8 Things Teachers Do To Cause Boredom

Smart Classroom Management:When students get bored their minds drift.

And while some settle on daydreaming, tile-counting, and general inattentiveness, other students are drawn to more…ahem…destructive pursuits.

For where there is boredom, there is misbehavior percolating just under the surface, ready to pounce.

Although there is a lot you can do to counter the onset of boredom, understanding what not to do is the first step to avoiding its negative effects.

What follows is a list of the most common things teachers do to cause boredom.

By steering clear of these eight attention killers, your students will spend more time on task and be far better behaved.

And you’ll be a more effective teacher.

1. Sitting too long.

Although it’s important to increase your students’ stamina for both paying attention during lessons and focusing during independent work, if they’re made to sit too long, you’re asking for trouble. Good teachers are observant and thus learn to know precisely when to switch gears and get their students up and moving.

2. Talking too much.

Students need room to breathe or they’ll form an unspoken mutiny and turn your classroom upside down. Talking too much is especially smothering. It communicates that you don’t trust them, teaches them to tune you out, and causes their eyes to glaze over. The more economical and concise you are with your words, however, the more attentive your students will be.

3. Making the simple, complex.

Many teachers misunderstand the oft-heard mandate for more rigor. They take it to mean that they need to make their instruction more complex, more involved, more verbose—which is a major reason why students don’t progress. Our job, if we are to do it well, is to do the opposite. The most effective teachers simplify, break down, and cut away the non-essentials—making content easier for students to grasp.

4. Making the interesting, uninteresting.

Most standard grade-level subject matter is interesting, but your students don’t know that. In fact, many assume, based on their learning experiences in the past, that it’s boring. It’s your job to show them otherwise. It’s your job to give them a reason to care about what you’re teaching. So many teachers just talk at their students, forgetting the most critical element: selling it.

5. Talking about behavior instead of doing something about it.

Teachers who struggle with classroom management tend to talk endlessly about behavior. They hold class meetings. They hash things out. They revisit the same tired topic over and over, much to their students’ eye-rolling chagrin. Effective classroom management is about action. It’s about doing and following through and holding students accountable. It isn’t about talking.

6. Directing too much, observing too little.

Most teachers are in constant motion—directing, guiding, handholding, and micromanaging students from one moment to the next. This is not only remarkably inefficient, but it dampens enthusiasm for school. Instead, rely on sharp, well-taught routines to keep your students awake, alive, and responsible through every transition and repeatable moment of your day—while you observe calmly from a distance.

7. Leading a slow, sloppy, slip-shod pace.

Good teaching strives for a focus and efficiency of time, movement, and energy. The day crackles and glides cleanly from one lesson or activity to the next. As soon as one objective is met, it’s on to the next without delay. Moving sharply and purposefully forces students to stay on their toes, their minds engaged. Boredom never enters the picture.

8. Failing to adjust.

Regardless of what you’re trying to squeeze in by the end of the day, or how important it seems, the moment you notice heads wilting, you must make an adjustment. It’s never worth it to plow through. Sometimes all your students need is a moment to stretch their legs or say hello to a friend. Other times, you’ll simply move on to something else.

Learning In The Spotlight

The ability to concentrate over time is a critical and often-overlooked aspect of learning, and so pushing the time-on-task envelop is a good thing.

But there is a fine line.

And when students cross that line and into boredom, misbehavior is sure to follow. The good news is that by avoiding the common mistakes listed above, you can keep boredom at bay…

And inspired learning in the spotlight.

Note: I wrote an article last week for Jessica Balsley’s excellent blog, The Art of Education. If you’re an art teacher, or you just want to improve art in your classroom, I recommend checking it out.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

, , , ,

43 Responses to 8 Things Teachers Do To Cause Boredom

  1. Carolyn Brown January 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I am just back in the classroom after rehire following layoffs, so I’m still resharpening my skills. Most days go pretty well. You can sure see the value of a well-oiled machine on the days where something happens to plans, such as equipment failure, fire drill, etc. We carry on, but of course, it’s not as smooth as it might have been. Sure can tell the difference!

  2. Litsa January 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    I love reading these informative articles. Yet I still feel like a failure. I compare my teaching to that of my teachers in the States and I’m never happy. I have a problem with discipline (to me that means everyone looks at me, the board or the book when presenting important grammar phenomena, they all participate or they show respect to their classmates). The students that I have here in Greece spend very many hours in school and by the time they get to me they’re: ‘ Oh my God I’m tired’. I do try to be flexible and I DO CARE FOR AND ABOUT THEM, but I don’t feel I’m on the right track yet. Do all those wonderful tips work? Really?

    • Michael Linsin January 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi Litsa,

      Yes, the strategies and principles you read about on this site really do work.

      Michael

  3. Steve Hayes January 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Great list. I also believe that eye contact, smiling, and laughter can’t be over looked.

    • Michael Linsin January 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Steve,

      The article is about what not to do. You can find articles on each of the topics you mentioned and a lot more in the archive.

