I use to tell them :" If there is any body entitled to get bored drilling this verb it's me. After all, I have been doing it for more than twenty years now and I already know it by heart! Have you noticed my boring at all? No way, I explain my lesson as it was new for me too."
    What I have learned about this issue along the years is that when the content of the lesson passionates you, your pupils feel it and you can easily drow their attention.
    I also have noticed that many kids nowadays find everything you have to offer them a pile of crap. It's not only because our educational system is a bit outdated, it is because these kids are used be entertained and to be given everything elaborated, and they expect their teachers to be entertainers and to have a class with all the fun they find in their favourite TV programmes. What they and their parents do not take in account is those programmes are designed by a big team of creative people who use to be quite better paid than teachers...
    Don't take me wrongly, I also try to avoid boring classes: I use games for making grammar easier, I try to do a different course every year even if the subjects I teach are the same ones,I try to relate the contents we study during the class with our current experience and I keep on making questions to all the pupils in the class and to force them to keep active.The best thing is when pupils make questions and show their curiosity, that's one of the objectives, make them reflect on their own about the content of the subject.
    Well, I hope you didn't get bored reading this long post!

  5. Hi Elena,
    thanks a lot for your post. As usual, you've got a point there. So I must say I'd have to agree with you.

    There's a small step from being a teacher trying to keep students involved and being a professional entertainer putting a show on. And I think lots of parents believe we've got to be the latter.

    From what I could see of the English school system, I can say they are a bit more on the "entertainer" side, while in Italy the teacher is supposed to be more of a lecturer. Can't we find something in the middle?

    Studying can be boring, sure. But it shouldn't be boring all the time. And studying can be fun. But it can't be a party all the time. Meeting English teachers and having the opportunity to attend their lessons helped me understand how to give the pupils a more active role (remember? you can't speake 80% of the time - which is normal for looots of Italian teachers). On the other hand, some things are just hard work, and can't be made easy.

    So we basically do the same: we try to force our pupils to keep active, we try to explain our subjects in different ways, we try to make up new involving activities, we try group-working (eTwinning and not only)... always hoping for questions and any show of genuine interest/curiosity. That's all we can.

    After all, I always tell my pupils "just do your best". And that applies to me as a teacher as well.

    Thanks for being here Elena, and for being on my same wavelenght


    PS I cherish pupils' questions. Unfortunately, most of the time, their only question is "may I go to the toilet?" :(

  6. Oh no, the dreadful "may I go to the tolilet?" !!!
    Seriously, the only thing which is worse than a bored student is a bored teacher. I agree with Elena: the only one who's entitled to be bored is the teacher!
    So we have to innovate in our job not only for our pupils, but for ourselves.
    And then, they have to study. Sometimes it can be boring? True, but that's life baby!
    So nice to share ideas here, thanks everybody