Let’s Allow Our Kids to be Bored

Let's allow our kids to be bored

I walked through the school doors at 7 a.m. and immediately checked the large school calendar near the school office window. The next testing window opened fairly soon. The basketball season was ending tonight. Baseball started in two weeks. Robotics competition this weekend. Debate meeting at 2 p.m.

I made a mental note as I made my way into my own classroom. I checked my personal desk-sized calendar. From corner to corner, I see tasks written: test prep, AMSTI training, order Science kits.

As my students made their way into the room, I gave them a quick smile and a swift “good morning” as I simultaneously instructed them to begin their morning work.

Their morning work led to their instruction time, which led to their assignment, which led to their “exit ticket”, which they couldn’t leave my room without.

From the moment they entered my classroom, they were on task. This is how I’ve been taught that it should be.

“Keep them busy,” I’ve heard. “They won’t have time to misbehave.”

It’s true; they won’t have much time to misbehave…but they also won’t have much to think. They won’t have much time to create. They won’t have much time to daydream.

Daydreaming is the enemy, right? When we see a child looking out the window while we’re pouring our heart into a lesson that we’ve carefully planned, organized, and outlined—we are quick to tell them to “snap out of it.”

We have SO much to cover, we don’t have TIME for that nonsense.

We’re told to keep them busy. We’re told to maximize every second. As teachers, we’re responsible for squeezing an unrealistically large amount of material into an unrealistically short amount of time. It stresses us out because we have to push, push, push for more. Then, our students are catching the stress that overflows from our sky-high pile of responsibilities.

While we are the messengers and we bridge the gap, we aren’t the origin of the unrealistic standards. We aren’t the curriculum-makers that have depleted the art classes in favor of more technology classes. We aren’t the head “pushers” creating more logically-based content and tests. We aren’t the ones funding the electronics and throwing out the textbooks and notebooks.

We aren’t these things but we are the difference-makers.

“It’s easier to keep them busy from bell to bell.”

It is easier like it’s easier to place an iPad with cartoons in front of my toddler than to deal with his desire for more play.

“It makes the day go by faster.”

It makes the day fly by because we’re so busy, we forget to breathe. During this particular day, I had an epiphany. What are my biggest learning moments in this life?

Many of those moments were spent alone; we don’t give our students the chance. While we can’t physically leave them alone, we can create an atmosphere where they have the time and space to think. We can give them guidelines without making them feel claustrophobic within them. We can let them be bored for a moment. We SHOULD let them be bored.

As teachers, we often spiral within our own to-do lists and feel as if we’re failing our students when our activities run out before the bell rings to dismiss; however, these are the moments in which students can feel the most impact. During a jam-packed day, our students may just be desperately thankful for a moment to blink.

On this day, I buried the exit sleeps into my third desk drawer and I closed my calendar and asked my students to draw a picture. Some of them doodled little hearts into the corner of a paper after complaining that “they can’t draw.” I watched as their minds became simultaneously still and full of thoughts during the scribbling session. Some students drew beautiful pictures they asked me to display on the wall, which I did. Some students didn’t do much of anything and looked seemingly “bored.” I didn’t urge them to comply. I didn’t tell them it would hurt their grade. I didn’t try to fill the boredom with more tasks. I simply let them be for a moment. I simply let them be bored, for what may have been the first time that day.

I look at my students who probably spent the morning knee-deep in test preparation and will likely spend their afternoons in a blur of extracurricular activities and homework and then video games.

I want to have more of these teaching moments; the moments where I’m not a teacher who looks good on paper. I can live with not being the most productive teacher or the highest-achieving teacher because I want my students to know that they don’t have to fill every second with productivity or every inch of shelf-space with trophies or every bit of their mind with numbers and facts.

Going forward, I want to be the teacher who shows how productivity and creativity can coexist.

I don’t want to be the teacher who throws busy work into every little hole in the schedule.

I want to be the teacher who lets them get bored.

Let's Allow Our Kids to be Bored

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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