      :)Michael

  4. Rosalinda January 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I try to read your advice every time…thanks a million…it really is a mind opener….Rose

  5. eva o'croinin February 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Great article! How many kids become disengaged, bored, etc. and appear inattentive
    and hyperactive? How many of these kids who are affected by their classroom dynamics get unfairly diagnosed with a mental disorder?

  6. Adam February 2, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    For the past month I have been following your blog and have started reading your book, got fifty pages in last night. I am a middle school art teacher and what I struggle with is adding that element of fun and interest in my classes. I hear some comments like,”this class is boring.” What I have come to realize is some students say this because I won’t let them do whatever they want to —there is a structure even in an elective class. I am a serious artist and am somewhat of a serious person it is just who I am. When I change my teaching persona it feels forced and contrived. So, how do I make my class less boring and more interesting and not comprise my own personality?

    • Michael Linsin February 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Hi Adam,

      You can add more fun and interest to your classroom without changing a thing about your personality. In fact, I don’t recommend trying to be anyone but who you are–as long as you’re pleasant and not yelling, using sarcasm, or the like. Work instead on creating better lessons and selling your curriculum. Little things can make a big difference. Do your job, give them compelling lessons, and then leave the rest to them.

      Michael

  7. Jonadab February 2, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Great practical tips indeed! Anyone who commits to these strategies will surely believe their practicality. More ink to ur pen sir Michael.

  8. Sunny O'Neil February 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I love love love your articles. They are the most helpful I’ve seen in my 11 years of teaching. This year I’m a substitute — and these are my questions: How does a substitute create leverage in a class that she sees for only one day? How does she create leverage with students who speak hardly any English?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    • Michael Linsin February 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Hi Sunny,

      Creating leverage as a substitute is difficult. Therefore, although I don’t recommend behavior rewards and such for regular teachers, I do for subs. Find or create a learning game you know students will love. Talk it up first thing in the morning and then let them know that anyone who follows your rules, stays out of time-out, etc. gets to play the game at the end of the day. A good sub needs to have some sure-fire incentives to create leverage.

      Michael

  9. Adam February 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I have been following the blog for a while and finally bought the book. Read about 50 pages straight on my morning commute alone. I am in the beginning stages of implementing your structures, piece by piece.

    I teach 7th grade: are there any specific suggestions or modification that you recommend for implementing an effective time-out for this age group?

    • Michael Linsin February 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Hi Adam,

      The only change I suggest is not calling it time-out. Simply explain that if they interfere with your teaching and their right to learn, you have no choice but to separate them from their peers.

      Michael

  10. Jessica February 3, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Hi Michael,
    Another awesome article! I have one quick question–the past few weeks I have been specifically planning a great deal of partner activities, as well as activities which allow students to get up and moving around the classroom (educational games, stations, etc.) The students do a great job remaining on-task during these activities, but the one thing that I struggle with is getting their attention back once it is time to move onto the next activity. I use a short “chime” sound to get the class’ attention currently, and have explained that the procedure is for them to stop what they are doing and give me their eyes and their attention as soon as they hear this chime sound. This has worked for some classes, but I feel that for some of my other classes, they do not respond right away and continue what they are working on with their groups. In some instances I have resorted to sounding the chime a few times in a row (a mistake, I know), and I am kinda stuck on what I can do to make this attention signal more effective (in order to obtain the students’ attention as soon as I give the signal). Perhaps I should change up the sound to make it something new? Or should I only sound the attention chimes once and immediately start writing names down for a “warning” if students do not give me their attention right away? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin February 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      I wrote an article about this a while back called How To Signal For Your Students’ Attention. You can find it in the Attentiveness Category of the archive. If you have any questions after you read the article, email me. I’m happy to help.

      Michael

  11. Jessica February 3, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    And Adam (the art teacher above), if you read this–I can COMPLETELY relate to you!! It is difficult being labeled as an “elective” or “enrichment” area class–because I feel like kids automatically assume that it means it will be a “blow-off” class. I teach elementary Spanish as an “enrichment,” (although I don’t think it should have that label) and I, too, am a serious teacher with high expectations for my students’ learning. Sure, we do fun activities like pinatas and churros throughout the year, but I also expect them to learn a lot of vocabulary! It is, above all, an academic class, just like math, English, or history. And it is very hard sometimes for the children to realize that! In short, I feel your pain!

  12. Adam Fachler February 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    I called the middle school time-out, “taking a breather.”

    At the end of class today, we had a whole-class discussion about the unit and the rules I had just introduced. I literally had a student who had been causing trouble all week say, “Today, I feel like I had my best day this week because I knew exactly what was expected of me.” Everyone sort of looked at him sideways and then started spontaneously applauding. Another student (in fact, a girl who had to take a breather at the beginning of the discussion for talking over classmates) commented that she had more respect for me and the class now that concrete rules were posted and being enforced.

    It was like an after-school special. Thank you for your sage advice.

    • Michael Linsin February 4, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      You’re welcome, Adam! Thanks for sharing. Love to hear it!

