Battle Against Boredom sample

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“Fortunately, the book is much more than a lecture to the teachers' academic capacity. It manages to address concrete and new ways of working with students and helps engage the students in ways that involve and empower them. The book's exercises further support the students' personal, emotional and social skills as a prerequisite for well-being, development, good communities and learning. This book presents the case that we all have the opportunity to actively fight boredom. The language is easily understandable and is complemented by good metaphors. It is definitely hard to get bored with this book in hand, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the well-being of children and young people.” Jannie Moon Lindskov, Director, Danish Center for Educational Environment, DCUM. "If I have to rate the book on the boredom speedometer presented, it lies in the green field with "no boredom". The book is easily accessible and inspiring, and although the book's target audience is professionals, it offers me as a parent an insight into what is at stake in boredom and what is possible to do to combat it. Thus, it supports a dialogue both with my child and with the teachers in school. At the same time, it also gives me the opportunity to grow in the parenting role. The methods in the book are easily applicable in everyday life - both individually and together. I hope that the book can be the basis for a dialogue in schools, and that teachers will use the tools in the book in teaching, both to improve teaching and to involve the students in uncovering boredom.” Heidi Mortensen, mother of two. “I was absorbed in the mapping of different types of boredom, how they are expressed, and the negative consequences of boredom. For the same reason, I appreciated the exercises and cases throughout the book. They describe and illustrate the practice expressed when teaching with (for example) PERMA to avoid boredom. The exercises are easy, with explanations of the purpose. The purpose may, for example, be to establish a clear picture of the status of boredom in the class, or to create positive emotions or motivation. The book speaks to an understanding that the responsibility for boredom lies with everyone in the classroom. The exercises therefore adress the student's own empowerment skills.” Talita Salqvist, Teacher and Learning Consultant in Gladsaxe Municipality. "Boredom, according to the book, must neither be fought with entertainment, nor be explained by my generation's lack of endurance and ability to concentrate - which are the two explanations many of us suggest. Fortunately, we find here an alternative to the professionally debilitating entertainment approach. At the same time, we actually adress the problem with a proactive approach, which does not turn into just another explanation based on 'the young people nowadays' and the narrative that young people just need to pull themselves together.” Jens Vase, high school student, former chairman of Danish School Students.




Nadia Holmgren, Mette Marie Ledertoug, Nanna Paarup & Louise Tidmand The Battle Against Boredom In Schools 1. edition, 1. volume, 2019 Š 2019 Strength Academy and authors Editor-in-chief: Sophie Ellgaard Soneff, Dafolo Translation: Lars Kaaber Cover design: Louise Glargaard Perlmutter/Louises Design Layout: Nathali Rønning Lassen Illustrations: Jonas Prip Photos: Morten Riber Paarup Graphic production: Kindle Direct Publishing According to standing copyright legislation it is prohibited to distribute, electronically or mechanically to reproduce this book or make the content publicly accessible without the previous accept from the author and accreditation of the author. Violations will be prosecuted for compensation.

Publishing company: Strength Academy LLC Delaware, USA Phone: +45 60 19 92 83 Mail: mail@strength.academy www.strength.academy

ISBN: 978-87-971417-0-0


CONTENT Preface by Hans Henrik Knoop. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Chapter 1 Boredom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Chapter 2 PERMA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Chapter 3 Learning. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Chapter 4 Strengths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Chapter 5 Positive emotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Chapter 6 Engagement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Chapter 7 Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Chapter 8 Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Chapter 9 Accomplishment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Chapter 10 PERMA in practice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Chapter 11 How to involve the parents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173 Chapter 12 Go for it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 Exercises, chapter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202 Exercises, alfabetically. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208 About the authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212



Preface Does accepting boredom merely mean having to put up with certain parts of your life? By Hans Henrik Knoop

