Thursday, May 25, 2006

On The Lookout for Signs of Boredom

As an elementary school teacher, I must confess that I have probably bored a class of kids into submission. In my defense, I have never actually tried to do it. It was always inadvertent. To prevent boredom in my classroom from setting in, I watch for its signs:

Heads head for the desk. A child’s skull can feel like it weighs up to two hundred pounds and holding it up in the air can wear the student down. After awhile, they just need to rest it on their desk. If I remind them not to take a nap, I merely move the skull into the palm of one hand while the arm holds it up in the air.

Tinkering increases. Kids will tinker with erasers, pencils, pencil shavings, pens, jewelry, paper, scrap pieces of paper, paper clips, watches, clothing, threads sticking out from clothing, anything on the floor, any object not moving in their desk, any object moving in their desk, fingernails, cuticles, strands of hair, barrettes, hair clips, combs, mechanical pencils, mechanical pencil lead, boogers, eyelashes, mystery objects undetectable to the adult eye, food particles, etc.

Eyes glaze over. Serious cases of eye glazing can lead to total facial muscle relaxation, a dead giveaway that narcosis is setting in. My friend Herman gets total facial muscle relaxation during a boring sermon on Sunday.

Stretching increases. If you let it go for awhile, it’ll look like a class full of Hatha Yoga practitioners really working those neck muscles over.

Time obsession sets in. I have the clock in the back of the room so they won’t stare over my head. However, the clock’s location does not prevent time obsession. It merely forces the students to implement their Hatha Yoga neck stretches in order to see if the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams is approaching, and the eternal and deadening classroom existence that is wearing down their life force will finally pass.

Stifled yawning becomes an art form. The various grimaces and facial expressions can be amusing if you are into that sort of stuff.

A high grade state of mesmerization sets in. The voluntary muscles begin shutting down yet an extremely mild form of consciousness remains. I have felt this sensation when I too am being instructed, usually at professional development seminars conducted by well paid drones who would rather bore me than teach kids.

When I see these symptoms setting in, I try to shake things up a lot. If you shake things up a bit, it only delays the inevitable: boredom is setting in and you have to change your style. Anything helps as long as it is a fairly extreme change in curriculum and/or instruction. A teacher change every now and then would help too, but that doesn’t happen until mid-school or junior high.


Laura said...

It's true, that it's no different when you are an adult and attending some sort of senseless job-related seminar. These kids don't ever have this feeling in YOUR class, tho right?????

Laura said...

I read this again: I love the tinkering paragraph. Let me tell you that sounds like my boy. Drives me bananas