We all have at least one class like this; you find your seat and before a minute has passed, you’re already bored. Holding onto the teacher’s words is like trying to figure skate backwards. On one leg. With a stack of dishes on your head. You pinch yourself and try to follow along but the harder you try, the further away your attention is by the end of the sentence. The term “painfully boring” has never made more sense.
I don’t think that any subject is hard if you’re interested in it. Once you lose interest in a class, lectures are impossible to sit through. And because you didn’t pay attention, the homework, no matter how easy or straightforward, becomes hard, and you get bad grades. The bad grades lead to lower motivation, and it’s an endless cycle that will leave you burnt out long before midterms, let alone finals.
How do you nip this in the bud? I’ve developed a couple tips that have made class go from unbearable to a favorite:
| Say hi to the teacher after the first class. It’ll be harder to tune out someone you’ve had a conversation with, plus the teacher will like you for it.
| Make friends out of your classmates. It helps to have a study buddy or a couple of familiar faces to learn the material alongside.
| Good posture and a smile are the power pose that’ll do wonders. This often helps me snap out of my daydream, and looking like I’m paying attention almost always leads to making that a reality.
| Don’t complain about the class! If you’re always complaining to your friends about how boring Calc is, you’re never going to have the right attitude to enjoy it, because you’ve designated it as a boring class.
| Reward yourself. If you anticipate a dredgingly long class, bring in a tea, gum, silly putty: anything that makes you happy and doesn’t distract you. You can set aside a set of pens that you only use for this class. Or, if you’re feeling particularly high on determination, promise yourself that if you make it through the class and pay attention, you’ll get a cookie, jam out to a favorite playlist, whatever.
| Sit in the front row. You’ll be held accountable if you pull out your phone, fall asleep, or blank stare for minutes at a time. You’ll also probably be closer to the board and the more active participants, engaging more with the material and lecture.
| Listen: don’t just hear. There are a lot of ways to challenge yourself to really think about the words, especially for long periods of time. For example, you can translate each sentence into an icon in your notebook, if you’re visually inclined. You can write down a key word every once in awhile in your notes. If I’m really desperate, sometimes I live translate the lecture into Spanish in my head, which makes me think twice about each word I’d otherwise tune out. Be creative!
| Don’t look at the clock. Not only is it rude, but it makes time pass so slowly. Cover up your watch or angle yourself away from the clock, if possible. Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without checking the time.
| See it differently. You might as well find a way to relate the class to something interesting or valuable to you, and tie the topics you learn about to that interesting point.
| Don’t give in to the following cycle: confusion> give up> get bored. When you’re trying, you’re engaged. There’s nothing more boring than sitting through something you’ve already lost hope on, especially if you don’t care much for it.
Whether this is a required class or one you actively chose, there is a benefit to doing well in it and a disadvantage to doing poorly. Making the class interesting will help you to do better in it, and you might find that you’re good at what’s being taught, but hadn’t yet cared enough to find out.