How to Teach And Not Be Bored To Death

School Can Be A Bore!

Everyone knows learning the difference between bor., boar, boor, and bore can be a complete bo . . . wait which one is it?  Wait can you explain the Hawley-Smoot Teriff Act?  Anyone, anyone?

Why do you think Ferris skipped school?

You know you’ve been in this class.  We’ve all struggled to stay awake as the professor drooned on and on, our eyes taped open in a futile attempt to remain conscious.  Sadly, once I started teaching I realized it’s not just the student’s who struggle through boring classes.

As a teacher, a teacher who was teaching said boring class, even I struggled at times to stay awake.

During my first year of teaching, quite a few of my classes were boring.  Can’t believe I just admitted that.  The worst was my current events class.  (I know a couple of students who would argue, not to say it was an exciting class, filled with the days most exciting news, but to say one of my other classes was worse.) I didn’t even enjoy listening to my students report on whatever big news story they’d found while scouring the web five minutes before class.

You know why it was boring?  It bored me and my students to tears because I didn’t put much effort into it.

I was a new teacher, I didn’t know any better.

Teaching Takes Trying

That next semester I decided to try something different.  If teaching something I found boring made for a boring class, then why not teach something I enjoyed.  (I know not everyone has this ability, Math teachers have to teach Math) I chose outdoor education.  I had grand plans for this class.  I wanted to take my students on hikes.  I wanted them to love hiking, like I love hiking.

But how can that be taught?

First I bought a book.  Had them sit in a classroom.  Gave them the information from the book.  And then I ran into the same problem I’d had before, boredom.

I was teaching the class wrong.  Not that there isn’t a time and place for books and the classroom, but I found out that if I was going to pass on a love for the outdoors I had to take the kids outside.

I showed them how to set up a tent.  We identified the clouds.  We even talked about going camping.  The class improved, but it still wasn’t that good.  We still weren’t hiking.  And camping was a no go.

Three years later the kids who were in that class still complain that we never did any of the things I promised them we’d do.  But what they don’t know is, inside the classroom I couldn’t show them my love for hiking.

A Good Teacher Tackle’s His Students

Teaching doesn’t always happen at school or inside the classroom. Most of the time teaching doesn’t even require books or tests.

Hands down my favorite class to teach was my middle school gym class because I loved the subject matter and most of the time I got to participate.  The boys loved it for many reasons, but they especially enjoyed our unit on American football (remember I was in Guatemala) they got to tackle me.  I loved it because they loved it, and I got to tackle them.  (This would never work in the states, but playing football with your students is a great way to get out your frustration.)

We built connections by playing a game together.  Anytime they tackled me I would congratulate them and they would ask my why I was crying. (I wasn’t)  Playing football with the boys allowed me to be personal with them.

They learned by watching my actions and following my lead.  Now, none of those boys will make it to the NFL, but all of them know more about football than any of their Guatemalan Neighbors.

They learned through experiencing.

Teaching isn’t about how boring or how exciting a class is.  No, it’s about growing and changing.

I finally put that to practice with hiking.  I knew that if the boys loved playing football when I played with them, they would love hiking if I took them.

A Good Teacher Takes A Hike

During my last year in Guatemala I took the majority of my students on hikes up La Muela, my favorite hike in Xela.

On our hikes up the dead volcano I would ask them what they wanted to do with their lives.  I would challenge them to try harder in their classes.  I spent most of the time on the hikes listening to what was going on in their lives.  I think they needed to know someone cared for them.  Kids need someone in their lives that let’s them know that they’re important.  Parents can do that, but at a point in every teenager’s life they stop listening to their parents.

I also shared bits of my life story, they listened and let me know they cared.  While hiking built healthy relationships.

I miss hiking with them more than almost anything in Xela.  I know that they love the hike too, because, since I moved back to the states, they’ve continued to hike.

And sure enough, when I was in Guatemala last March I took a group of kids up La Muela.  They wanted to go.  They took me to places on the dead volcano I’d never been.  As we stood at the summit, looking down on Xela, one of the boys, who’d grown up in Xela, right next to La Muela, looked at me and said, “I love hiking.  I can see why you love Xela too.”  Pleased, I felt like a success.

My teaching methods might not be conventional, but I believe the best way to pass on information, especially the type I am passionate about, is to form relationships and go hiking.

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