I’ve been hearing a lot recently about the “benefits” of boredom.

A few weeks ago, one of the teachers honored by the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies said she tells her high school students they need to feel bored. They need to unplug, unwind, step back from the world of constant stimulation and just let themselves BE. Even if it’s hard.

Manoush Zomorodi, host of the @NotetoSelf podcast, wrote an entire book on this subject called Bored and Brilliant. She also argues that boredom holds the key to insight and creativity. We need to give ourselves time without stimulation, she argues so that we can truly think.

They are both right — to a point. Downtime without any scheduled activity, unplugged from our devices, is a good thing. But boredom is only valuable if we are in charge of what we do next.

You see, boredom is our brain’s signal to us that it’s time to stop what we’re doing and move on to something new. Boredom is great when we can take that message and run with it.

Who hasn’t felt the benefits of creativity during downtime? When I’m sitting on an airplane, waiting for it to take off, or lying in bed trying to fall asleep, ideas always creep into my resting consciousness. I should write a blog post on this. I should try a new strategy with that student. I need to write a new lesson on currency trading. It’s amazingly powerful.

But it doesn’t follow that boredom in class is beneficial for teenagers.

In high school classrooms, students aren’t free to zone out, free associate, daydream, or embark on a new idea. We want — no, we need — them to pay attention and learn. That’s why they are there.

Supposedly, we are teaching them important skills and knowledge. (If not, forget what I just said. Let them zone out.)

The problem in high school isn’t that students are overstimulated and need to unplug; the problem is that they are understimulated. Too many students are captive audiences in a setting where they have no choices or efficacy, and their resulting boredom leads them to act out, fall asleep, play on their phones — or just plain skip out. And then — no surprise — we have discipline problems.

I should know. I couldn’t keep myself awake in high school. And my older brother was so bored and disruptive, even in elementary school, that teachers wanted to diagnose him EBD. (He later earned a PhD.)

Listening to a dull lecture on the causes of World War I is not equivalent to sitting idly, waiting for your number to be called at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the DMV, it’s fine to daydream and free-associate. No one cares what you’re doing — or what you’re thinking about.

In the classroom, it’s a recipe for failure.

Boredom has its upsides — I will concede that — but in the classroom setting, it causes our teenage students to lose track, disengage from the material, and eventually, stop caring.

We can do better than boredom at school. If we have important lessons to teach our students, then we need to use more engaging strategies, like inquiry learning, discussion and simulation.

If all they need is downtime, they’d be better off at home.