As Arthur Helps, the English thinker, wrote in the mid-1800s, “We always admire the wisdom of those who come to us for our advice”. Helps had been a clever student at school, and it is far from unthinkable that his family name caused him to be interested in people who sought advice. After all, there is a preponderance of American dentists by the name of Dennis. In the recent years of this second decade of the third century AD, national well-being surveys have shown that hundreds of thousands of kids as well as their teachers must take an interest in escaping the extensive boredom they experience at school. Utterly useless boredom, mind you – and it may have been the case throughout the 200 years in which our school system has existed. The question is whether society can do like Phelps and admire the kids and their teachers in their quest for a solution. It should not be hard, since solutions to boredom have long been in demand – even if they have a knack of pointing in every which direction. For instance, the American poet and writer Dorothy Parker believed that the cure for boredom is curiosity (which has later been amply and scientifically proved). However, she warned that there is no cure for curiosity (which has turned out to be wrong since long boredom may result in such a depressing lack of zest for life that even curiosity must give up). Arthur Helps’ advice was imbedded in a cautioning question: is boredom merely a sign of our abilities dying out? The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard held boredom to be the root of all evil – in the shape of a desperate denial of the self, whereas all the psychologist in the world can confirm that small doses of boredom are really at the root of all invention, and they are not all evil. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, boredom teaches you the necessity of learning. That is, of course, if no one stops you from learning, such as boring persons who, as Oscar Wilde put it, deprive you of your solitude without providing you with company. It is interesting to be interested, and it is boring to be bored. Even at school. This is because nature has programmed us to live as long and as well as possible, which means avoiding unpleasantness and death for as long as we can. Boredom is unpleasant because it serves no other purpose than motivating us to end it, as do so many other unpleasant feelings.

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And yes, heaps of philosophers tell us that feeling bad may be good, which sometimes contains a grain of truth. However, when such philosophies lead to passive acceptance of discomfort, they are potentially damaging. Again: unpleasantness is not something we experience in order to learn to live with it but in order to find out, as soon as possible, how to avoid living with it. You may say this goes without saying, but still, many dare not say it aloud. As we learn from this book, many kids do not like to say that they are bored at school, either because they think it is embarrassing or because they feel sorry for the teachers – as if the teachers are automatically to blame for the boring lessons. But even the best teacher in the world is ineffectual if the students refrain from applying themselves. Just as the best book in the world will be boring to the indifferent reader. Boredom is not harmless. Boredom is stressful, and the longer it lasts, the more depressing it will be. Boredom has to be nipped in the bud and we must exploit the indubitable quality of knowing that we waste our lives by being bored. In 2016, the Danish Centre for Educational Environment, DCUM, issued a report about boredom and well-being at school. The report was based on a survey of 250,000 students from Year 4 to Year 9. The report showed that lasting boredom can be seen as a warning that many of the fundamental and pedagogical values of the educational system are compromised and that many students are seriously damaged. Children are not thriving if they are bored over a long period of time, and they emit an unambiguous and alarming signal when they express hope that it will soon be over – or, in other words, that a part of their young lives will soon be over. In this book, Nanna Paarup, Mette Marie Ledertoug, Nadia Holmgren and Louise Tidmand follow up on the aforementioned report in a very competent and engaging way and add a plethora of related surveys of children’s boredom at school. Using new, ground-breaking research in student well-being as conveyed through channels such as the global initiative International Positive Educational Network, they go through the key theories in boredom research and positive psychology and give the reader a series of practical ideas and recommendations for what can be done to fight the damaging boredom of the pervasive and lasting kind before it sucks the life out of the learning process. This is exactly the kind of knowledge-based and pedagogically reflected help we need in our school system. Life is not something we just have to put up with – nor is school. And in case we only have one life each, Friedrich Nietzsche’s question of whether life is not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves becomes interesting indeed. Thanks for this important contribution to life at school!

Hans Henrik Knoop is an associate professor with special qualifications at DPU, Aarhus University, and at North-West University, South Africa.

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Introduction Do we really need a book about fighting boredom at school? Are bored students a relevant problem? And how can this book add to what you and your school are already doing? In 2016, the first national well-being survey from the Danish Center for Educational Environment (DCUM) showed that 26% of elementary-school students are bored (Knoop, Holstein, Viskum & Lindskov, 2016). They are not just occasionally bored but so pervasively bored that it interferes with their learning and well-being. Only 2.5% of these children actually know what to do when they are bored. At the same time, the school system lacks the knowledge of how to tackle the problem of boredom. Whether you think that boredom attacks many or few children, it has a significant impact on the individual student’s well-being and learning every day and may even interfere with the children’s physical health. We cannot just leave that lying. This book is written for teachers and educational staff at elementary schools and beyond. However, principals, development consultants, educational psychologists and counsellors may also benefit from it. Moreover, we have a suggestion for how to involve parents in the efforts. Our ambition is to fight boredom and show why it is important to fight and minimise boredom. You will be given tools and shown ways to make an effort against boredom at your school and in your own teaching. At the same time, it is a crucial element in the book that the students are also responsible for scaling down boredom and increase good learning, for which reason the book contains a series of exercises, tools and specific instructions. One of the most important conclusions in the DCUM well-being report reads, “The main finding is that boredom is connected to practically everything we do not want at school. Boredom undermines the very aim of elementary education; the more bored the students are, the more their learning, their social connections and their faith in themselves suffer. Boredom is a small alarm you should not ignore if you wish to avoid greater problems – an alarm to be observed promptly and adequately” (Knoop et al., 2016, p. 9). This alarm warns us that action is necessary, and it argues that you, too, must read on. Our goal is reached if this book inspires you to involve and engage more students on a daily basis, enhance their well-being and learning and reduce their boredom. You can make a real and valid contribution in your own teaching and with the individual students, but the results will improve if a team or a whole school makes a joint effort against boredom. Boredom is often seen as a fundamental human condition and a bi-product of education, and this has created a string of myths, such as: • being bored is good for you • intelligent people are never bored • boredom breeds creativity • perseverance is the way forward

