Reality Check: Are you being bored?

Blissful summer days are a great time to think about school!

You’re probably aware that education could be improved. I bet you can come up with a few improvements you’d like right now.

Discussions of problems in education are not new. Way back in 1990, in an article entitled “The Quality School,” Dr. Wm. Glasser identified issues with schooling that still resonate today.

One issue he mentioned is that many students are not motivated to produce high-quality work. Instead, they do just enough to get through. I know you’re shocked…

Glasser drew on the work of quality guru Dr. W. Edwards Deming for ways to improve education system management. One of Deming’s assertions is that most people would rather produce high quality work than shoddy work.

Why then would students want to produce poor quality work?

Glasser suggests that a major student complaint is not that the work is too hard, but that it is boring! He goes on to say that it’s almost impossible for bored people to do quality work.

If you have a hobby, whether it’s coaching hockey, making wine, playing the cello, or building model trains, you know there is always something to learn. And, it’s fun. In fact, according to choice theory, fun is the genetic reward for learning.

Hobbies can satisfy one or more of our basic needs: belonging, power, fun, freedom, and survival. Doing quality work can also satisfy those needs.

If your child is not doing quality work in school, here are two suggestions to help reduce boredom and increase quality.

  • Show your child that you value what they do in school. Recognize their achievements. Make it clear that the work itself, not just the mark, is important.

All of us, children included, need recognition. Do you truly value “book learning”? Or do you give your child subtle messages that school isn’t relevant in the “real” world?

If your child thinks that school learning isn’t truly valuable in your eyes, then don’t be surprised if your child just goes through the motions.

  • Find and explain “why.” If your child seem disengaged from schoolwork, perhaps they can’t see how it adds value to their lives. Are they clear on the “why” of what they are doing? Help them connect the skills they are learning (reading, writing, math…) to the power it can bring them: power to create, to improve, to understand.

Consider some of the activities that people do for fun (sports, drama, music, art.) They have visible and understandable results. That’s satisfying.

Now think of some topics that are perceived as difficult or boring. Sadly, those might include math, science, even computer science. It can take a little more work to understand the connections between those topics and real-world results.

However, if a person can’t find, for themselves, any value in a topic, why would they invest the effort to work at it in a quality way? It’s worth it to help your child see the connections. If you don’t understand them yourself, ask the teacher!

Do you produce quality work? Why? What keeps you engaged?

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