Boredom in the classroom

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“Boredom is nothing but the experience of a paralysis of our productive powers.”

~ Erich Fromm

I almost blew past this quote without reflection. Then I stopped. Am I bored? I am more bored than I used to be as I teach a prescribed curriculum with little room for detours, determined by some faceless administrator above me or perhaps the faceless administrator who sold us the latest student improvement program. Are my students bored? More bored than they would be if I could step off the curricular train to pursue areas of interest that do not directly impact test scores.

What am I producing? Mostly, coherent explanations of somebody else’s not-always-terribly-coherent material. What are my students producing? In too many cases, as little as they can get away with, depending on the nature of the material. When the whole school is forced to read a story about a kid who does not resemble my students and who is trapped in a situation that few, if any, of my students can relate to, engendering enthusiasm for the reading mission may be beyond my natural powers of cheeriness, even with audiovisual aids and the cleverest differentiation and scaffolding.

Eduhonesty: The American testing regime has upped the boredom quotient in our schools considerably. I expect American society will encounter the fallout from this ennui and lack of productivity soon. Teachers are observing the growing detachment of their students and regularly comment on this lack of intrinsic interest in learning.