My heart goes out to the kids that are met with patronizing retorts when they describe their experience of utter boredom in the classroom.
They hear, “Only boring people can be bored” or “Pay better attention, and maybe you won’t be so bored.” Or even worse, “Get used to it. Life is boring.”
This came up for me recently on a conference call Jade Ann Rivera hosted about the intersection of Asperger’s and giftedness. A mother of a young gifted-Aspie revealed that her daughter felt bored in elementary school.
I detected the slightest timidity, as if “boredom” weren’t a feeling worthy of further reflection. This mother, an incredible advocate for her child, seemed to have partially internalized the school district’s position that wanting your child to feel engaged was asking too much.
Boredom is not a character deficit.
While sometimes boredom can be overcome by self-initiative, often a gifted individual needs an environment to inspire and compel their participation. Boredom is a valid feeling, and I urge caring adults to look for underlying needs including engagement and intellectual stimulation.
And it is particularly difficult for those of us that have intellectual overexcitability.
When one’s mind is on overdrive with thoughtful curiosity and questioning, it can be painful to sit with underwhelming stimuli. It can lead to problematic behavior, including withdrawal or rebellion.
On the call, I declared “Take Boredom Seriously.” We have all kinds of groups and trainings on anger management, as if a kid flipping a desk over or cursing out a teacher is the most serious behavioral challenge in education. I am more concerned with the immense loss that happens when creative minds stop caring.
When young eyes close with tired despair, eyes that could be eagerly engaged in their own projects, I rouse to near anger. This does not have to be expensive; sometimes a library card and leaving them alone is all it takes. Free these minds, inspire their inquiry, and watch what happens.
Let’s continue to work to support young people in having their needs for engagement and learning well attended to. In fact, anything less bores me.
I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below, please share a challenge or a success story about how you’ve brought innovation and creativity to overcome boredom.