“School is really, really boring. I hate coming here.”

Civic Enterprises has released its latest study, Raising Their Voices, concerning America’s dropout crisis. What resonated with me the most was the voices of the students in the report. Here are some samples:

“To me, high school is like elementary and middle school. It’s all the same. We’ve been doing the same thing over and over again.”

“If you just fight your way through it now and get through school … eventually it will be interesting when you get into your career field.”

“I’m going to be honest: school is really, really boring. I hate coming here.”

Issue 1: Student boredom

I hate coming here. If you just fight your way through it. The same thing over and over again. These are pretty damning words. They also are pretty common. As the report noted, many students view high school as something that must be tolerated as a stepping-stone to [something] better (emphasis added). 

When’s the last time your school organization asked its students how interesting and engaging their classes were (and then took their responses seriously)?

Issue 2: Meaningful community discussion

The researchers brought together students, parents, and teachers in four different communities to collaboratively discuss the high school dropout program in their local area. In each case, individuals remarked that this was the first time that teachers, parents, and students had been brought together to talk about any issue, including the dropout crisis (emphasis added).

When’s the last time your school organization had teachers, parents, and students (and, yes, administrators) in the same room talking candidly and safely about important issues?

Issue 3: Disconnects between groups

The report noted that:

while dropouts cited boredom as the leading cause for dropping out, many educators we surveyed did not see this as the central cause. In fact, only 20 percent of teachers saw a student’s lack of interest in school as a major factor in most cases of dropout. More than twice as many believed students were making excuses for their failure to graduate. . . .

Additionally, although students said that higher expectations would have mitigated the factors leading to their dropping out, only 32 percent of teachers agreed that we should expect all students to meet high academic standards and graduate with the skills that would enable them to do college-level work, and that we should provide extra support to struggling students to help them meet those standards.

These disconnects exist everywhere, of course. No organization is immune from them. But perception shapes reality. If students say they’re bored and teachers just think students are making excuses and don’t reflect on their own instructional practices, the problem never gets solved.

When’s the last time your school organization intentionally worked to uncover and then meaningfully address existing cognitive, emotional, and perceptual disconnects between groups?

Wrap-up

The Raising Their Voices study was conducted on behalf of the AT&T Foundation and the America’s Promise Alliance. The report illustrates the kind of conversations that can occur when you bring disparate groups of school stakeholders together. It also shows that disconnects between groups can be effectively bridged through structured dialogue and a spirit of mutual respect. The report includes recruiting instructions and a sample discussion guide to help schools set up their own local focus groups. As school leaders, we should do this more…

Happy reading!

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

10 Responses to ““School is really, really boring. I hate coming here.””

  1. Great post; I’m going to discuss this in one of my SchoolTechTV vids on YouTube this week. Your site will be linked; thanks!

  2. I’m not saying teachers shouldn’t be engaging and the content as interesting as possible, but I can’t believe anyone had to study the fact that school is boring. I’m a teacher and I try to make my class interesting. But I teach interactive media and journalism – I feel my job is easy. I would be lost trying to make Algebra II or Biology interesting. I remember feeling bored in those classes in school myself. Not every kid is going to find the content of any given class interesting. What this survey doesn’t say is what to do about it. Yes, school is boring. How do we fix it? How do you make Algebra II interesting to a kid like I was – one who hated math?

  3. I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was a post by a teacher who complained that none of his students had done the assigned reading. In the post, he never once said that he asked the students, “why?” He did mention they were AP students. I think what we could take away from this study is that if, instead of making any assumptions whatsoever, all stakeholders talked more than maybe school wouldn’t have to be so tedious. Obviously, there will be some subjects kids like better than others, but if there was even ONE class that a kid didn’t want to miss, maybe we could do something to change that answer. (I’m not a teacher, btw, I’m a concerned parent.)

  4. Including students, parents, and community members in a discussion about a dropout program is surprising because the American education system is a very top-down institution. Legislatures and politicians set policy which local districts and school administrators interpret and pass along to teachers to implement with (some would say impose on) students.

    Instead we should approach the development of all aspects of school from the other side. Students should especially be included in planning the curriculum they will study and the process of how it will be presented and used. We are way past a time, if there ever was one, when we can exclude the group that represents the whole purpose of a public school system.

  5. Hi! Here’s the blog & video I promised on this subject. In about an hour or so, there will be at least 100 comments on the YouTube video, so click that link, open it, and check out the responses. Thanks!

    http://www.lockergnome.com/schooltech/2010/03/23/school-is-really-really-boring/

  6. Here’s the actual video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMBS-uhtOtE Comments are flying in; this is a good topic! :)

  7. Very interesting topic, boredom really is one of those variables in a school that no one really accounts for. I strongly believe that students interest in something should be one of the primary concerns in a school. What does it matter if a lesson is the best lesson in the entire world, but does not have the ability to capture the hearts of the students at the moment. Lessons vary just as students vary (Multiple Intelligences). I think administrators and teachers really need to make an effort in coming up with some type of system or program that allows for students to contribute ideas and resources so that the curriculum is helped developed by them, for them. Of course as school officials, we will be required to regulate what is being put in as well as decide what is best. But still, what will count is that not only will the students feel like they are making a contribution, their contribution will actually help in developing something that is meaningful to individual students. I can only see something like this as being helpful to the school as a whole, and have to figure out why a practice like this hasn’t become widespread. Student boredom is probably one of the key factors of low performance, and hopefully the school system will realize that more of an effort needs to be made in terms of connecting the curriculum to the student.

  8. However “boredom” does not mean that the students have actually mastered the subject, or have any understanding at all. The world is not their video game and it does not exist to entertain them. How many people go to work because it’s exciting and stimulating? We are doing students a disservice if we pretend that everything worthwhile is exciting and fun. Being able to complete tasks despite them being hard, boring, and frustrating is often how to succeed in life.

  9. thank you so much i got a lot of information for my news story

  10. It’s not school itself that’s boring, it’s most of the teachers that are boring.

    If you aren’t an engaging performer before your students then you should find some other profession where you can simply sit in a cubicle and pore over figures or data sheets.

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