Boredom breeds bad-ass music

Boredom breeds bad-ass music

This article out of Harvard looks at the trend of students being increasingly bored as they progress with their schooling, as they get older they are less engaged. It attributes this mainly to how these students are being taught, commenting that there are ways to engage kids with little excuse not to.

We know in the age of inquiry and design thinking that there are meaningful ways to plan out and execute schemes of work to tackle lack of student engagement. Although despite this, and no matter what we do, there are always going to be students that are bored, period. It is nature. It is human. And to be frankly honest, it is good.

Bored youth have changed the way music sounds, changed the way art is created, changed the way we speak, changed social customs, changed how we interact with technology and the world. Boredom propels us forward.

Ok, I better stop here and say I am not advocating a force fed style education. No, I believe in inquiry and engagement, as a performing arts specialist I would be somewhat hypocritical, and a lousy teacher! But what we have to acknowledge is that some students will always be bored if not in your class, somebody else’s.

This monotonous activity called school that they endure provides opportunity for the mind to wander, abstracting thought and making meaningful connections. It will spur them to connect with other like minded individuals. While the students that are engaged will hopefully be being led through processes to find connections and abstract thinking activities as well but the results will be different.

Maybe it is possible to engage all and still provide the rebellious artistic output that characterises certain genres and generations. Although, I find it hard to picture learning environments with 100% captivated attention leading to powerfully music about disenfranchised youth who are misunderstood.

Boredom has its place. Boredom is a breeding ground for creative exploration. It’s is a launching pad for invention, reflection and inquisitiveness – because we look for ways to understand the world through our own eyes, and just entertain ourselves.

“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” – Bertrand Russell (philosopher).

Let me reiterate, we should not be lazy and look to bore but we have to recognise that it is human condition. Some youth will always resent systems and authority. I just hope that boredom goes towards a positive outlet and if I can help direct it I will, but maybe I’m just getting in the way?

How to approach feedback

How to approach feedback

“Teachers may claim they give much feedback, but the more appropriate measure is the nature of feedback received (and this is often quite little)” – John Hattie. Feedback, feedforward, instruction, prompting, cueing, guidance, we all know its documented importance in education.

Non-judgemental feedback during the creative process is an excellent tool to implement for students and teachers alike. It takes a bit of re-routing but once in place can be very powerful.

All you have to do is describe what they see or hear, easy right? Well, this is harder to do than one realises but once students have that factual description of what someone else sees, it provides them with a different perspective to their work. It has to be a methodical process, starting with the big picture (the most obvious) and then becoming more refined. And I suggest that one really starts with the words “I see” or “I hear” to frame it for students.

Next, contextualise the work by relating it back to the task. This is also the time where the viewer can start to talk about interpretation of what they saw. Does it match the task? What still needs to be done? What knowledge do you have to help you continue and develop?

The process very quickly draws one to details and makes things explicit that the students had possibly not realised or expected. It gives them new ideas to consider, try out and evaluate. It reveals what is missing. It talks as much about what is not present, as what is.

The thing I love about this is the autonomy it gives the creators and that it increases self-efficacy. It is not a teacher saying “Now you need to think about adding X so that  it fulfills the criteria.” It also avoids you passing a judgement that puts the work on a scale. It provides space for students to reflect and realise what needs to be addressed.

Project Zero have a great system for this as part of their ‘visible thinking’ routines. Called “I see, I think, I wonder” – describe what your see, comment on what it makes you think and then ask what it makes you wonder. It is a gradual progression that brings attention to observation, connects opinion, and finally thinking about possible alternatives or solutions.

Things to watch out for in the initial stage (because people just love to give their opinion when it comes to someone else’s creation), “I liked…”, “I feel like…”, “It was good that…”, etc. Strive to have the description first, there needs to be space between this step and adding opinion to digest and reflect. Get students to share what they have seen, it’s surprising how much can be extracted. Even this, being aware of how much is in front of them can open doors of possibilities.


**Header picture by my talened wife Nela Fletcher, for more click here

Important reasons why we should play

Important reasons why we should play

My eldest boy (born in the year of the Chinese rabbit), when comfortable, will search out contact and interaction with anyone …and everyone. We were recently in Colmar, France for the Easter vacation. Travelling with kids it’s their happiness that has to be a priority, more or less. As my wise father’s mantra goes ‘if the kids are happy, I’m happy’.

Part of that happiness was choosing where we booked our accommodation. We have learnt from our mistakes. The place we found in Colmar was a block of small holiday apartments that has an indoor swimming pool, a deal breaker. No matter the weather, we can be in the pool with the kids – kids happy, we’re happy.  On one occasion a few other families were enjoying, what I suspect was the same philosophy as ours. My eldest is five and lucky enough to be growing up bilingual (learning a third in Kindergarten) although all the other children in the swimming pool spoke French, which he doesn’t.

He eventually got himself into a game of catch with a girl probably three years older than himself. After fifteen minutes the ball was no more even a subject and the two of them were simply playing – but with clear communication. They had figured out structures, invented on the spot, about how they could construct rules of play and let the other know what the expectations were.

For a start I just found it cute then I really started to reflect on what they were doing. How open and accommodating to the situation they were, and through play managed to not only enjoy each other’s company but converse. The approach had me amazed at the complexity of the result. AND then to think about how we communicate with others who speak a foreign language. Ok, of course often our needs are for want of specific information – but how willing are we to let ourselves dive into a ritual of play to learn and converse with a foreign language speaker? And what results if one allowed themselves time to engage in that play?

In this case, an attention to body language and need of communication through which a common understanding was built. Playing simple games such as throwing a ball and coordinating jumping into the water simultaneously, they shared a resulting goal orientation and then forms of how to ‘talk to each other’ were established, and built on. In 40 minutes. 5 year olds.

This stretches far beyond barriers of language, leaving time and freedom for children to do what they do best can have incredible results. The various effects include peer-learning, new vocabulary, nuances and uses of language (both verbal and non-verbal), compromising, winning, losing, strategy creating, problem solving, discovery of life passions, stress release …dare the list go on? And on?

The pressures we put on fulfilling a task or ticking off knowledge acquired can adversely affect what we are really trying to achieve, which should be engaging and meaningful, and play can be that vehicle – at any age.




So, ctl + alt + del. Reset.

I started blogging to achieve a few things, improve my practice in the classroom, create a professional network and ultimately challenge myself and my own creativity. Unfortunately the demands of the working environment, and especially the industrial noise it manifests, has seen me put it off again and again, and again. It frustrates me. A lot.

The ironic thing is that the more I blog the better my reflection, practice and ultimately creativity will be.  Doing things again and again, and again instead of putting them off is the only way to improve – which is no new revelation.

Reading other teacher’s blogs and their exploits makes me wonder if you have figured out how to create some extra hours in your day, or if you sleep? There are so many things that are important to me, family, creating, work, friends… how do we find time in such a noisy world to focus and be present.

Being present, 100% in the moment is when we notice more details, can give meaningful feedback and reflect effectively. These strategies enhance creative behaviour, I know from experience …they just tend to get lost when the machine is full swing.

So, ctl + alt + del. Reset.