This Is Boring

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9 thoughts on “This Is Boring”

  1. Hey Ben,
    Your entry made me smile. Sometimes, the universe conspires, and the kids are so much a part of that. The other day, I asked “how are you” and the student replied “Bored”
    There was that second of “Oh my gosh I have to address this immediately!” that went off in my brain but before I had a chance to say a word in response . . . the peanut gallery chimed in. I’ve never been to a huge stadium where the audience does the wave, but I felt like I was there at that moment (well, that’s actually a gross exageration…sorta) from the back right corner someone said, “Are you nuts? Bored”
    and to the left of that guy…”Did he say he was bored?”
    further left “Yeah, bored!”
    “Hey, did you say you were bored! This isn’t boring! Are you crazy?!”
    Who said they were bored?
    and the comments continued around the room
    Are you out of your mind, this is the best class
    You want to know bored, try _______, now that’s boring!
    this isn’t boring, who said it’s boring
    and I’m waiting for the opportunity to say something as the quiet (believe it or not) commentary of unbelief and reaction ripples around the room.
    hey, madame, this is not boring
    did someone say boring?
    I’m not bored, this is fun
    of course, i can’t remember exactly what all they said, but that was the gist of it
    and the universe took care of that little quip and i am grateful because in a few seconds, I knew I didn’t need to do a thing. I just carried on that day. didn’t even go to the word “boring” I asked the next student and the response was “fantastique!”
    the fellow who said it has probably said it lots, in other classes. matter of fact, just from the reaction, i’m sure they’ve all said it, or thought it, or been subjected to it, somewhere along the line, perhaps daily (perish the thought). on this day though, they didn’t buy in because they know they are learning something, everyday in here, painlessly (for the most part), with a good measure of laughter, and kindness, and they know we all belong. but boring….grin, well that’s not allowed to belong, is it? and that’s a thing of beauty.
    further though……we had a snow day on friday. first snow. a huge inability for them to focus. i had one of those “quiet days” for them. noses to the page or the screen. independent work. ahhhhhhhhhhh blessed noise of silence once in awhile is great for all of us. grin
    don’t we have the most wonderful of jobs?
    have fun out there today!

  2. “…boring….grin, well that’s not allowed to belong, is it?…”.
    Thank you, Lynn, and I so much agree that boring is “not allowed to belong”. One wonders what parents, what other teachers, what society, unbelievably, has allowed this child to come to the conclusion that saying such a thing is an acceptable thing in a social setting.
    It shows how out of kilter our society really is. At Culver Military Academy in Indiana I would no sooner have said that in a class than been shown about 100 hours of marching in a square around a field for the next few months, rain or shine – time to think about what I said.
    The reaction of your class was a tour de force on how societies can and will right themselves. And, by extension, Krashen/CI/TPRS itself is a tour de force concept that will eventually bring about the righting of the ship of foreign language instruction in our country. As your class righted the ship in your classroom, Krashen and Ray and Susan Gross are righting the ship in the country.
    So if I ever hear that word in class, and we all will, I will know to instantly think of this post, to internally rise above that deep darkness – it is truly a tar baby sitting there in that desk – smile, with or without class support – float up, and get to that phone asap after the incident, and without fail at some point in the next day or so have a sit down with whatever conscious adults there are available. If not the parents, then a counselor. Anyone.
    This is called raising children. We let that comment go, and, as I said above, we might as well hand the keys to our classroooms over to our students. Social messages that house deep darkness in them but seem normal to the kids are hard to stop, but we can act locally. As a firm patriot, I work every day on behalf of the good of my country. Languages are increasing exponentially in their value to our country, and we have a chance to serve in that way, but, more than that, we have a chance to serve by showing up as adults, and not be hooked by such comments. Your class gets a million Susie Gross shiny stars on their faces for their reaction to this boring kid. After all, we are reminded that the verb to be bored in French is reflexive.
    [I also love what you said about the blessed noise of silence once in awhile as “great for all of us”. This is a true thing. We have the right to remain silent in our classrooms. The kids need it and we need it. They want to just hang out with a book instead of “being taught” all day. They need a respite from the noise. When they come in and read silently for ten minutes, sometimes longer, every day, the healing in the room is palpable. They bask in knowing that an adult is in the room protecting them from the slightest whisper. At times, after the FVR, we can deviate from our plan and just talk to the kids about what they just read, and maybe spin that into something fun. No, our classes are not boring. We work hard to make languages interesting, and no dark force with be allowed to mess that up. But yes, silence…even the silence in the form of the pauses during the CI! I heard once that to truly be able to hear music (Verdi, Fauré come to mind – their Requiems) we need first learn to listen to the silences between the notes. They are aptly called rests. We can rest to, in our work, while we are actually working. No rest is for the weary. I, for one, am not weary, or I wouldn’t be doing this after 34 years (swipe at Duke). Ah, languages…. and a good way to teach them…. and honnêtes gens like you and Harrell and Jim and the Alaskans and the incomparable Laurie Clarcq and the lobstermen up in Maine to talk about this art that we do, like Stendhal said, “An endless conversation and the presence of those one loves…”. Who said that language is boring?]

