Translating “Bored”

Bored young woman in classroom

“I’m bored” is a lot more complicated than it might seem.
Image: Shutterstock

The bored student is an archetype. Slouched in their chair, doodling on their desk, dog ate their homework…. Boredom is a symbol of the biggest barrier to learning there is: non-engagement. And it’s common to blame the kid. If they just tried harder to take an interest, they wouldn’t be bored, and they would be learning more. But there are so many reasons for non-engagement, and so many translations for “bored.”

“The homework was boring.” Possible translations: We’re going over concepts I mastered so long ago that this feels insulting. The teacher is wasting my time. Or: I don’t see how this assignment is teaching me anything. It feels like busy work. Or: I don’t see any real world application to this skill in the way it’s being taught.

“Writing is boring.” Possible translations: The way I’ve been taught writing doesn’t work for me. Or: The topics I’ve been ordered to write about feel irrelevant to me, usually because they’ve been stripped of context.

“Math class is boring.” Possible translations: I need to be taught math in a different way than the class standard. Or: I’m struggling and don’t want to admit that I am, so I will attack the instruction instead.

“My teacher is boring.” Possible translations: Sometimes, teachers just are very, very boring. Or: Their teaching style works at odds with my learning needs. Or: The teacher is not invested in the subject, and that is obvious to us students.

And sometimes “I’m bored,” really does mean just “I am choosing not to engage.” Sometimes it’s because the student doesn’t know how to engage, and that’s something that can be addressed, altered, and improved. It’s a teacher’s responsibility to keep the translations in mind and do everything they can before assuming that the problem is on the student’s end.


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