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Sunday, September 25, 2011


The subject of boredom comes up every so often, and we should probably look at it a little bit. There are several different scenarios I have encountered:

  • one of the parents is bored or is worrying that the child is bored (or will become bored)
  • the child is bored
  • the teacher is bored

In my pre-twinkle group classes and with my beginning students, we play a great number of "easy" songs, including open string songs. My students love them! We have catchy piano accompaniments to go with the songs, and the students more frequently request these songs than any others. I even have two songs that are exactly the same but that use different words for each song. The students actually believe that these are two different songs!

The most frequent scenario that I have encountered is the one where the parent is bored or worried about boredom. I believe I read in one of Dr. Suzuki's books that he believed that children actually learn about boredom from someone else, most likely a parent. This statement, if I have indeed correctly attributed it to Dr. Suzuki, makes sense to me. Dr. Suzuki was very big on examining the child's learning environment to make sure that it was the optimal situation and that we were putting in the child's environment only those things that would encourage the child to learn and be motivated to learn.

If it is true that children learn boredom from the adults in the child's life, then we should be very careful to examine our behaviors to be sure that we are not teaching the child about boredom. If we are enthusiastic about our child's learning and give encouragement for our child's efforts and praise for the child's achievements, then I find it difficult to imagine how the issue of boredom even rears its ugly head. There are so many different ways to play something and so many different possible skills to develop within every song.

I recall someone once asking me how many times I had to listen to students play the Twinkle Variations in a week (a lot), and how I could stand listening to the same song over and over. The answer is that listening to a lot of Twinkles every week is not a problem. That is because every child plays the Twinkles differently. Every Twinkle sounds different. Each child is unique in terms of whatever particular skills and expression the child is working on. I never get bored listening to the Twinkles. I think that a teacher who claims to be bored probably just needs a break. Maybe a short vacation or even just a lunch meeting with one or two other teachers to get energized again about teaching.

As for a child being bored, I have only heard that one time and it was recently said by a potential new student. I was a little bit startled to hear it, because the child I was just meeting for the first time was so adamant about announcing how bored she was. And I wasn't even talking to her at the time! Her mother and I were in conversation. As the child continued to announce how everything she saw or heard about playing the violin was "boring," I realized a few things:

  • the child needed to get attention, even if it was negative attention (this was an introductory meeting between the child's mother and me)
  • the child needed to control the conversation ("this is boring!" is certainly a conversation interruption)
  • the child did not really seem to understand what the word meant (the student is 5) (I thought she was using the word in a way that indicated that she meant something other than that she was bored)
  • the child had probably heard the word from someone else (actually, she had heard it from an older cousin she had visited recently)
In the case of this recent student encounter, I believe the issue of boredom is more likely one of behavior issues. The mother and I are looking forward to beginning lessons soon after our parent education classes are finished, and we anticipate that there may be the need for a "million dollar lesson" in the child's future.

Generally, though, I believe that boredom is not a good word in anyone's vocabulary. Boredom to me is a sign of someone who cannot or will not take the time to figure out how to be interested. With the imagination that children have about their world around them, it surprises me to hear a parent lament that their child is bored or that what the child is learning is boring. I tend to feel sorry for the parent because I know that if left unaddressed, the parent's attitude about boredom will indeed become a problem later when the child adopts this same attitude.

Let us stay focused on the task at hand: teaching our child new skills so that the child can develop the habit of developing ability. I refuse to believe that this is boring for the parent, child, or teacher. Let us dig deep and keep ourselves enthusiastic over the process of learning and refining.

1 comment:

  1. So it has been many months since my "bored" beginner 5yo student began lessons. She is doing great. I have not heard the words "bored" or "boring" pass through her lips once since starting lessons. However, this student does have a strong need to control her environment, and because of the current home life situation, she has tried to use many behaviors as control issues. A visit over the weekend to the noncustodial parent generally means a lesson on a Monday that is a little more work for me, as I bring her back into the fold. As she gets older, she recovers quicker. We have a routine, and she knows that I will not deviate from it. She cannot bully me with her behaviors, so she relies on them less and less. I count this one as a success. This student turned out to be fun! Never boring!