“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” C.S. Lewis
Getting your kids ready for school in the morning can be quite an adventure. Making sure their clothes are picked out, their bellies are full, their hair is combed, and their homework isn’t “forgotten.”
You send them off with hope in your heart that they’ll have a good day, full of great lessons and meaningful interaction with teachers and peers.
Then it’s time for you to get to work. Time flies, and you realize you’re getting tired from a long day. And before you know it, it’s time to pick your kids up from school or meet them at the bus stop.
When they emerge from school or the bus, they’re a little worn-out looking too. The hair you combed that morning is rumpled, their sweater has ketchup on it, there’s dirt under their fingernails from whatever games they played during recess. That backpack looks oh-so-heavy on their little shoulders.
You smile to yourself and hug them, “Hey, sweetheart, how was your day? What did you learn at school?”
“Nothing much. It was boring. I’m tired. Can we go home now?”
Does your child usually respond in this way? Perhaps they used to be excited about school, but now they’re apathetic all the time. In either case, you might be worried about them…and rightly so.
Is there something wrong with my child? Or the school? How can I help him love to learn? What should I do?
Why are kids bored at school?
In his compelling article, “Bored Out of Their Minds,” the author, Zachary Jason, gives some reasons for the issue of student boredom. “The novelty of school itself fades with each grade. Here I am for another year in the same blue plastic chair, same graffitied fake wooden desk, surrounded by the same faces. Repetition begets boredom.” (italics added)
Jason adds that boredom is related to the “transition from the tactile and creative [learning] to the cerebral and regimented….In third grade I cut with scissors, smeared glue sticks, and doodled with scented magic markers. By 12th grade I was plugging in formulas on a TI-83 and writing the answers on fill-in-the-blank worksheets. And research papers stimulate and beget rewards at a thousandth the speed of Snapchat and Instagram.” (Ah! The 21st century enemy of mental focus.)
Jason’s story isn’t unique to his experience alone, according to statistics. As kids move through school, they are more likely to become bored with their education. “While 75 percent of fifth-grade students feel engaged by school, only 32 percent of 11th graders feel similarly.”
Don’t give up!
With this in mind, if your child is showing signs of boredom and apathy, try to find the root cause of their mindset.
Boring “means something very different to each student. ‘Boring’ is the tip of the iceberg — it’s what the student says on the surface, but the underlying reasons can be more complex,” says Rebecca Branstetter, a school psychologist who wrote an article on student boredom for the Washington Post.
Branstetter suggests a few simple ways to start a conversation with your child that will help you get to the root of their boredom at school.
- “Instead of assuming that you know what ‘boring’ means, ask open-ended questions such as: “Can you explain what you mean by ‘boring?’ ” Or simply say: ‘Tell me more.’”
- “See if the boredom is pervasive or situational by asking whether the boredom is an ‘all-the-time problem’ or a ‘sometimes problem.’ For instance, you could ask: ‘Are there any times during the school day when you are not bored?’”
What are the common causes of student boredom?
According to Verywellfamily, some of the typical reasons are:
- The student isn’t being challenged
- They don’t have a good incentive
- They don’t/aren’t able to connect with teachers and peers
- They’re lacking certain skills
But, there is good news! It’s possible to help children overcome the obstacle of boredom. You—the parents and teachers—can counteract boredom by cultivating a love of learning in children.
Education Corner says, “One of the biggest mistakes teachers and parents can make when it comes to developing students and children who are good learners is to limit learning to the classroom. While the classroom will likely be the primary source of instruction, intellectual, social and academic growth should extend outside the walls of the classroom – if you want to really enhance a child’s desire and ability to learn.” (emphasis added)
Teachers and parents have to encourage students to explore the world in a variety of ways. Over time, this will help students learn to love learning.
“Most children who are good learners at some point had to become good learners. More importantly, any student, who possesses the basic aptitude and receives the right motivation, can become a good learner,” Education Corner adds. (Read the full article to get more tips on helping your child become a better learner.)
With that in mind, don’t give up on your bored student! It is possible to encourage and guide them into a successful academic and professional future—whatever that may be.
But really, why are the upper grades more boring?
In a nutshell, it’s because “[there’s] no big external motivating force in American education except for the small fraction of kids who want to go to the most selective colleges,” says Professor Jal Mehta.
While college is an inspiration to many students to do their best in school, not everyone fits that mold.
Enter Gary Feazell, owner and CEO of F&S Building Corporations, Inc. Feazell was a hard-working boy who had his first after-school job at eleven years old—helping on his brother’s construction site, earning 75 cents an hour.
Having the freedom to follow his skill as a child and learn more about what he loved to do, Feazell has built up his company throughout the years into a very successful business. Feazell also built a school, called Build Smart Institute, for those who are interested in working with their hands to build trades careers. He believes that “we are all created differently, with needs, wants, desires, likes, dislikes, gifts.”
Filling in the gaps
If college doesn’t inspire your child, what does? What work makes them feel satisfied? What activities fill them with motivation to learn more and try new things? Gary Feazell saw that four more years of college didn’t inspire some students to engage with education, so he created an alternative:
“What Build Smart tries to do is take the person who has a propensity and a gift for hands-on trades and then give them the knowledge to be able to use that trade. For years, it seems like, the trades and the hands-on stuff has been pushed to the background, and if you didn’t go to college and spend a ton of money doing that, you were less than,” Feazell says.
“What we’re trying to do is take the gifts that are already in a person and elevate those gifts and give them the skills and knowledge so that they can go out into the workforce and be a productive part of the community….[What] Build Smart would like to do is come alongside those school systems that are working to that end, and assist them—help them—in any way we can.”
After evaluating why students are bored, parents and teachers must find ways to make education engaging. Without motivation, students will continue to drift in their boredom and slide into mediocrity as time goes on.
Catching and counteracting the symptoms of boredom early will be a great boost to your child’s future success. Open doors and show them a world of possibility now—in ways they can understand and resonate with. Giving them the freedom to explore in their own way will teach them to love learning and help them build a fulfilling future.
Check out this video featuring Gary Feazell and NWEF President Melvin Adams as they discuss the importance of hands-on learning and the vision of Build Smart institute.