Learning to be bored

One of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve been given in my teaching career is ‘always leave them wanting more..’ It’s a good piece of advice.

Bored kids are kids that get into trouble.

Bored kids bully.

Bored kids break and destroy school property.

Bored kids get into fights.

Yet now I wonder if that advice also has a flip side. By keeping kids constantly on the go and never having a chance to be bored, they turn to quick fixes to entertain themselves.

As part of our Unit of Inquiry into how decisions impact our wellbeing, I planned a provocation with my class. I challenged them a task to do – keeping new learners at school safe – put the instructions up the board. The second instruction was ‘no rules’ the kids could do whatever they liked for 30 minutes.

My observations:

  • It took some time for the kids in my class to make decisions without an an adult telling them what to do.
  • Most kids figured out that this being school, they’d need to complete a task.
  • Many of the kids wanted to run around the classroom and throw things around because it was ‘against the rules.’
  • Some of children fell over while they were running around.
  • The kids only lasted 10 minutes with running around before they became bored and concerned about injury.
  • Not one child was building or creating with their hands despite the materials being in the classroom.
  • The only children drawing or making videos were those children completing the task.
  • Not one child was reading a book.
  • The only children who went outside were the ones completing the task
  • It took 10 minutes before the first computer was being fired up to play Minecraft. By the end most of the boys and a small number of girls were staring at a screen.

This could be a sign of society going to waste. Kids who would rather stare at a screen rather than interact with other or even go outside to kick a football around. The kids were genuinely disappointed that they hadn’t considered going outside or making circuits until I pointed it out to them.

Yet I prefer to see it as an opportunity for learning for the children.

  • That they are more prone to risky behaviour and injury when they are bored.
  • That they need to develop spacial awareness of the best places to play.
  • That they turn to video games because they aren’t mindful of alternatives.

As a teacher I’m mindful that I might be part of the problem.

  • That the kids know they need to ‘do school’ and ‘complete tasks.’
  • That I’m always keeping the kids busy and on task I’m missing opportunities for authentic learning.
  • That they physical classroom environment isn’t conducive to independent learning.
  • That kids need to fall over and seeing others fall over to get them to appreciate those rules.
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