Edward C. Paolella
Bordom, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
There is nothing on earth–animal, vegetable, mineral, or inorganic–or in the universe that is inherently boring.
Teachers who perceive their students as boring are, in fact, themselves the truly boring and are not truly teachers–not in the sense in which Plato portrays Socrates in his dialogues.
The students who appear to be boring are really in hiding from themselves and others–as are the boring teachers. Such students (and teachers) inhabit a cave of ignorance and fear of themselves and others (Plato, The Republic (514A–520A):
Imagine prisoners who have been chained since childhood deep inside
a cave. Not only are their limbs immobilized by the chains; their
heads are chained as well so that their eyes are fixed on a wall. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which shapes of various animals, plants, and other things are carried. The shapes cast shadows on the wall, which occupy the prisoners' attention. When one of the shape-carriers speaks, an echo against the wall causes the prisoners to believe that the words come from the shadows. The prisoners engage in what appears to us to be a game--naming the shapes as they come by. This, however, is the only reality that they know, even though they are seeing merely shadows of images.
Suppose a prisoner is released and compelled to stand up and
turn around. His eyes will be blinded by the firelight, and the shapes
passing will appear less real than their shadows. Similarly, if he is dragged up out of the cave into the sunlight, his eyes will be so blinded that he will not be able to see anything.
At first, he will be able to see darker shapes such as shadows and, only later, brighter and brighter objects. The last object he would be able to see is the sun, which, in time, he would learn to see as that object which provides the seasons and the courses of the year, presides over all things in the visible region, and is in some way the
cause of all these things that he has seen.
Once enlightened, so to speak, the freed prisoner would no doubt
want to return to the cave to free "his fellow bondsmen". The problem, however,
lies in the other prisoners' not wanting to be freed: descending back into the
cave would require that the freed prisoner's eyes adjust again, and for a time,
he would be one of the identifying shapes on the wall. This would make his
fellow prisoners murderous toward anyone who attempted to free them.
(The Republic bk. VII, 516b-c; trans. Paul Shorey)
The teachers are what they see. The students perceive that their teachers are boring as a result of the teachers’ perceiving that their students as boring.
Boring teachers reenforce the boredom that is a reflection of their own state of boredom that becomes the tragic expectation that the teachers have of their students.
True teachers see the excitement of life deep within the being of each of their students. True teachers provide the students, by whatever means necessary, with the tools to transcend their ignorance and fear so as to have as many of their students make their way out off the darkness of the cave.
True teachers provide the students with the inspiration that helps to light up the dark cave so as to dispel or, at least, diminish, the student’s ignorance and fear. True teachers are willing to stand naked and vulnerable before their students to show them that very excitement within themselves that is at the very depths of the inspired and inspiring teachers’ being.
It is the herculean task of the inspired and inspiring teachers to inspire their students who, in turn, re-inspire their teachers. Inspired and inspiring students are often put down and rejected by boring teachers, for unconsciously the boring teachers perceive such students as threats to their own emotional shallowness.
Who is not rendered excited and inspired by true nakedness and true vulnerability?
Teachers who see their students as boring are encouraging them to either become boring or remain boring hidden behind their boredom. Just as teachers who have low intellectual expectations of their students foster low expectations in their students, so too does it work the very same way when teachers perceive their students as boring.
If students come to school uninspired to want to learn, it is the primary task of the inspired and inspiring teacher to turn those students around–not just complain about them and "dump" them in an arid intellectual desert or the "dung heap" of humanity.
If most inspired students came to school to learn, most boring teachers would be out of a job.
As far as the boring teachers are concerned, boring is as boring perceives.
Boring teachers are a threat to themselves, their students, and society.