Assembly point - Industrious revolution

17th April 2009 at 01:00
There's a thin line between boredom and laziness. Get pupils to take a new approach to banish yawns

Putting together an assembly is often a challenge. Half an hour is a long time to fill. Although I know my pupils can never get bored in any sort of lesson I run or assembly I write, boredom is something I think about and try to avoid.

So I ask my husband: "Are they going to get bored listening to this?" as I make him sit through hearing this assembly for the fifth time. "No darling, it's not at all boring," he yawns as he reaches for the remote control. "What's for dinner?"

But what is boring? My dictionary describes it as something "so uninteresting as to cause mental weariness". I insert a PowerPoint yawn here. "I often find marking your work boring," I tell the pupils. It's the same thing over and over, and apart from boring me I do find that it makes me tired. But the strangest thing happens and that is that as soon as I start doing something else I wake up again, my mental weariness from being bored has gone and I now feel awake.

I say to pupils: "I'm sure it's the same when you do certain pieces of homework." But then my husband, who is also a teacher, doesn't find marking boring. He gets into it - maybe that's because his history pupils write better essays. This makes me wonder more about why some people find some things boring while other people don't. I like cleaning the kitchen, but he doesn't.

I then like to show another PowerPoint slide, with a quote from the author Ellen Parr, who sums up boredom rather well: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."

Boredom is a state of mind. It's the difference between saying to yourself, "well, this is going to be dull" and finding that it is, and sitting down thinking "I wonder what there is to learn or discover in this?"

In the case of me and my marking, I could wonder how well all the pupils have done in this piece of work, for example. I tried changing my attitude the other day and I got through all the work faster as I wasn't sitting there wasting time daydreaming and thinking of all the other things I would have preferred to be doing.

When I was younger I sometimes found holidays boring. At least at school you are with your friends all the time and you are constantly being given things to do. Not so with the holidays. You can't always see your friends, you have to hang out with your parents for far longer than you think is cool and you never get to do enough of what you want to do.

The truth is that apart from when I am marking repetitive pieces of homework I am rarely bored. I explain to pupils that this is because I have Doozer tendencies. The Doozers were characters from a TV programme I used to watch called Fraggle Rock (I use a slide here to illustrate). They worked hard building things and were always busy finding new things to do. I hate to sit still. With a house to look after and a baby to care for, there are always things to do. Even without a house and a baby, there are always things to occupy us.

I finish by asking pupils how much difference they think there is between boredom and laziness. Get them to think of the times they were bored over the holiday - were there things they could have done but were too lazy to get on with? The world is full of opportunities that we miss while we are complaining about being bored.

Hannah Nemko is assistant headteacher at Yavneh College, Borehamwood


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