Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Frankly sir, you are boring the hell out of me

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According to Indiana University (and Joanne Jacobs), over half of students say that they are bored every day in school.

  • Just 41 percent of the students in the 2009 survey responded that they went to school because of what they learn in classes.
  • Only 23 percent said they went because of their teachers.
  • Around a third said they went because they enjoy being in school.
  • Being bored at school is nothing new, and the amount of energy spent on whether it really is a big deal is amazing.  I don’t mean that good teaching involves boring the hell out all of your students.  But let’s be perfectly honest, a vast majority of high school students want to be somewhere else, and many new teachers are being led to believe that classrooms have to be dens of constant engagement.  Engagement is good, but the term “engagement” is often misinterpreted as “edutainment”, the process of entertaining students while trying to impart them with knowledge.  New teachers then get wrapped up in complex lessons that can lead to classroom management issues and forget that students need some direct instruction that provides actual information.

    I totally admired my Master Teacher.  But the one thing we disagree on is the idea that you can’t lecture.  His idea was that lectures led to bored students, no engagement, and then the subject matter doesn’t get moved because students are doodling, texting, or snoozing.  I don’t agree.  I’ve seen students totally engaged in lessons where the teacher is imparting knowledge through lectures, whether it is personal anecdotes, story-telling, or use of visuals and power points.  Students can be riveted to a good speaker, and can be convinced that the term “lecture” isn’t necessarily bad.  I use power points all the time, but you need to make the presentations to-the-point, easy to understand, and mix in a little media.  Video clip, song clip, a cartoon, a picture.  And don’t call it a “lecture”.  Call it a seminar or a presentation, and constantly keep kids involved.  And remember that you are public speaking and there are good tips for that too.  Move around, keep differed eye contact, use different tones in your voice, act out certain parts of presentation……just be the show.

    In the end, it is about being “on”.  My old principal once made a comment that good teaching was like good theater; you got into character and at the end of the production, you should be damn tired because you were “on” the whole time.  There should also be an understanding that teachers will not be able to engage everyone all the time.  Students are occasionally be bored in class, that is just going to happen.  Hell, when Homecoming Week is upon us, everything is more boring than being out in the Tri throwing water balloons.  It is ok to be bored sometimes.  Those of  us that work for  a living know that boredom happens and part of character building is dealing with it.

    Just remember, students should always feel like it was worth coming to your class, even if for the smallest of things.   I tell my students that they will learn, money back if not, and they are for the most part, satisfied.  We are there after all to teach, not entertain.     

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