• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


The Pleasure of Boredom

How to sit still.

July 24, 2013

It’s been nice to watch so many people wait for the royal baby. Not because of any interest I have in the royal birth, but because it is one of the few times left in society where people have to wait. Typically, it’s just the expectant mom and dad and extended family as opposed to the world, but still, I think it is great practice for people. My children hardly know what waiting is like. They turn on the television and, if what is playing doesn’t interest them, they just press some buttons to get their show on demand or on our DVR.  Car trips, once a staple of forced waiting, are now just a time to watch DVDs or play video games.  Bank lines, store lines, even doctors offices all have video screens or other types of entertainment to keep their patrons occupied.

I’ve noticed that, when the kids are faced with the rare situation when they have to sit and wait, they are just not that good at it. We were at a Bar Mitzvah (not the party part but the prayer part) and I had to have my husband remove two of my children because they couldn’t sit still. I’ve noticed a similar parallel with my students in my class. They refuse to be bored -- not even for a minute. I try to make my classes interesting, at times even entertaining, but they need to learn that not everything is always fun and games. Sometimes boredom is a good thing.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman described a world in which people expect entertainment everywhere. What happens to a society where people are never allowed to be bored? I’ve generated some of my best ideas while bored. I love waiting in a line and just looking around. And--most importantly -- I’ve learned how to not look bored. I can listen to the most boring student presentation without my class ever knowing how bored I really was. I’ve come to realize that being able to get through down time is a skill.

This is why I am taking a stand this summer. I am creating “boredom time,” when I will teach my children how to be bored. No more electronic devices in the car. They need to learn to reflect, and if they are bored, keep it to themselves. I think I’m teaching them a life-long skill that will make them better adults, or at least more patient ones.  Any suggestions on how to apply this lesson in my classroom?


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