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Today, however, evidence-based research effectively obliterates these myths, and this book will give you facts of what is false and what is true. Our starting-point is Positive Education, a recent field of research and practice which focuses on a balanced relationship between learning and well-being. The best and most recent knowledge about learning and boredom collaborates with elements from positive psychology and becomes a tool which you, your team and your school may use as a source of inspiration in your practical work. On the website – www.battleagainstboredom.com/ resources - you will find work sheets and supplementary material. You will encounter the following icons to guide your reading of the book: specific knowledge about a subject. an exercise for the teacher. an exercise for the students. a case. a definition. conclusive and summarised reflection on the things you have learned. The exercises are constructed according to American psychologist and researcher Martin Seligman’s renowned PERMA theory for well-being so that more students can experience Positive emotions, greater Engagement, greater Relationships, and a greater sense of Meaning and Accomplishment. Your task is to incorporate PERMA in your preparation and your teaching and to press the various buttons to include what you need. You are the expert. You know your students and your classes best. You know what to keep in focus in your teaching and in a given context. Consequently, the exercises are phrased so broadly that you may adapt them didactically to your own classes, and you are free to choose how you will implement each exercise, - the combination of participants, the duration of the exercises, which material to include and whether to include IT or other technology. If you wish to adjust an exercise because you think it will work better with the students in larger or smaller teams, feel free to do so. Always remember that it has to make sense to you – and to your students. A central theme in the book is the distinction between whether you see yourself as a sculptor or a gardener; whether you see a student as an uncut stone to be carved and sanded into shape or as a flower or plant that must be watered and fertilised. Your view of your students

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reflects your view of the individual versus society. Does society cultivate the student in terms of social values and current tendencies in the name of the greater good – or does society nurture the individual’s potential? We question whether these two aspects are really opposites or whether it is possible to create good learning and less boredom for the individual and still maintain a focus on the greater good. A crucial theme often presented in the various media is the idea of the distinction between boredom and entertainment. Usually, the continuum from deadly boredom to mindless fun is usually regarded in terms of these opposites, and in-between nuances are ignored. We show how to relieve boredom in class without the teacher having to act as a stand-up comedian; maybe you can learn something and be inspired by the structure of things like a Netflix series or computer games? Perhaps the set-up, the point of no return, the climax and the denouement can be successfully incorporated into your teaching? Perhaps you may involve your students further by enhancing their learning this way? Your job is to find out what works best for you in your teaching. The good teacher has teaching competence, classroom management competence and relationships competence (Nordenbo, Larsen, Tiftikci, Wendt & Østergaard, 2008). Those skills must be brought to bear if you are to succeed with your teaching. We expect that you already have competence in teaching, and you must build a bridge to the curriculum subjects you teach while reading the book. The other two skills or competences must be included through interaction with a common focus on students and boredom. So when you read on, you will need your curiosity, your creativity, your problem-solving skills, your character strengths and a growth mindset. The specific way ahead depends on you, your knowledge of your students and the context in which you teach. We hope you will be inspired and have a good dialogue with your teaching colleagues about where and how you can fight boredom together. The reflective dialogue in which you speak openly about what happens in your classes – what works and what does not – is the way to the development of professional teaching communities. If you work in a professional team, we advise you to do the reflection exercises together with your colleagues. The common focus on the well-being of the students will increase the result of your efforts and collaboration. Our ambition is to battle boredom through a focus on the students, the class, the teacher, the parents, the school and the world beyond. Let us battle boredom – together. Welcome.

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