Why Our Kids Hate Going to School Every Day
I grew up with a hippie mother. She went to Berkeley in its heyday.
I went to private school from kindergarten through seventh grade. We didn’t have grades. We just got a one page written report from our teachers.
I started public school in 8th grade with 1,000 kids in my year. This was my introduction to standardized American education.
My grades were terrible. I misbehaved in class often. My English teacher in 8th grade wrote on a report card that I had a severe case of cerebral atrophy. I’m sure my mom was very proud.
My kids went to a Montessori school as their first school experience. They loved it. Their first elementary school was a public magnet school that required parents to work at the school. It was anything but standardized. I was involved. My kids were happy.
Then we moved. To a new area, but one that I was familiar with. Their first school was public, but progressive. We got lucky. Then we moved again. And standardized education was the only option.
When my kids tell me that they don’t like school and I ask them why, I never have a good response to their beefs. Because they are right.
The standardization of schooling is boring the sh*t out of most of our kids. And it reverberates to us, the parents, in unsightly ways that are outside of our control.
Important notes before I tell you why our kids hate going to school every day:
I appreciate teachers. I think it’s the hardest job in the world. I don’t think they get paid enough. I think administrations hamstring them into teaching to standardized tests instead of allowing creative lesson planning. But, there are A LOT of teachers who have given up. There are A LOT of teachers who yell at children. There are also A LOT of phenomenal teachers. All of the phenomenal teachers would accomplish much more than they already do if the schools would take the standardized educational shackles off of them.
I appreciate how hard it is to run a school or an entire school district. I think it’s a constant lose-lose. But I also know that everyone in the educational system knows that the system is broken. The reduction of the arts, electives and physical education is directly impacting our kids’ happiness at school and beyond.
I recognize that my experience is not everyone else’s. I also recognize that I have had certain privileges in terms of schooling that others have not. I feel fortunate that my kids have the opportunity to attend school and don’t take it lightly. I know I don’t speak for everyone.
I am an outside-the-box person. I don’t like standardized anything. I fight the man. I am fine with you if you don’t. Everyone has their own beliefs. These are mine, based on my experience.
I have worked at schools, as a parent/volunteer, throughout the younger years of my children’s schooling. I worked as a mentor for one year at a progressive private school. I taught college and post-grad for three years. I am not a clinical researcher, but I have put in my time to have an educated view on what isn’t working.
School Starts Too Early
There are a lot of things at play here. Parents need to get to work. Districts need to share buses. But as our kids get older, that school start time seems earlier and earlier…for them.
My daughter has to wake up at 5:30 a.m. right now if she wants to shower in the morning — 6 a.m. on a regular day. Her school starts at 7:42 a.m. My son’s school starts at 8 a.m., but he walks to school so he needs to be up at 6:40 a.m. at the latest.
They are teenagers. They sleep until p.m. on non-school days. It doesn’t matter what time they go to bed.
A teacher once suggested that I make my son’s bedtime earlier because he looked tired in first period. I held my tongue. I wanted to defecate in a can and leave it in the teacher’s car.
They both get out of school around 2:30. Why wouldn’t we add an hour in the morning and let them get out at 3:30?
Lunch Times are Too Early and Way Too Short
For the last four years, neither of my kids has had a lunch time at or after noon. It’s usually in the 10s somewhere. Really?
Who is eating lunch at 10 a.m. in the real world? No one.
Except our kids. Who are then starving later in the day. But expected to be alert. When they are not allowed to snack in class. Or given more than three minutes in between classes to eat a granola bar.
I don’t care if you don’t have room for all the grades to eat at a reasonable time. That sounds like an architectural infrastructure problem that should not be solved by making our kids eat lunch when some are eating breakfast.
And P.S. — thirty minutes is not enough time for anyone to socialize, take a break and eat their food. Forget it if they have to wait in line to buy food at school. By the time they sit down, the lunch period is over.
They have to eat faster, drink faster and move faster instead of having a relaxing break in the middle of the day. Of course, it’s not the middle of the day, it’s mid-f*cking-morning.
Not Allowing a Bathroom Visit is Immoral
This one literally drives me insane. I can count at least twenty times over the years when my one of my kids asked to go to the bathroom in school and was denied.
Do you hear this? Has this happened to you or your child? They have to go to the f*cking bathroom and a teacher somehow has the right to say no. Hold it. Be uncomfortable. Make yourself sick. Have an accident.
