A few weeks ago I did a demonstration for my chemistry classes. They had begged me for days to do this particular experiment. So, one Monday morning, we assembled outside on the grass. A volunteer student set down a bottle of Diet Coke. He opened the bottle, dropped a stack of about six Mentos into it, and ran. The rest of us stood several feet back to observe. The fizzy pop shot up and out of the bottle very forcefully and traveled about fifteen feet in the air before coming back down. It was quite a sight. I was impressed. My students were not. I looked around and saw their bored faces. They looked at each other with expressions that said “That’s it?”

Failing to impress my students is not unusual. And in sharing with other teachers, I have found it is not unusual in any subject. On another day, I showed a video of the explosion that occurs when sodium mixes with water. My students refused to find it interesting unless I performed the reaction in class so they could see it first-hand. I tried that experiment in the classroom once, a few years ago, and some flying sodium hydroxide hit a kid in the ear. He was ok, but never again.

I read an article about a year ago that discussed the high-school drop-out rate. Apparently, nationwide, the rate is on the rise. The article suggested the reason for increasing dropouts is boredom. Apparently teenagers are so bored at school that they would rather drop out and find a job than continue. This insight astounded me. Is school really that bad? I remember taking some boring classes in high school, but I always looked forward to at least two or three subjects.

I try to make class interesting for my students, but as I explain to them, you can’t expect to be entertained all the time. Sometimes we all have to push through the boring stuff in life to get to something good. Having said that, I think that school can be too dull sometimes. The main issue, I believe, is relevance. Many high schools present a curriculum that has no relevance to their students’ lives. As teachers, we need to teach in a way that challenges students to think about their futures and that prepares them for careers. Actively engaging in developing their lives should not only prepare them for success, but also keep their interest.

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