  3. Fact: Feeling bored is real. Question: Fight it or use it? Instead of applying discipline in L1, why not ask about the real feeling being felt, using L2?
    “Vous dites que vous vous ennuyez? Vous vous ennuyez? Excusez-moi? Que voulez-vous dire, «bored»? Je ne comprends pas très bien l’Inglés. Classe, Il est ennuyé! Zzzzzzz. Ne comprenez-vous? Ennuyé! Ennuyé? Ennuyé!! Pauvre lui! Ennuyé. Il est ennuyé!
    Question: quelle est la différence entre être ennuyeux et l’ennui? Est-ce qu’il s’ennuie ou ennuyeux? (SLOW, write translations, kathunk.) Pauvre lui! Ennuyé. Oui. C’est vrai. Mais.. il est aussi ennuyeux? Dite-moi. Il est ennuyeux ou ennuyeux pas? Plus ennuie ou plus enneuyeux?
    Sounds like the kid is asking for it either way. Maybe there’s another way to let him have it. Plan B would let him have it for a while longer? Meanwhile, the class might get a chuckle, while also getting some real français dans un contexte réel? Just asking..

  4. But the asking you do here is confusing. What is Plan B? The class might get a chuckle over what, exactly? We work in real classrooms with real kids and our butts are on all sorts of lines every day, from possible law suits to being judged by people who have no idea what we do. So what’s your point?

  5. Last Friday one of my students asked out of the blue, “How do you say ‘boring’ in German?” I gave him the answer and then started on my “If you are bored in this class” speech. Immediately he protested, “No, no, no. This class isn’t boring, it’s fun. I just wanted to know how to say it.” (My suspicion is that he wanted to be able to say it in German in another class.) Of course, this was the day that I got done about half of what I intended because my 40+ students were already mentally on our week-long break. (Thanks for the reminder in an earlier thread, Ben, that 40+ students is simply an impossible situation. I still keep trying to make it work.)

  6. Dear Anonymous,
    The truth is that language in context is not necessarily interesting. The truth is that no teenager cares whether a word means bored or boring. They are bored before we ever get to an explanation. It’s a hard truth but there it is.
    The trick is to find a way to use the vocab in context in a way that speaks to the interest of the students. Over and over and over and over and over. In a way that isn’t boring.
    Long-term memory, or acquisition which I prefer, requires the interest on-switch to stay on. Once the interest-on-switch is turned off, getting through to a student’s brain is SO MUCH WORK THAT NEITHER THE TEACHER NOR THE STUDENTS CAN POSSIBLY GET IT DONE. That is when students give up and get angry. That is when former students say things like “I studied Spanish for 5 years and didn’t learn anything.” That is when teachers become exhausted, frustrated, sarcastic and vindictive. That is when teaching steals your soul.
    So…use the TL? Absolutely. Jump on the word “bored”? Sure. In context? Of course. But in a way that absolutely has interest and meaning to the students. (my French is weak…I actually had to slow WAY down and reread your post several times to understand it…so be patient with my response)
    “Vous dites que vous vous ennuyez? C’est impossible. Classe….c’est impossible qu’il est ennuyez ici dans le classe du francais. ”
    1. (whisper in a cooperative student’s ear to pretend to be asleep and that when you press a button on the remote s/he should say “zing!!!!” and sit up alert) “C’est impossible parce que j’ai une machine pour les etudiantes ennuyes (don’t know the right ending) . Quand les estudiantes sont ennuyes (write translation and underline ED) j’ecoute le machine comme ca. (point the remote at your student for the reaction) Voila!!
    continue with other students who might be willing to ‘play the game” When a student does not respond (or set it up this way). …continue with….
    “Aussi, C’est une machine pour les etudiantes. Quand le professeur est ennuyeux (write translation and underline ING) les etudiante ecoutes (ending again) le machine ici…. ”
    Give student a second remote. “Blah Blah Blah Blah blah” the student points and clicks at the teacher and you come to life in whatever way connects you with your students…singing the favorite line of a song, chanting verb endings while doing the John Travolta disco finger point at a sentence etc. It can be as simple as going from looking at the floor mumbling to looking students in the eyes, speaking clearly and smiling.
    You still get the comparison….but you also get the interest without putting a student on the spot without a graceful way to save face and actually be interested in the class.
    This is just one scenario. There are many other options. But pointing out that 1. grammatical accuracy is the primary focus or 2. students who express opinions will be subjected to a barrage of TL that targets rather than invites or
    3. things don’t have to be interesting to be learned are what have stood starkly in the way of students becoming functional in a second language here in the U.S.
    At this time of year we all end up in a place (at least for a few moments a day) where we just feel like screaming “I’m stuck teaching this damn it and you are stuck learning it so shut up and suck it up and do what I ask you to do!!!
    Doing it in the TL doesn’t make it any less useful. :o) Love Love Love.
    Truth is…when we treat our students with a sense of respect, gentle humor and kindness, taking their viewpoints and maturity levels into consideration…we are also loving ourselves.
    with love,

