“Bored” as a Measurement of Need?

25 08 2011

“Boredom is rage spread thin.”  ~Paul Tillich

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“A subject for a great poet would be God’s boredom after the seventh day of creation.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I got a quick idea today that needs some pushback from my experts in gifted and talented, or really, anyone who would like to provide some gentle second thoughts.

We’re often asked to define what it means to be gifted. After providing a somewhat suitable definition of the general characteristics and need of these unique learners, often based often on a national or state definition, we often mention that they’re bored in class.

Here’s the thing:

I say we stop using the word “bored” to describe our Gifted and Talented kids.

Truth be known, I’d say that most kids are “bored” in school for all sorts of various reasons. To use that word cheapens and flattens our point.

With today’s emphasis on passing the tests comes the mind-numbingly boring test-prep activities. All the wonderfully creative lessons of our veteran teachers have gone straight out the window and the new teachers have never had the expectation to teach creatively. Remind me to tell you a horror story from a new teacher panel, where one new teacher lovingly admired her scripted reading and math programs.

Today’s classroom environment has got to be loathsome for so many of our learners, especially when they’re coming from the ever-increasingly interactive world outside our school walls. Games, computers, and the ever-present extra-curricular sports/dance/arts activities fill our kids’ non-school hours.

And the data says that gifted children are mentally checking out by second grade? I’m quite sure of it and and also quite sure the neuro-typical student is too!

Picture each scenario, if you will:

Parent says, “Andre is bored in class.” 

Automatic, gut response:

  • Of course you think your kid is gifted. Every parent thinks so. 
  • Andre needs to learn to follow rules and wait his turn. 
  • Andre needs to finish the work I give him. Then he won’t be bored.

Gifted facilitator says, “Andre is bored in class.”

Automatic response:

  • You think I’m a poor teacher.
  • Andre needs to learn to follow rules. 
  • Andre needs to learn get along with all types of kids.
  • You’re trying to set this kid up for some sort of un-deserved special spot, aren’t you?

Admit it. Those are the responses we get back, right? I know. I spent nearly a decade as a gifted facilitator and quite a few more years as a kid whose parents were told, “she isn’t working up to her potential.”

Bored? Sure. But bored ≠ gifted.

What if, instead of “bored,” we used terminology that is more precise? More descriptive of the learners’ specific needs? They’re perhaps…

  • academically unchallenged.  (too schooly?)
  • mentally immobilized?
  • cognitively stupefied?

Sure, you could make the case that it is possible that many kids are “cognitively stupefied,” but I’d say that often what the neuro-typical student simply needs is more physical activity and interactive learning environments.

But the gifted learner needs more cognitive challenge AND interactive learning environments.

I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know that when we say Andre is bored in class, the message does not automatically mean he’s gifted. It doesn’t mean he isn’t, either.

The message simply is not clear.

We’ve got to stop using that word and find something in plain English (or otherwise) that speaks directly to the heart of the matter.

Suggestions?

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2 responses

26 07 2012
CindyS

I totally agree, and I have for a long time. When I hear the word “bored” i need more clarification and ask for it. Does it mean the work is too easy? Does it mean the work is too hard? Does it mean the work is not interesting to the student? Hmmm. . . and the response to all of those questions is different. Bored is an easy out, and if we’re truly going to meet the needs of the student, we need to have more specific information about their ability, their classroom environment, and their previous learning successes. And if we’re approaching a teacher as a parent or gifted facilitator, we should have some specific information to share with them and some possible alternatives to suggest. Either way, we should partner with that classroom teacher to make changes – not just tell them what needs to be done.

26 07 2012
GingerLewman

“Either way, we should partner with that classroom teacher to make changes – not just tell them what needs to be done.”

Well said, Cindy.

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