Boring Teachers & How We All Can Respond

vancouverfilmschool-writingBoring Teachers & How We All Can Respond

by Grant Wiggins, Ed.D, Authentic Education

Editor’s note: Why You Bore Students & What You Can Do About It complements this post quite well.

Last week I tweeted out a request for teachers to find some students willing to write about boredom in schools and received a number of replies. (This is a follow-up to my student survey results.)

Sarah Gross, a teacher at High Tech. HS in NJ, collected some great writings. Here are excerpts from two of her 9th graders;

from Olivia:

If I ever asked a large amount of students to give one word to describe school, I think that about 90% of them would simply say: boring.

Fortunately, in the past I have always had fairly good teachers that kept me interested. However, I remember one of my seventh grade teachers being possibly the most boring person I had ever met. Everyday our class schedule was the same: read the chapter –> Complete worksheets –> Copy down immense power-points for the rest of class. Everyone I talked to dreaded going to that class where we had to learn to write fast and continue writing even with hand cramps. I never really learned anything in that class, I just memorized information, took a test on it and then forgot everything. Imagine that cycle for an entire year. It was tremendously boring.

For other teachers, I recommend not making your students copy 20 slide power points with size 8 font~ Sincerely, every student

Ways to keep students (or at least me) interested:

    • Change up the outline of the class. Do fun activities so that students have something to look forward to in class.
    • Speak to the students about the topic. Try to stay away from making the students read about the topic because 99% will just skim the material and say that they read it. (I am guilty)
    • Interact with the students one on one.
    • Try to incorporate students’ at home lives with the class. For example, I love how Mrs. G uses Twitter in class! It’s a great way to connect with the students on a more personal level.
    • Only give homework when absolutely necessary. I know that I sound like I am only saying this because students (including me) don’t feel like doing it, however, there is a real reason. Unless the homework is a fun activity, most students will try to get it done and over with as fast as possible, even if it means doing in incorrectly. Doing homework incorrectly is worse than not doing the homework at all because when students put false information on homework, it becomes engraved in their knowledge.

From Maggie:

Why Am I Bored?

1. PowerPoint.


Yes, I agree that PowerPoint is a very valuable tool, but this only applies in certain situations. When a teacher writes paragraphs upon paragraphs on a single PowerPoint slide, and then proceeds to read them all verbatim to “teach” the class, I completely zone out. To engage their students, a teacher needs to talk to us like we’re people. We need examples, and relatable stories that provide the information a permanent residence inside our minds.

2. The Never-Ending Videos.


I think that videos are a great tool for teachers to utilize. With sources like YouTube readily available, it is easier than ever to pull up a video on any topic imaginable. However, when a video is more than 20 minutes long (when I say video, I mean something informational, not a movie), it gets harder and harder to pay attention, and easier and easier to spiral downward into the abyss of boredom. Videos, in my opinion, should be used in moderation.

3. The Lackadaisical Attitude.

Personally, I feel that if a teacher seems to have no interest in a subject, neither will I. It is so much harder to pay attention when a teacher seems unenthusiastic, and I can’t even begin to explain how much more interested I am in class when a teacher really cares about what they are teaching.

How to Avoid Boring Your Students (For Teachers)

1. Use PowerPoints wisely.

Use them as a guide instead of a word-for-word of what you’re going to say.

2. Use relatable examples.

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Show funny (not too lengthy) videos that somehow correlate with the subject material, and make the information more memorable for your students.

3. Make class enjoyable.

Throw around a ball for students to answer questions, or have a little friendly competition.

4. Even if you’re having a bad day, try to be positive.

You attitude, whether it is unenthusiastic or constructive, tends to rub off on your students.

5. Engage all your students.

Even if only one student is raising their hand, try to call on other people, who may not have their hand up, to answer questions. If they do not get the answer correct, try to guide them towards the correct answer instead of just saying, “No,” and skipping to another child.

How to Avoid Boredom in Class (For Students)

1. Ask questions.

Try as hard as possible to think of logical questions that will benefit the entire class. This will stimulate your mind, and (hopefully) keep you focused on the subject material.

2. Be open-minded, and give each class a chance.

Maybe last year your English class was the quintessence of boredom, but that doesn’t mean that English this year will be the same. Keep a positive attitude towards all your classes until you have enough time to form a logical opinion of them.