  7. Dear Anonymous
    Please don’t think I let comments like “This is boring” go. the reason I commented on Ben’s blog is because it was so, “right now” apropos is the word I want. I’d just experienced the incident when I read about it in his blog.
    If I were going to teach them a word like boring, it would go something like this (and this is off the cuff so bear with me). In keeping with the theme – boring isn’t allowed in the classroom
    a kid is in the hall talking on a cell phone because he’s bored and wants something to do
    so he goes to French class and learns French because it’s fun learning French
    a kid is bored after snowboarding for 6.32 hours and 56 seconds in really deep powder
    so he goes to French class and learns some French because it’s cool to learn French
    a kid is bored out of his mind after swimming at the wave pool for 2days 14 hours and 36 seconds
    so he goes to french class and learns some French because he loves learning French.
    The kid isn’t bored anymore because now he can call France on his cell to go boarding at Val d’Isere and surfing at Biarritz. He has lots and lots and lots of fun because now he knows how to speak French.
    or something like that
    I’m with Ben on this. Keep that word BORING out of the class. and there are many different ways to accomplish this.
    I’m thinking that how we manage this, depends on that magical teachable moment. Wow, there are a lot of things going on in our classes at any given moment. And sometimes we get fooled into thinking we must do battle over some moments in class. As Ben points out, we absolutely MUST address issues like this. I used to gloss over these issues. yike. this is NOT good practice. And I was about to NOT gloss over, but on this particular day, it was the kids who brought up the question/response “hey, IS this boring” and the ever powerful status quo gave a resounding “NOPE” While the students don’t rule in my room, they are the reason we are all there in the first place, and it’s testimony to this way of learning, that the status quo supports it and recognizes it for what it is…genius. gotta love it. I’m learning that when the universe conspires for good….well, I’ll go with it. I don’t have to be a marshal commander, but I certainly need to steer the ship.

  8. Great post, Ben (and comments). Last week, I tried out your Suggested Block Schedule, because I wasn’t feeling so great, AND, ALL my classes are 90 minutes (I guess that’s what a “block” is in your language).
    I noticed the following:
    * CI dropped greatly,
    * I stayed at the front of the room most of the time (usually I’m rarely behind the teacher’s desk except to write on the board)
    * I did very little PQA
    * I did NOT feel guilty about this!
    * the respite was badly needed (I hadn’t realized how wound up I’d been)
    TPRS is a lot harder than I’d imagined. I need a break sometimes.

  9. Yeah Marc see the comment I just made in response to what Lynn said. We need to figure out a way to get through the learning curve and through the years without burning out, after all. That schedule is one way to do it. It’s o.k. for the CI to drop occasionally. It’s o.k. to suck. It’s o.k. to go to a more reading format to deliver CI. Reading is more powerful than stories to teach languages anyway. By the way, it’s not the TPRS/CI that is hard – it’s the buildings full of unmotivated hormone cases who, getting what we offer for free, as a result make it unimaginably more challenging that it is when the learners are paying for our products. You are so right – this is all very very difficult. We have to increase our ability at teaching using CI, but learn to do so at a rate that prevents us from burning out. But look at the alternatives. There are none. Duke says there are, but he hasn’t shown me that yet in my classroom, so the jury is still out on that, although I love using his twexted songs on a Friday. On this topic see also:

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