Day 148, Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The other day, when I overheard someone say he was 'bored out of his mind' by a movie he had seen, I thought of my young, impatient English scholars. The country of Boredom often seems to be where they reside during my classes. Often my words appear to pass among them like vacant ships in the night, hardly stirring a thought or rumpling a feeling. An atmosphere of ennui sometimes hangs over my scholars like haze in the dog days. What I have to remember, though, is that what we call boredom often arises out of an unwillingness to buckle down to a demanding task. Boredom, in other words, can be a mask for laziness. When faced with a poem that requires their full and energetic concentration, being ‘bored’ might be the scholars’ way of saying “I just don’t feel like working very hard today.” Of course, I could give them poems that are instantly captivating, and I could assign essay topics that are immediately thrilling, but often those are not the poems and topics that will actually teach the scholars very much – and teaching is what my job involves. I was not hired to entertain the scholars and make sure they are never ‘bored’; I was hired to teach them, to push them to new heights, to force them to think and write what they’ve never thought and written before. That’s hard work – the kind of work that often makes young people feel ‘bored out of their minds’. Like most of us, my scholars would usually rather get out of their minds than activate their minds and pay serious attention to serious reading and writing – but those are the tasks of English class. If they make the kids feel bored, perhaps that’s a good sign. Perhaps it means I’m making their minds do things their minds don’t want to do, in which case I should pat myself on the back.