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Parents and teachers alike are constantly fighting the battle of bored students when it comes to their kids.

Engaging students to do their homework, participate in classroom discussions, or even listen in class without taking away their cell phones can be as irritating and demoralizing for teachers and parents as it is boring and unengaging for students.

So just, why is it that there is such a widespread issue with students proclaiming they are bored? Whether parents believe this boredom is because their child is “gifted,” they are not being challenged enough, or teachers believe the students aren’t achieving their full potential because of laziness, there are usually many more factors at play that should be analyzed.

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1. Students are bored for various reasons

Kids are not all born equal in terms of intelligence levels, willingness to learn, or even social or learning skills. So it should be no surprise that kids can become bored in school. However, there is no single unifying reason for boredom and no one size fits all solution to fix this. To understand why kids get bored, it is a good idea to explain why this can happen.

2. Naturally intelligent students are not adequately challenged in class

While most parents want to believe that their child is the most gifted student in their class, this is not always the case. “Gifted” children are hard to define, and many people have their unique way of defining what “gifted” is, which makes this even more confusing.

Children with a natural tendency towards being motivated to learn may have a high IQ, which not only helps them learn certain subjects or concepts at a faster rate, but they can also understand the material and use it in a logical real-world sense. In this example, a “gifted” child with a high IQ can become restless if the material is continually taught repeatedly or in different ways to get the point across to those who may not grasp the concept quickly. Children who already understand the material can become bored if they do not feel adequately challenged by the material presented and zone out completely.

3. Kids sometimes do not understand why they need to learn certain material

Motivating kids to learn is a difficult task for any teacher or parent. Unless students see the potential worth or incentive to learn, they can begin to disengage completely. Why would a child feel compelled to complete schoolwork if schoolwork is not engaging? Being taught in school is much like working in a job for parents; some parts are boring, and parts that are better or more fun. This is usually down to how engaging a particular task is. If a child does not see an incentive to complete the task or does not find it engaging, they will clock out.

4. Some kids have learning or social skills which are not being met

While kids with specific learning difficulties from a young age are sent to specialist schools, mainstream students are below the average in the class. The latter regularly need a little extra help when being taught certain subjects. Often, these kids do not receive this help until regular testing shows they may have learning issues that should have been addressed earlier. This can have a very isolating effect on kids as they feel defeated and less connected with their peers and teachers. Some children find certain subjects so tough to understand that they believe they “just can’t do it” and give up trying altogether, leaving them bored in class.

Other kids may feel like they have no real connection to the teacher or their peers, so they will not ask for help when they struggle to understand the material. Feeling as though they have nowhere to turn can cause students to disengage when frustrated and isolated. Not having a connection to their teacher can also disengage them, especially if they view their teacher, subject, or lesson plan as “boring.” If teachers do not engage their students to make them want to learn the subject, it can be hard to motivate them to tune in.

All of these issues focus on the student, but many other factors can affect them that may not have been taken into consideration by parents or teachers.

5. It’s not just students. Teachers can be bored too

If you think that all teachers are 100 percent engaged with their classes all of the time, you would be very wrong. Bored Teachers may end up teaching the same subjects or the same grade for years on end, which can not only become repetitive but extremely boring. Some teachers will feel that they are going through the motions every time they teach certain subjects, having to grade the same test papers and essays, which can lead to a severe lack of enthusiasm. What’s worse is that kids can pick up on these vibes. If you are bored with the topic, what makes you think they will enjoy it?

Teachers are also regularly burnt out from long hours and dwindling budgets for better supplies. Often, a bored teacher may want to spice up their teaching approach but is held back by budgetary restraints. Teachers may also not have enough time to develop creative class activities and games when grading papers long into the night while trying to have a life for themselves. These long working hours can also feed into a lackluster personality. Tired or stressed teachers may use silent reading, watching videos, or churning out tests in classes to catch a breath or grade more papers and tests from other classes. This seeming lack of interest in making a classroom environment fun and engaging trickles down to the students, who will likely want to be out of the class as fast as the teacher.