3. Raise your hand!

Even if you are really doubtful of your answer, there is still a chance that you are correct. If you are wrong, a teacher could explain your mistake and make the correct answer more memorable.

4. Interact, or lose the pencil.

If you are not actively writing, try not to have a pen or a pencil in your hand. This leads to doodling and thus, zoning-out.

5. Keep your head up.

Resting you head on the desk will make you focus, but not on class. Instead, you will be fighting boredom, and lack of sleep.

Just a note: This post is not in any way meant to point out all the faults of teachers. Teachers are people too, and of course, like any other person, they make mistakes.

Words of wisdom from our “clients.”

And please, teachers, take special heed on the PowerPoints: this was the #1 disliked practice in our student survey. Too much text on each slide, and reading directly from the slide. BORING!!!

It is not easy to admit that our approach might be needlessly boring. (Please don’t write me and say that there is always boredom in life; I simply won’t post it. We’re talking about needlessly boring and improvable teacher practices here.) That’s why i encourage you to use the video function on your phone and watch or just hear yourself and ask: if school weren’t required, would people happily sign up for and keep coming to such a class? Lectures got so boring at MIT that attendance dropped to 50% in many of them. Why go, given that the course iid online and the Internet has a million resources?

Here is a practical suggestion: either take voice lessons or do a thorough study of effective monologists, comics, story-tellers and public speakers; watch good TED talks; go to Toastmasters; sit in on a teacher who has great classroom presence in your building, etc. The typical teacher use of voice is not very effective: too much of a monotone, poor use of silence for effect; little crescendo and diminuendo, etc. – leaving aside the quality of the lessons and assignments. In short, as I keep saying, there is much in our control that we can do to improve student engagement and achievement.

Image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschools; Boring Teachers & How We All Can Respond; This article first appeared on Grant’s personal blogfollow Grant on twitter

15 Comments
  1. Bethany Beaudrie says

    Great post! It is so important to engage students in the learning process! One of my favorite quotes regarding this is from Marc Prensky, “Engage me or enrage me.”

  2. el_guero2000 says

    It is sad that so many teach, because they do not want to work.

    And the price of public education continues to skyrocket. While private education continues to march along at a much slower rate of inflation.

    Wayne
    luvesiousous.com

    1. Robin Turner says

      OK, I’m getting my ruler out again. I assume you want to say that many people teach because they don’t want to work, and that this is a sad fact. However, your insertion of a comma into this sentence implies (a) the fact that many people teach is sad, and (b) the reason that this is sad is that they do not want to work. Both meanings, though, are absurd, since teaching _is_ work.

      1. el_guero2000 says

        Thank you for noting that.

        However, I placed the comma there, because both phrases are complete sentences …. and grammar is WORK.

        🙂

        wayne
        luvsiesous.com

        1. Marianne White says

          Actually, “because they do not want to work” is a dependent clause and therefore does NOT qualify as a complete sentence despite the presence of both a subject and a verb . Only two independent clauses get separated by a comma. You would separate dc from ic with a comma only if the dc was introductory.
          Ex: Because he was a bonehead, he asserted that teachers do not want to work.

          1. el_guero2000 says

            Actually, it depends upon which grammar you choose to follow.

            I follow traditional grammar.

            You follow progressive.

            For Example: Because she was illiterate, she chose to ignore complete sentences.

            Wayne

  3. Jessica McMahon says

    I agree with most of this post, but wanted to say that I concentrate better when I am doodling.

  4. Robin Turner says

    “Editor’s note: Why You Bore Students & What You Can Do About It compliments this post quite well.”
    Do you mean that “Why You Bore Students” says nice things about this article? If not, I may have to rap your knuckles with a ruler 😉

    1. terryheick says

      I hang my head in shame.

      1. Robin Turner says

        It was a mean comment, but I can’t help it – I’m an English teacher!

        1. terryheick says

          See, here’s the kicker–so am I.

          1. Robin Turner says

            Your in good company then 😉

          2. terryheick says

            “You’re”? ; ^ )

            You *so* did that in purpose.

  5. thijmen says

    I’ll keep it simple teachers should not teach, they should inspire! Kids will learn anything if they are interested.
    If they aren’t interested, they won’t learn anything.
    If you care to know i posted this during class, the teachers stopped trying.

  6. Kate Nonesuch says

    My first classroom rule, for students (and me, too): Refuse to be bored! http://katenonesuch.com/2012/06/21/refuse-to-be-bored/

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