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Engaged vs. Entertained

Boredom is the biggest problem of educational systems today. Two-thirds of students today complain that school is boring. Most report because of the lack of interaction with teachers, or because teachers are conveying information that is not interesting. One out of three students in the classroom, are just sitting there, not interacting, on a daily basis. Only less than 2 percent of students say that they are never bored in high school.

Here are the four biggest reasons that students say why they are bored in school.

  1. I do not like school.
  2. I do not like the teachers.
  3. I do not see the value in work I am being asked to do.
  4. No adults in the school care about the things that I care about.

We need to be more attentive to what the students are thinking. We need to learn the reason why they want to drop out and not show up. We need interaction between teachers and classrooms, and we need more classroom discussions and debates. We need more group projects. We need more engaging lectures than the ones our teachers preach. Otherwise, our students are nothing more than bored bodies waiting for school to end. How depleting.

The biggest mistake we made in 2019 about fighting boredom in education is the belief that “entertainment” is the opposite of boredom. The opposite of bored is “engaged.” A teacher can pump the classroom with cartoons, bring in VR games, but entertainment gets stale quicker than one can create it. Creating newer and more improved entertainment each year is exhausting financially, emotionally, and physically. Nevertheless, engaging students is the only weapon we have to bust boredom.

So what is the secret to engaging with students? Is it to make the information more relevant? Easier to get good marks on tests? Less homework? Or is it to manipulate them with external motivators?

Those are all options, but they are all step two. Step one is, does the student feel like his/her opinion makes a difference? Students feel that whatever parents/teachers/ principals do to understand the boredom problem is not going to make a difference. Students feel we do not take their concerns seriously enough, and nothing comes out of what they say or do. Students feel as if classroom is like an airplane. “Sit down, strap in, do not talk, look forward, and the bathroom is not always available.” Of course, they are going to want to get off the airplane as fast as they could!

The most important question on the table is, why are kids in school. Did we ever ask the child why he/she goes to school? Some will say, because their parents need to go to work, so they need to be put in school until their parents come home.

Is this the truth? In the child’s eyes, it is. Furthermore, for the discussion of why they feel bored in classrooms, that is all that counts! Some children feel that school is like their job. “Dad goes to work, Mom goes to work, and I go to school.” How many children feel that the teacher is their employee, not an enemy, paid to serve them by teaching them education about the things they need to know for life? How many students understand that education and learning are essential?

A psychiatrist diagnosed a child of divorced parents with ADD and prescribed him medicine because he could not focus. No one ever asked this boy if the information at school is essential. I asked him if he would be rather be paid 5 dollars an hour for the rest of his life to chase cats in the Jerusalem streets as he does in his free time, for the rest of his life, instead of going to school? The answer was, “You mean you would pay me 5 dollars an hour for chasing cats for the rest of my life? Why would anyone want to go to school?”

This child responded that he had no value to wisdom. No one ever explained to him its importance. How sad.

Can students be heard? Do students deserve that we respect them and care about what is important to them? Can we help students develop new reasons why they want to go to school? Or new reasons why they want to know the curriculum?

Believe it or not, students want to work hard and reach results. They want to build goals and achieve goals. The way to do this is to treat them like adults. Engage them every step of the way. To help them make their own goals, to engage them by challenging them to reach their goals, and to engage them by helping them face fear, frustration, and failure on the way to their goals.

About the author, Yosef

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