On Boredom & Thinking

Jan Stipek, Secondary Years Principal December 13, 2018
On Boredom & Thinking

When I reflect back at my 21 years in international education, I notice that the notion of 'boredom' has changed.

I still remember the word in Danish (kedeligt) because I had a Danish student who used it a lot. Now, I sincerely hope it wasn’t because my lessons were painfully dull; it was more a teenage thing or a statement which went with the look of boredom that teenagers wore those years. Teenagers now may be equally bored but they have an escape – mobile devices.

Chasing boredom away nowadays is as easy as looking at your phone (no touch even required if you have face recognition device) to start chatting with your 'friends' (or the people on social media we interact with every day but maybe never actually met), play a game or watch a video. So the teenage look of boredom of the late 90s/early 2000s is now replaced by an intent stare at a screen blocking out the outside world.

I just read an interesting article which argues that boredom can actually be good for us. There are two kinds of boredom according to this article

  1. Mind-wandering – a lack of stimulus when completing tasks that require very little mental attention, like taking a shower or a long walk;
  2. Tedious – when one is required to focus cognitively on uninteresting or meaningless tasks.

Researchers have found that both can increase creativity. Emerging from being bored, people often engage in more divergent thinking, make connections between seemingly unrelated topics, and generate creative ideas.

So should teachers be boring in lessons? The answer is, of course, no but the article argues that teachers should create opportunities for students to 'be bored' to clear their minds.

When we look at the concept this way, we know it works: letting students get up from their seats and walk across the classroom to another workstation, changing the pace of a lesson, or even better – mindfulness or meditation, which has been gaining traction in schools for almost a decade now, provides students with a more sustained opportunity to clear their minds, thus enhancing the opportunity to increase creativity, think in a divergent way and make connections. 

The article also argues for 'digital sabbaticals' – taking a break from hyper-stimulation the digital world drowns us in.

Some interesting food for thought which will keep informing our teaching practices here at GEMS (Singapore) to enable our students to be creative, divergent thinkers, able to connect concepts across the individual disciplines. 


Secondary Years Assembly 

We have just had a fun, informative action-packed Secondary Years assembly.

Grade 8 students skilfully wrapped the theme of healthy living within the Christmas spirit. The House captains also announced the House names: Blue Leopards, Green Panthers, Golden Cheetahs, Red Tigers, and led the students to a bring-the-house-down cheer for each.

What a great way to raise the school spirits! 

Mr. Afonso and Ms. Starkey also proudly shared that GEMS (Singapore) came out 6th out of more than 80 international schools around Asia who participated in the Manga High competition, designed to engage students with maths through a games-based learning approach. All students in grades 6-8 participated and 46 students won medals. Special recognitions go to Sam Poder (8.3) and Edwin Cheah (7.3) earning outstanding 600 plus points. 

That is a lot of Math! Mr Afonso

 Happy holidays to all and looking forward to seeing everyone back on Tuesday, January 8th 2019 (SY timetable Day 5).



Jan Stipek, Secondary Years Principal 



Spencer, John. “The Gift of Boredom.” How Student Progress Monitoring Improves Instruction - Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership, Dec. 2018,


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