Boredom: the sadly inevitable reality of most high schools and many middle and elementary schools. Why can’t educators face up to this most basic reality, famously illustrated with just a tad of hyperbole, by Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
I have sat in dozens of classes over the years and most have been really dull – needlessly dull. Teachers mostly talk in that dreadful slowed-down teacherly voice that makes you want to tune it out; there is no sense of drama, playfulness. In one class, we saw students in English taking turns reading a book out loud – 2nd grade stuff. In another, I saw kids copying down the teacher’s notes from the board for half the period. (Don’t these people know books were invented 500 years ago?) All this, despite the fact that EVERY student knows that there is a more lively interesting and challenging world available online.
The National Study of Student Engagement has been reporting the grim findings for anyone who would pay attention for years. We ran our own study all year, in which we received responses to 26 questions from over 7300 middle and high school students. (Of the students who participated, an amazing 91% responded to the entire survey which required 18 constructed-response answers.
Here are some of our results:

The last question on the survey asks: If you could give your teachers one piece of advice to make class better and more interesting what would it be?
Here are typical responses:

  • One piece of advice would be to engage the students more by creating activities and interesting projects out of the topic that it being taught, so that the students can have fun AND learn at the same time.
  • Using references to real life uses make it more interesting for the student.
  • Make things Interesting. Instead of lecturing and putting up a powerpoint, plan an activity that will teach us the content so we learn something but also let us have a little fun. I know school isn’t meant to be fun but its not meant to be a boring place where we write down what we see, study it and then take a test.
  • Give us something to look forward to so we don’t dread going into your class because its going to be boring or too hard.
  • I would like to see more teachers realizing that if the entire class failed a test or quiz or project, it probably has something to do with the way the teacher taught it and they shouldn’t just move on. Also, if some students don’t understand the material, maybe let the students who do go and try teaching it using a different method. My chem teacher did this just a few weeks ago to great success.
  • I would say that teachers need to respond to the specific class of students that they are teaching. No two classes are alike- the mood and setting in each class differs, and the pace at which people learn is different. Paying attention to that will make the class run more smoothly, and ensure that everyone can
  • understand each concept as it is taught, and then move on at the appropriate time.
  • Play more games, have more fun! still learn but really enjoy doing it by making it fun and interesting.
  • Give less homework just for the sake of giving homework. It makes students detest REAL (important) work.
  • I would say to change things up a bit. Many times I go into class knowing exactly what we are going to do and that is extremely boring. The less bored I am, the more I will pay attention and comprehend the material.
  • More hands-on or real life demonstrations. For many reasons, these capture attention so much more effectively than powerpoints or projections.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you are teaching, and listen to us when we say we have 6 other projects that we have to do this weekend.
  • Try to provide students with a legitimate reason for why they should know what you are teaching them and let them apply these skills in real life situations. Also, try not to sound so monotonous.
  • Explain how their lesson or work is important to students in the future.
  • Variety. Don’t always do the same thing every class. Make sure that you mix it up and use different medias. If need be, get the class moving around and thinking as they move.
  • I would like more variety in the lesson plans.
  • Step into our shoes and ask yourself if what you are teaching or how your teaching is actually interesting, and would we want to learn it.
  • Give us more hands on work, it keeps kids awake and interested.
  • Use a variety of teaching methods. Videos, textbooks, lectures, and many other teaching methods can be productive, but when you use only a couple different types of methods, students get bored. When any student falls asleep, that should be a sign. If they’re falling asleep, I guarantee they’re not the only one.
  • Also, assigning different types of work would be good too.
  • Stop lecturing me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Try to make the class more fum and entertaining. And try not to talk too much and get on a different subject.
  • Do more interactive activities with the students because then we will like to come to class every day.
  • Don’t just spit information make it more exciting for us to learn
  • Try to make sure every different lesson has a fun activity that really gets students to pay attention.
  • Add more acitivities and think about what we could do to make us learn more. We learn more not through worksheets or sitting in class listening to lessons and facts.
  • Try to have more hands on projects…it’s really hard for students to sit in a desk for 90 minutes. Maybe let us get up and walk around.
  • My advice would be to put in your whole personality into it.
  • Teachers should offer more opportunity for discussion to make class more interactive and to involve as many students as possible.
  • Try to communicate with the students more. Take the students advice on how to make the class better.
  • Please help us to actually succeed. Don’t cater to only the supposedly “smart kids” but help everyone succeed
  • Vary the structure of class and different kinds of activities to keep kids interested
  • Dont use the smart board as much. its very obnoxious
  • Do more activities and less pointless busy work!
  • Think of them selves as a kid sitting in class, listening to a teacher.

Jim Collins famously said in Good to Great that the better organizations “confront the brutal facts of reality.” Secondary schools have almost never confronted the brutal reality of boredom. Isn’t it time?
“Grant, that’s just mypoic. There has to be some boredom, the kids don’t want to work hard…”
Nonsense; utter hypocrisy. Not ONE teacher would tolerate a required year of professional development that is as boring as many of the classes our kids must take. Every time we ask teachers and admins to shadow a student for a day, they cannot believe how bad it is.
School is needlessly boring and it won’t be long before the Internet changes the entire picture:


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