Mounds View teacher writes book for fellow educators as aid against boredom


submitted photo • Author and Mounds View High School teacher Martha Rush’s new book, “Beat Boredom,” is available now from Stenhouse Publishing.

courtesy of Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department • A grass fire burned Nov. 29 off Interstate 35W at the off-ramp for County Road I in Mounds View before the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department extinguished it.

Martha Rush, an educator for more than 20 years currently working as a social studies teacher for Mounds View High School, sat in the back corner of a coffee shop, her glasses resting on her nose above an inquisitively warm, teacherly smile. 

Rush’s nurturing aura shuttered at conjuring the image of a bored classroom — the sight of a group of kids stuck in an indifferent malaise. 

“It’s a horrible feeling,” she said.

Rush, whose book “Beat Boredom” is available now from Stenhouse Publishers, said she can’t stand looking out and seeing students’ attention slip away. 

She said the signal of growing boredom is when students’ heads drop downward to look at cell phones.

Before cell phones, Rush said, students’ eyes would glaze over as they stared straight ahead, unaware of anything happening around them. When a student reached this nadir of engagement, she said, she could ask the student a question and they would hardly have known she was speaking to them.

“When I was in high school I was one of those kids always falling asleep. I’m sympathetic when kids doze off,” she added.

If Rush found herself as the teacher in a bored classroom, she said she would always be “really bothered.” Instead of the instinct to reprimand a student for trailing off, Rush said she would be harsh on herself.

 

Making it real

In continuing her own education, pursuing a second master’s degree — this time in science of education entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania — Rush came up with a group semester project. That class project, aimed at eliminating boredom in class, grew into Rush’s company, NeverBore Education Consulting, and a blog she writes for educators. 

Every student’s dream is a teacher who takes full accountability for the level of student engagement with the curriculum, a dream that Rush believes can be a reality. 

Rush herself experienced every writer’s dream — an editor at Stenhouse Publishing who saw the blog contacted her out of the blue about writing a book. 

Rush jumped at the chance, and, with the opportunity, began reflecting on her 20-plus years of classroom experience. 

She set out to hear from students, setting up a survey. Students from Mounds View and around the nation responded. 

Some kids enjoyed swearing and naming teachers, said Rush, but the worthwhile responses included instances in which students remembered being highly engaged. A lot of those experiences involved a lot of talking and discussion, solving tough problems and investigating issues that students feel are real and relevant.

Rush finds that school really lags when things are at their most passive. She says that a lot of school activity — sitting, taking notes — is passive and that a more active approach will better engage students. 

Her keys to beating boredom, explained in greater detail in her book, involve incorporating storytelling, discussion and debate, problem-based learning, simulation, competition and authentic tasks.

Rush acknowledges competition in class is controversial amongst educators, but can yield good results. 

Authentic tasks are activities that have some meaning. Rush said she once had middle schoolers write letters to the editor of their local paper about what they believe the community needs. She recalls one student passionately penning a letter in favor of the construction of a skate park. 

Rush said a big favorite for students is simulation, like when a teacher has students simulate a marketplace in an economics class.  

Rush does not believe education is inherently boring, or passive, or that some component to academia is somehow necessarily unexciting. 

“I understand there are some subjects that might not entice a student, I get that,” she said. “But there is no uniform sense of what that is.”

 

To purchase “Beat Boredom” go to www.stenhouse.com.

 


– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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