In case you didn’t know, this happened to me. And it didn’t end well.
The Time Between Classes is Minuscule
Let’s give students lockers all over the place. Then let’s tighten up the time in between classes to reduce potential incidents of hijinx. One year my kids had three minutes. Now it might be four.
So they basically have to carry their backpack to all of their classes. Neither of them, and most of their friends, use their locker because there isn’t time to go there.
Those tiny breaks in between classes were the highlights of school growing up for me. I exchanged books and chatted quietly with my peers. Fine, sometimes I would slide tackle a friend in the hall. So I did engage in a variety of hijinx, which occasionally made me late for class. But no one was harmed. I was a good (not after 7th grade) student.
They run these kids in and out of classes. They limit their lunch time. They are taking away more and more creative classes and physical education. And then they call home to say my kid looks uninterested or tired. FML.
Homework is Stupid
This is where I may lose some of you.
I don’t believe in homework. I feel like 8–3 is enough time for standardized education each day.
I would much rather have my kid do a Masterclass on their own, in a subject they absolutely love, than grind out a one hour assignment in a class they hate after fencing practice. All for a C+ because they didn’t follow the rubric exactly, but still did a great job. The rubric always beats creativity to a pulp.
Excessive homework makes them stay up later. They are barely allowed to socialize at school anymore and now excessive homework limits the amount of social interaction our kids can have with us and their friends after school.
One of the most painful things we do as parents is ask our kids if they have done their homework. Are you sure? Can you double check? Can you check Genesis? How about just get the work done at school, in class.
Save “homework” for cool projects that kids can bond over and work on together.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” — Albert Einstein
Standardized Testing is Worthless
How can something that is attached in any way to the money received by a school hold intrinsic value? The testing has smacked with cultural bias from its inception. And kids can’t sit still that long.
I took the bar exam and wanted to slam my head against the table. But when I finished and passed, I was going to be a lawyer. They want these kids to take at least one test every year that gets them nothing. It’s just for “assessment” purposes.
I opted my kids out of PARCC for the four years. Some people think that makes me a bad parent. To each his or her own, but it’s not for me.
And when they are opted out, they want them to go to school and do nothing all day. They don’t have work to do. They have no assignments set for them. But if they don’t go, they get an unexcused absence. Maybe a doctor can diagnose them (and me) with anti-establishmentarianism.
There is a reason a lot of us used to make pictures by arranging the colored bubbles on a Scantron nicely instead of answering the questions as hard as we could. Because the test was boring. And it didn’t assess anything I was good at.
Creative writing? No. Basketball statistics? No. So, nothing on electives? Never.
Trick questions on purpose? Absolutely. For learning.
“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.” — Shakuntala Devi
And How We Suffer the Consequences
Our kids are stressed the f*ck out. Their teachers always look like they just went through the Battle of Waterloo instead of just having taught it.
They go to school too early, their lunch time is in the morning, their between class time is rushed, they can’t go to the bathroom if they need to, they are tested on arcane subjects that they will never use the rest of their life, their grades are always what matters. Yeah, I can’t see why they would feel stressed at all.
Throw in illnesses, divorces, sports, relationships, friendships, social media — kids have a lot of stuff happening in their personal lives as well.
But all of that stress comes to us. We bear the brunt of the standardized education system that is too rigid and too archaic to properly teach our children how to be good human beings above getting an A. I would send my kid to a class in ethics or humanity or sociology any day over science or a forced foreign language.
We see teachers who care so much, but are tied up by the system. They don’t want to talk to us. Our children bear the brunt of their frustration and that gets passed along to us as well.
We suffer the consequences at home. Because our kids come home stressed, deflated, grumpy and starving. Because the standardized school system isn’t taking care of them. It’s not built to serve them.
“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” — Jean Piaget
A Final Sidebar
I know that I have colored my kids’ perception of school by agreeing with them on many of these points. I know that isn’t always the best thing for them. But it’s the truth.
I am not trying to offend teachers, school administrators or parents who love their public school. These views are based on my personal experience as a child and with my kids. Personal conversations I have had over the years with other parents, teachers, administrators and school counselors.
The Triviality of It All
These complaints pale in all ways to what we are dealing with as a country in regard to school shootings. This isn’t lost on me. I worry that one day I will get that text or call or alert. I shutter at that thought.
But this is important. Is standardized education really making our kids better people? Is the system set up to even allow them that opportunity?