“Boring but Important,” Plus Additional Thoughts on Engagement

Today a blog post from The Confident Teacher entitled “Boring but Important” popped up in my Twitter feed. In this post, Alex Quigley reflects on teaching when the subject is indeed important, but perhaps not as fun or engaging as other topics.

I am not advocating intentionally being more boring that we otherwise may be, but we should be wary of the notion that engagement should be the daily pursuit of teachers. We should think a little differently. Instead of trying to eliminate boredom – pretty much an impossibility in the real world – we should consider how we help our students manage it…

His point is that information is not proportionately interesting based on its importance. (Hence the popularity of trivia as a hobby – it is literally the stuff that is interesting and yet not important, unless it’s a question at the pub quiz.)

I am inclined to agree, from both a teacher perspective and from a student one. So the point of the post is that we should equip students to handle boredom, which I feel is a very good idea. I frequently need such strategies, even as an adult.

I would also add that, when you are fully engaged with material, it can be exhausting. So I’m not sure it’s a reasonable expectation, especially at the elementary level, for all students to be fully engaged in class content at a given time. I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation to have of children; they need breaks. That’s the case for whether they’re naturally engaged, or not. If they’re really engaged, they may not ask for a bathroom break they need; they might be thinking about one topic when they need to re-focus on another; they may not make the best choices on how to manage their time when it involves something they’re hyper-focused on. So, in addition to teaching strategies to deal with boredom, it might be good to nurture methods for moderation as well.

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