Oc­ca­sion­ally, a spell of pur­pose­less­ness has its place, says Fred de Falbe

Norfolk - - Education -

The end of term is upon us and jet-fu­elled plans in­volv­ing beaches or skis are off the ta­ble. Re­vi­sion for ex­ams, the short­age of hol­i­day en­ti­tle­ment or sav­ing money have put paid to any­thing more glam­orous than the odd trip to the shops.

Never mind, that craft ac­tiv­ity given by your arty aunt last Christ­mas, in­volv­ing plas­ter-of-Paris and slightly-too-long instructio­ns, will fi­nally be dusted off and the chil­dren can post pho­tos of their cre­ations on Face­book. Bril­liant – it is go­ing to be won­der­ful - while you get your mar­ket­ing re­port done or spread­sheets com­pleted!

Within hours the cry goes up of ‘I’m bored!’ and the De­men­tors’ gloom (with apolo­gies to JK Rowl­ing) sucks the life out of the day. We par­ents heave deep sighs and speak in wheedling voices. Any­thing to avoid the slide back into screen time that eats up days and does noth­ing for so­cial­i­sa­tion – or so the ex­perts say. Be­fore we de­spair, let us ex­am­ine what bore­dom is and why we – that is us, as well as our chil­dren - need it.

Chil­dren at school some­times show a con­fus­ing mix­ture of hyperactiv­ity and list­less­ness. This can be tack­led by gen­tle but firm bound­aries so that chil­dren soon find de­light in fill­ing their di­rected time use­fully. It helps to have a small scale en­vi­ron­ment like Bee­ston where that ‘di­rec­tion’ (the teacher) can be eas­ily made. The corol­lary of this is that when the time is undi­rected the child has sim­ply no idea what to do with him­self/her­self.

Mak­ing lists is a fine start. Hav­ing a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties which you both know are op­tions is great. It may never be cho­sen, but ‘doo­dling with a di­abolo’ might last hours.

It may not be prac­tis­ing the vi­o­lin but try­ing a yo-yo, or see­ing if you can raise a sin­gle eye­brow can while away an hour or two, but it could be pa­per darts, uni­cy­cle, stilts, Ru­bik’s cube.

These can be picked up and re­jected in the blur of bore­dom – but you never know, some­thing might re­sult!

Not only does this add into the broth of re­silience, it can prod prob­lem-solv­ing and self-es­teem too – fur­ther totems of suc­cess­ful per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. Though this is judged by in­spec­tors in schools, the ef­fec­tive­ness of it must of­ten be put down to what hap­pens at home; our job as ed­u­ca­tors is, af­ter all, a part­ner­ship.

These con­se­quences of bore­dom are an an­ti­dote to tightly con­trolled hol­i­day sched­ules and great mo­ti­va­tional pro­cesses. Bore­dom drags chil­dren into ter­ri­tory where they are obliged to think for them­selves, to con­front a kind of lone­li­ness and to tackle a task in­de­pen­dently. Just think of that feel­ing as you stretch, af­ter in­ter­minable hours in the car, and greet the plain old earth or sun­shine with a glad heart, full of pos­si­bil­i­ties.

If there is room to stand and stare into space at school – great, but the real op­por­tu­nity for this is at home. There are thinkers, do­ers and dream­ers; each has his/her place and will con­trib­ute, but bore­dom’s chal­lenge is not some­thing to be swept away in flurry of mem­ber­ships and mini-cour­ses. The rest­ful, if dis­com­fort­ing, sense of pur­pose­less­ness has a place in this busy world. Have a great Easter break!

bee­ston­ 01263 837324

Fred de Falbe, head­mas­ter at Bee­ston Hall School, West Run­ton

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