      Michael

  13. Jessica February 8, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Hi Michael,
    Just read your blog post on “The Art of Education” website and loved it!! SO applicable to any “enrichment” or “special area” teachers! I have a competition with my classes in seeing which class from each grade level can be the first one to reach 100 “star points” each quarter. I then reward them with a day in which the students can choose all of the activities for the class period that I have them (with some sweets included, of course 😉 I was always hesitant about this system in combination with the individual classroom management strategies that you list on this website, as I was unsure if it was OK to have consequences/rewards on a whole-class basis. But I am so glad to hear that you endorse this “competition” type of classroom management strategy for “enrichment” or “special area” teachers. I loved the article–so many great points and I can completely relate to all of them, as I see 18 different classes for thirty minutes twice a week. Thank you very much for the extra post!!

    • Michael Linsin February 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      You’re welcome! It was a long time coming. Art, music, PE, and other specialized classes that see hundreds of students a week can be a different animal, where building rapport can be a challenge. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and that it reinforced what you were already doing.

      :)Michael

  14. ratiba February 17, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Dear Michael.
    in our classes the students are seating in groups(4or 5 students)do you think it’s a good idea to change the students between the groups every two or three weeks.

    • Michael Linsin February 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Hi Ratiba,

      Yes, I think it’s good to change often. Three to four weeks seems about right, but less is okay too.

      Michael

  15. Randy Revels March 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    I really enjoyed this article. I am a high school math teacher, and I find it hard sometimes to get students up and moving. We have block scheduling at our school, and 90 minutes is a long time to sit. When I do find a way to get them moving, they act like they are too cool to stand up.

    Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin March 4, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Randy,

      Just keep doing it, preferably at the same time, until it becomes just part of being in your classroom. Start simply. Give them 2-3 minutes to stand, stretch their legs, and say hello to their friends while you pretend to be getting ready for the next segment of your lesson. In time they’ll start taking advantage of it and groan when you ask them to sit down.

      Michael

  16. Phil January 23, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    great article, I am a brand new teacher and things like these are very useful to know before you get into the jungle.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Michael Linsin January 23, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      You’re welcome, Phil!

      Michael

  17. Elisa April 8, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I love the way you explain classroom management concisely and clearly. It is really inspiring to imagine my dream class and to visualise that setting, and I’ll be making an effort to be self-observant with your advice while teaching!

    You’ve inspired me to be so observant that I’ve found, and need to point out, that it’s “observing too *little*”, not “less”. (I do my best to impress the importance of grammar and English on my students daily!) 🙂

    But, your articles are impressive and your strategies all make perfect sense, and make classroom management seem like an enjoyable challenge rather than an uphill battle. So thank you, and keep the articles coming!

    Elisa
    London

    • Michael Linsin April 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi Elisa,

      I’m glad you like the articles, and I really appreciate you finding a grammar mistake! However, I don’t know what you’re referring to. Would you mind letting me know which article and paragraph you’re referring to. I don’t see that particular mistake in the article above.

      Thanks,

      :)Michael

  18. odloty April 24, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your post. I like
    to write a little comment to support you.

    • Michael Linsin April 24, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Thank you, Odloty!

      :)Michael

  19. Mae July 31, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    Hi michael. I’m such a boring teacher. I kniw because even myself I also get bored with my class. I’m a new teacher and this is my first year of teaching. I’m not a really creative person. I’m not familiar with different activities. I’m not a person who is fun of entertaining others.
    Now, I’m not anymore sure if I am really meant for this profession. 🙁

    • Michael Linsin August 1, 2014 at 7:11 am #

      Hi Mae,

      It’s much more of an attitude than it is a particular inborn personality. Simply smiling more and making better eye contact, which anyone can do, will make you more interesting to your students. The idea isn’t to be someone you’re not. It’s to be the best teacher you can be.

      Michael

  20. Erik March 29, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Too bad teachers in my school fail at most of theese. I try as hard as I can to get interested but they are so slow, get frustrated real fast and makes me feel uncomfortable. But there’s still 2 teachers that brighten up the mood, makes jokes that sometimes reminds me of the subject helping me in tests.

  21. alan October 3, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    Here’s a radical idea…why don’t we just stop talking about how we bore kids and to expect bad behaviour and expect them to JUST BEHAVE THEMSELVES AND CONCENTRATE? Children – especially older ones – know exactly what they are doing and know it’s wrong to not listen and misbehave, so why do we indulge them so much? Schools in the 21st century have resources undreamed of 20 years ago. There is no excuse for children to ‘be bored’.

  22. Mikala November 19, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Eight Things Teachers Do to Cause Boredom,” Linsin says that sometimes students sit too long, teachers talk too much, and instructors make…

  23. Bluepearls March 19, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I agree with you that teaching has to be engaging and interesting especially with kids or teenagers who spend so many long hours at school. Sometimes, though, I am not able to truly relate your ideas and suggestions into real situations. Could you please offer more examples maybe from your own classroom? That would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Bluepearls

    • Michael Linsin March 20, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Bluepearls,

      We’ve covered this topic in several different areas of the archive. The Learning & Independence category is a good place to start. Also, the new book The Happy Teacher Habits, which comes out in early May 2016, goes into this topic (i.e. exactly what I do) in depth.

      Michael

  24. Carol Nicholson November 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Good article! Totally agree!