While browsing the HarvardEd Winter 2017 Magazine, this article, entitled Bored Out of Their Minds, caught my attention. So often in gifted education, our students tell us that they are bored in school. The work is too easy; they’ve mastered the concepts, the teacher is boring…these themes are not uncommon. Even at home, where choice is often greater, time less structured, and possibilities conceivably endless, young people can succumb to boredom. Worse still, boredom seems to increase as students grow older.
“A 2013 Gallup poll of 500,000 students in grades five through 12 found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students were “engaged” with school, that is, attentive, inquisitive, and generally optimistic. By high school, the number dropped to four in 10. A 2015 follow-up study found that less than a third of 11th-graders felt engaged. When Gallup asked teens in 2004 to select the top three words that describe how they feel in school from a list of 14 adjectives, “bored” was chosen most often, by half the students. “tired” was second, at 42 percent. Only 2 percent said they were never bored. The evidence suggests that, on a daily basis, the vast majority of teenagers seriously contemplate banging their heads against their desks.”
The increase in boredom has been linked to these factors: the escalating influence of standardized testing on curriculum, the fading of the “novelty” of school as students age,
the lack of motivation (except, perhaps, in those students who are highly future-oriented), the transition from the tactile and creative of the younger grades, to the cerebral and regimented of the upper grades, and the very real sirenic lure of electronic devices (emphasis mine).
What if… (according to Peter Toohey in the preface to his book, Boredom: A Lively History)... boredom might just be a term that includes “frustration, surfeit, depression, indifference, apathy?” Notice that all of these terms point to a character flaw in the student, rather than a flaw in educational delivery.
What if, instead... we focused our attention on the delivery systems in schools? What if we:
As always, I hope that this foray into other ideas, and then linking them to the gifted perspective, has made you think. I welcome hearing from you!
Past President, WATG