Let's face it. Everyone has something in their life that, given the option, they would eagerly avoid. For some, it may be visiting the dentist. The very thought of it may promote dread. Or, how about that wonderful experience that all of us, once we reach a "certain age," get to look forward to? That's right. A colonoscopy. All that preparation and anticipation of, well, being examined from a rather humiliating vantage point. Here's another example . . . opening a letter from the IRS announcing that you are being subjected to an audit. The list could be virtually endless. We all have them in our lives - things that we simply don't want to do, but are required to do. Like it, or not.
Kids experience this, too. For many of them it is school. Why? Because, from their perspective, it's boring. Numerous recent studies point to the sad truth that student boredom in school is a serious issue. One study, the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), sampled 275,925 students over a four year (2006-2009) period. Ready to be stunned? Sixty-five percent (65%) of these students report being bored in school at least once per day, with 49% saying they are bored every day, throughout each day. Why are they bored, you may (should) reasonably ask? Eighty-two percent (82%) of the students surveyed suggest that it's because the material they are being forced to study is "not interesting," that 41% report that the material is not relevant to them personally. And, 34% of these kids say that a primary cause of their boredom in school is the lack of meaningful interaction with their teachers.
To make matters worse, recent school drop-outs place boredom at the top of the list as their reason for making such a fateful decision. One 2006 study found that 47% of dropouts said school was boring and 69% indicated that school did not excite or motivate them. It wasn't that the work was too difficult. Rather, they found it monotonous and tedious . . . in other words, "boring."
Now, let's put all of this into perspective. On average, adults spend two to four hours per year in the dental chair. The IRS audit will probably be concluded over the course of a few days. And, the colonoscopy? Thank goodness that, for most of us, this is a ritual that is only repeated every five years or so. Now consider the kids. Many of them will spend approximately 1,235 hours (that's 74,100 minutes, in case you're curious) every year engaged in something that they don't just find annoying or distasteful, but out right BORING. (Can you imagine being able to tolerate an audit lasting 1,200+ hours?) And, we require this investment of time. From age six through the age of sixteen, most jurisdictions mandate school attendance. That's a long period of time to risk that even a small percentage of participants would find the experience unsatisfactory. Sadly, though, the statistics suggest that the number is far greater than a "small percentage."
If I were to tell you that you must spend 1,235 hours a year, for multiple years, doing something that you dislike or find boring, you would reasonably respond with "no way!" Why do we expect a different attitude or response from kids?
We shouldn't. The time is long overdue to recognize that student boredom is a significant issue, one that is wreaking havoc on the effectiveness of our instructional practices and what kids are actually learning in school. Tackling boredom, the elephant in the room, has practical solutions. Many of these are outlined in my book, The Education Kids Deserve. They will be the topic of future posts.
Kids, all of our kids, deserve better.