It wasn’t a bad lesson overall but all I can hear in my head was the exaggerated whisper, ‘this is boring’. On the surface everything seemed to go to plan; most of the pupils seems to get what I was saying, engaging with the lesson, doing what I wanted them to do. But that phrase, that swipe, that bullet in the gullet, to quote one of the great English poets. A reminder of all the time spent planning, thinking about the next lesson came crashing down around me. I’ll not lie, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it; it doesn’t often happen though. This time hurt me more and I don’t know why.
I was rotten today and I know it. Boring. Bored. I felt a bit ashamed of myself because I knew it wasn’t, is never, good enough. Good enough is never good enough. Boring is unforgivable. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pandering to every pupil who uses that word. I’m not a children’s entertainer. It’s just that I knew my delivery was predictable, stale and unimaginative. The opportunities for further discussion, further learning passed me by. I let my class down. But, when you have five or six classes a day, when you see one hundred and fifty kids sitting in front of you waiting to be taught, is it realistic to be on top form all of the time?
In an ideal world it probably should be. Our students need us to give them our best every day. Physically though I’m finding it impossible. Despite the workload, despite the Masters I’m studying, the marking, the preparing, the blogging, everything I do, the thing I find most exhausting is the everyday routine of standing in front of a class of thirty kids all day. There is no hiding place. We work under a microscope all of the time, with someone waiting to pounce when we are not on our game. So I was boring.
Then I recalled a passage from Hattie’s last book, the one about the science of learning.
‘Teachers are frequently disappointed by the lack of student response to what ought to be richly stimulating activities and experiences. Student apathy and lack of motivation are frequently cited as factors underlying teacher stress, burn out and lack of job satisfaction’ (Hattie, p.3)
And it got me thinking about the ‘this is boring’ whisper and I realised that it wasn’t the comment that bothered me. It was the fact that I knew it was boring. I had relied on the fact that the class would do what I asked them to do, would complete the task I had set. They knew it too. What was unforgivable was that I could have done it differently and didn’t. It is not enough to keep kids busy. It is not enough for them to have filled up notebooks. This is not a post about engagement. It is a post about ensuring that learning is not merely something to endure. It is something to be memorable, ‘richly stimulating’. Ach, man. This is a hard job.