Yes, we all had the experience, and it was never fun. Some of us experienced more boredom than we did meaningful engagement – true indictment of the system.
When I read this piece in Education Week online, I couldn’t help but think, “it’s just so wrong that we even have to talk about so much boredom happening. Why can’t we move to a system where students are actually engaged?” Then we don;t have to worry about “why” someone is bored, and how they can better manage their boredom, and whose fault it is, and so on.
Such systems exist. Want true “engagement”? Then study what creates it in/for people. One source of this is the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his “flow” theory. Flow is that state that most of us know at least to some extent. It’s when your skill level or a particular task intersects with the challenge level of the task itself. The optimal experience is then possible since you are neither bored nor overwhelmed.
What we need are schools that allow students to find flow in their work. This can only happen when there is self-direction, control over the work, an amount of time that the learner requires – i.e. not dictated by a timetable, a bell or a teacher’s direction – and immediate feedback on how one is doing. Montessori schools allow for all this. They place the learner at the center, respect the fact that each learner is unique and needs to take the time s/he needs at any given moment and for any given task or problem, amongst other things.
SO much more is possible than what most students find in school today, and that’s sad. School continues to be a negative experience for so many, a place to endure and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. And we want “lifelong learners” to emerge when the experience we’ve presented them with is unattractive at best and dismal at worst?