6. Many kids find their classrooms or class environments boring

On that note, kids need visual stimuli to be motivated in a classroom environment. Seeing brightly colored paintings and projects around a room can brighten an otherwise dull and monotonous environment. It can also imply that the class will have creative, hands-on assignments rather than just a dry lecture hall. Other classroom environments can affect a student’s attention span; using digital elements such as laptops or desktop computers can be a blessing as well as a curse; classroom discussion can help or isolate students, and even an abundance of brightly decorated walls can distract and overstimulate rather than help to motivate students. Teachers must tread a delicate balance between overstimulating and boring classrooms to get the right environment to help most students. Still, since not all students will learn the same way, some will inevitably fall through the cracks if their learning style has not been identified.

7. Kids can see attending school as a boring chore

Ask any parent, and they will tell you their kids will have asked on many occasions, “why do I have to go to school?” The answer from parents is usually, “so you can get a good job.” But why is school so boring?

Kids may start being overly excited to start school and be incredibly willing to learn everything their teacher has to teach, but this glamor tends to wear off the longer a child attends school. This can be down to the novelty of being at school wearing off, feeling stressed and tired from the workload, and a switch from hands-on projects to learning dry statistics and dates in lessons that ramp down those creative outlets that kept them engaged as younger children. Removing naptime, which they would have gotten as kindergartners, can be tough for younger students at first as they have to concentrate for longer periods without a break – save for recess.

For high schoolers, sleep is also an issue, with many teachers having to wake up a sleeping student who has nodded off with boredom during their lesson, or so it seems. Students are not getting adequate sleep thanks to staying up later and getting up early for class. Constantly struggling with tiredness will, at best, produce a student who is not fully present in class but, at worst, completely zoned out or fast asleep.

8. Kids can be continually bored by certain classes or subjects

Another common complaint from students is that they “don’t get it” when it comes to certain subjects. Some kids excel in sciences, while others can write beautiful stories and recite Shakespeare’s words perfectly. Even those who do not excel academically can thrive on the football pitch or in music. The truth is that most kids will be bored or thoroughly uninterested in at least one topic at school for a variety of reasons;

  • They do not feel they are good at the subject and give up before trying
  • They do not like the teacher or cannot engage with their style of teaching
  • They do not like the topics covered in the curriculum and disengage
  • They do not like the class or students they are learning with
  • They see it as a waste of their time, and they will drop it the first chance they get
  • Knowing it will not be necessary for a job or college application later on

There are, of course, many other reasons kids will hate a subject or class a teacher may teach, but no matter what they are, this leads to boredom infiltrating the classroom.

So, how do we solve boredom?

There has always been a massive emphasis on teachers creating more engaging classes, hands-on, student-run creative projects, or adding games or digital media into their lesson plans to make students want to learn. While this is a brilliant solution, in theory, teachers rarely have the time to make every single lesson an engaging, fun-filled time, especially if you have multiple different classes, of various levels, not just throughout the day but throughout the week! Teachers also have to be able to test students’ abilities to begin to see patterns and behaviors, which would suggest a child may or may not need special attention if they are struggling. Identifying this can take quite a while if there are no immediate red flags.

Instead of constantly focusing on these shiny ideas, teachers should focus on engaging students by:

  • Making engagement meaningful to the students by taking their language
  • Using “real-world” examples to make points about what you are talking about by using examples from the news or current movies to give the point structure for them
  • Trying to personalize the content where possible so they feel you are talking to them one on one as an equal
  • Being enthusiastic about your subject and showing genuine excitement to teach it
  • Being in the moment with your students and allowing debate and discussion to drum up interest

Conversely, many argue that parents should also pick up the slack, checking that students understand their homework and making time to help them study at home. Many parents who ask their children about their day at school are often met with “it was boring,” which is when parents can probe further to find out why. If children are coming home with below-average grades or failing tests which they need to have a parent sign, this is another opportunity to delve into “why” without chastising.

The reality is that parents and teachers can help a student massively by spotting the early signs of boredom, whether passing notes or skipping classes failing tests, or dodging homework at home. How a student reacts to the topic or subject matter may or may not be the correct way to engage them, but with a little probing, the right mindset, and a lot of enthusiasm, you may be able to turn a bored kid into an A-plus student.