I remember the first time a student told me that they were bored. Not with school. Not with life. But with me. I remember the anger. I remember the disbelief. “How dare they tell me I’m boring? How dare they be bored? Don’t they know how important this is? Don’t they know that I am the teacher? Don’t they know that it is not my job to entertain, but to teach?”
There was no moment of clarity. There was no moment of thankfulness. Instead I got upset at the child. I carried my resentment with me, and it tainted our relationship. I didn’t grow, I didn’t reflect, I didn’t push my teaching to realize what a gift that was. Those moments would come much later, two years to be exact when enough students had told me they were bored that I realized that something had to change. And it wasn’t them, they kept changing, it was me, and I needed to grow some thicker skin.
We tell our students that we want to help them become lifelong learners. That they should learn how to advocate for themselves. That they should try to change the world by adding their voice. And yet, we get angry, defensive, upset when students tell us that the way we are teaching does not work for them. We don’t want to hear their opinion often. We don’t want to hear their thought about us. Sure, they may not always phrase it well. Sure, they may tell us at a really bad time. Still, when they tell us, we should listen. Even if we can’t change at that very moment, we should listen. Even if we are not sure how to even change, we should listen.
If we truly want empowered students who take control of their own learning journey then we have to grow thicker skin. Then we have to grow. Period. We have to be able tot take the criticism we so effectively dole out. We have to learn our own lessons of seeing every moment as a chance for growth, as taking every chance we have to be better.
So the next time a student tells you that there has to be a better way. The next time a student asks you to change. The next time a students asks why they have to learn this, don’t get mad like I did. Don’t waste those learning moments. Reflect instead. Ask questions, search for change. Yes, being told you are boring hurts, take it from someone who was, but I wouldn’t change the past. I would rather have students who speak their mind in a thoughtful way, than students who are afraid to speak. Wouldn’t you?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.