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“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” Part 3

Bad:  Classes that are boooooring
By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant

Educators/teachers in Belize or throughout the world, regardless of how academically qualified we may be, who are boooooring, only add to the “bad” picture for education. It is no secret that when students get bored their minds drift. Some will daydream, some will chatter with classmates, some will doodle/draw or write notes/letters, and in general they will be inattentive to the teacher. Worse, some of the unmotivated and non-compliant students will be drawn to more destructive pursuits. Whether it applies to students or to young people in general, where there is boredom, there’s bound to follow misbehavior – it’s bubbling right under the surface.
Many of us, educators/teachers from primary to tertiary levels, ignore the need to counter the onset of boredom in the classroom everyday. Sadly, very sadly, each time we ignore this need we get the same recurring negative effects: boredom in the classrooms. In many schools, in Belize and beyond, day in and day out so many of us keep repeating the very things that we should not do that trigger student boredom. We educators/teachers need to make a concerted effort to steer clear of certain attention killers, so that our students can spend more time “on task” and be better behaved because they are not bored.
We educators/teachers become ineffective and boring when we:
Let students sit too long. Primary and Secondary school teachers who expect students to keep paying attention during each lesson and focus all day, AND sit quietly like robots all day are asking for trouble!  We need to get to “know” our students and observe them closely during each lesson, and learn (from experience) when it’s time to switch gears – keep students moving. Activities we could use include:  sending students to the board to write; have students work in small groups; give 60 seconds “stretch our body” time outs. (Not every student is ready for/needs recess at the same time; each student is “different”.)  

Talk too much. All students need room to breathe; else they will all mutiny and turn a classroom upside down. When we educators/teachers talk too much we “smother” our students. When students have to listen to us talk “non-stop” they will tune us out. Experience in many classrooms shows that: the more economical and concise a teacher is with words, the more attentive students tend to be.

Make the simple too complex. Many of us misunderstand the need to be assertive in class. Some of us think it means making test/project/homework instructions more complex, more involved, more verbose.  Most students of those teachers do NOT progress. To be effective we need to do the opposite: simplify, break down, and cut away the non-essentials. Let’s make the content of assignments/class work easier for our students to grasp.

Make the interesting, uninteresting. Most of the standard high school level subject matter we teach can be interesting. Why, though, do most teachers assume that all students believe that? On the contrary, many of our students automatically assume, based on past learning experiences, that high school level subject matters are boring. That is why we educators/ teachers should try to make whatever subject matter that we teach “interesting”, and give students a reason(s) to care about what we teach. Please teachers:  let us not just talk, talk, talk at students everyday, and forget the most critical element — we need to sell it: keep it interesting.

Talk and talk about behavior instead of doing something about it. Those of us who struggle with classroom management are probably those who keep talking endlessly about student behavior. We hold class meeting after meeting, and try to “prove” our points to students. We repeat the same tired topic (to the same persons) over and over, much to students’ automatic chagrin: “that again”. To be effective we should rely on solid classroom management: action. Learning comes with doing and following through — holding students accountable. It does not come only from talking!

Lead with a slow and sloppy pace. How many of us educators/teachers “move along” slowly each day? Good teaching requires a focus and efficiency of time, movement, and energy. Each school day when we educators/teachers (and students) do not glide smoothly and quickly from one lesson or activity to the next, boredom sets in. As soon as one objective is met in any class, our students should be “on to the next” without delay. When we move sharply and purposefully in each class (or from one class to the next) we keep students on their toes, their minds engaged, so that boredom does not enter the picture.

Fail to adjust. Regardless of what information or final lesson we’re trying to squeeze in (important or not) during each class, especially by the end of the day, when we notice heads wilting, we must make an adjustment. So many of us, educators/teachers, insist on “plowing through” no matter what. Sometimes our students need a moment to stretch their legs or stand. However, when we choose to simply “move on” to something else, or ask students to stay “focused” regardless of students’ restlessness, we are asking for trouble.

Insist that students learn only in the spotlight. Students’ ability to concentrate over time is critical.  We simply CANNOT overlook that aspect of learning. Pushing students to complete tasks on time is a good thing; however, there is a fine line. When we ignore or forget that, and insist that students learn or do “everything” in class, students will cross that line into boredom — misbehavior follows.  

Educators and teachers: let us make every effort to avoid some common mistakes listed above. Let us try our utmost each day to keep boredom OUT of our classrooms. By doing so we will keep the spotlight on “inspired learning” and help erase any “bad” picture of education!

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