Thursday, June 30, 2011

Engagement, Emotions, and the Power of Boredom

All electronic devices including cell phones, ipods, ipads, laptops or any electronic device that has an on/off switch must be turned off at this time. Life vests are located beneath your seats. Remove the vest from the pouch by pulling on the tab. Place the vest over your head.......bla, bla, bla. Sound familiar?

I had just boarded my flight to Chicago to attend the sold-out National Conference on Common Core State Standards. However, I could have been entering many schools across this nation. Do you see and hear the familiarity? Power down and get ready for the much dreaded lecture! During this time, I thought about how I felt. Disinterested, unfocused, inattentive, unmotivated, and disconnected are just a few that come to mind.  Do you know that split-second feeling you get when you turn around in a crowded area and suddenly your four year old isn't standing there? This is the exact feeling I got when I suddenly realized our students experience this type of power-down instruction 180 days a year.

Following the safety speech, I inquisitively turned and asked the person sitting to the left of me a simple question. “Did you hear where she said the life vest was located?” He responded, “I have no idea. I never listen to that.” I then asked the same question to the lady to my right. She stated, “I wasn't paying any attention. Sorry.” Do you get the picture?

Recently, I attended a technology integration conference lead by Dr. Debra Pickering, senior scholar for Marzano Research Laboratory and co-author (with Dr. Robert Marzano) of several educational books including the following excerpt from the book, The Highly Engaged Classroom:

With every new situation, feelings affect human behavior. In a sense, we ask the question, “How do I feel?” If our emotions are negative in that moment, we are less likely to engage in new activities or challenging tasks. Skinner et al. (2009) associated the following emotions with engagement:


In addition, they associated the following emotions with a lack of engagement:


Imagine boarding the same plane, sitting in the same seat, not allowed to get out of your seat, listening to the same flight attendant, while unplugged to the world for 180 days a year. Which emotions would you feel? How attentive and engaged do you think you would be? Probably about as enthusiastic as the two passengers sitting next to me!  What is even more frightening is the thought of our plane actually experiencing some type of failure. How many passengers would be proficient at following safety procedures?  

"It's as if the power of boredom is just as influential as the power of engagement.  The emotions we create in our classrooms can determine our effectiveness as an educator." - Shawn Blankenship


  1. Thanks for the provocative article. Food for thought, but how do we hone the skill of positive emotional engagement?