I recently came across Shawn Cornally‘s blog titled ThinkThankThunk and noticed that the subtitle is “Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.” That is a fear I can relate to. To me being boring in front of students is the kiss of death. A boring teacher is usually perceived as teaching a boring subject. Why would anyone want to learn something that is boring from someone who is boring?
Passion is the first step in not being boring. If you are excited about what you are talking about or teaching it is harder (though not impossible) to be boring. That is the low bar though. You also have to know your audience and present the material in ways that is interesting to them. In computer science that means picking projects that students can relate to; that they will find interesting and not boring. that can be a struggle sometimes for someone as far away from the students ages as I am. It occurred to me that I am as much as four times the age of some of my students. Old enough to be their grandfather. Ouch!
I do try to keep in tune with students and plan projects accordingly. In fact many of them are designed with the help of the students themselves. I want them to be motivated to do the work because of interest and not just for the grade.
One can present in a boring fashion as well. I was fortunate enough to take a number of public speaking courses while I was working in industry and I try to bring what I learned there into the classroom. Boring is bad! BTW I don’t understand why teachers do not get regular public speaking courses as part of their professional development. If anything people who speak as often as teachers do need it more than people who speak infrequently because it is very easy to become stale or lazy from repetition.
It has been said that those who think education doesn’t involve entertainment don’t understand either. I think there is real truth there. It is something I worry about regularly. So to my fellow teachers I say “Let’s have fun out there and leave boring to others!”