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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why Students Do Not Like School

I've never let my school interfere with my education.                                    - Mark Twain

A large percentage of students do not like school.  There are polls that show that over 60% of students find school boring and about "dislike" school.  Why?

We are in a country in which you are granted an opportunity to receive an education.  We believe in public schools and that every child has the right to attend these schools.  On average we spend about $9,000 in tax money per year per child (not quite the $29,000 per year we spend per prisoner per year).  There are many countries in which children are not guaranteed an education, in which education is a privilege.  Considering this, you would obviously think that students would be grateful and proud of this opportunity and make the most of it.  WRONG!  I have been teaching for over 10 years, read education articles and books constantly, and network with many teachers.  This is not the general attitude of the students.

I asked one of my classes this past year how much it costed them per year to go to school for a year (11th & 12th grade students).  

The class stared at me.  The first person to speak said, "nothing".  

I replied that they were somewhat correct that they didn't have to pay anything, but I explained that education costs money.  We have to pay for schools, buildings, teachers, books, technology, heat, electricity, etc...  Where does this money come from?  

They stared at me.  "Taxes" said one of the students.  

"Correct".  I asked the class how many dollars it costed (in tax money) for them to attend school for a year.  

The class stared at me (for a long time).  One girl raised her hand and said "$150?".  

"Okay", I said.  "How many people think it is more than this?"  About 5 raised their hands.  "How many think it is less than this?"  About 2 raised their hands.   "Why didn't the rest of you vote", I asked. 

The class stared at me.  One boy replied, "...because I don't know".

It was a good answer.  They didn't know.  They didn't even realize the value of the education they were receiving (which I found quite odd).

So what is the problem?  Are these selfish young people that do not understand respect and opportunity?  Are they too young to really grasp the concepts we are teaching them?  Why do so many students:
     *  Think school is boring?
     *  Dislike school?
     *  Drop out of school?
     *  Show no signs of engagement?
     *  Put forth little effort and receive poor grades?

Is it there fault?

I vote NO.  I do not think this is there fault.  Our school system has been around for over 100 years, yet it has barely changed.  The model that we currently have, in my opinion, is greatly outdated and inefficient.  Our school systems revolve around bells, isolated subject areas, discipline, conformity, "correct answers", standardized testing, lectures, content memorization, etc.....

What are we doing?  What are we preparing students for?  Why do we continue to overload our students with irrelevant content information which they memorize for a test and then forget a week later?  What are we doing?

Businesses and communities are begging for people to learn collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and other skills relevant to today's real world, yet these topics go untaught in the vast majority of classrooms around the country.  This is a disturbing trend.  Are we really providing a strong "education" for our students and preparing them for the future?  I have to look my students in the eyes every day, and it is getting increasingly more difficult, because I am afraid we are not.

.......I am off topic.  Why don't students like school?  Why do they think it is boring?  The answer:  IT IS BORING.  Students do not see the relevance in school, they are not engaged, and they are not doing anything that is improving the world.

So how do we change this?  My suggestions:

Relevance in school - we should make school more relevant.  Teach students HOW TO LEARN.  How to do research, how to communicate, collaborate, be creative and think critically.  We should teach them things they will need for the future and explain to them why they will need it.  They will most likely not need to know Grapes of Wrath, the Calvin Cycle, Algebra, or the structure of the ocean floors.  What are we teaching?

They are not engaged - I have been at plenty of conferences for teachers, faculty meetings, etc... and every time we are required to "sit and get" information and take notes, everyone complains.  That is hypocritical.  Many of these same teachers act as the "sage on the stage" and spout off information to their classes on a daily basis.  They tell kids what they should know, but not why they should know it, and that they should write it down and remember it for the exam.  Engage the students.  Let them use their creativity.  Let them do hands on activities.  Let them fail, and learn from their mistakes.  Let them explore something they want to explore.  Stimulate their minds!!!

They are not doing anything to change the world - every human being, children included, searches for significance.  This is one of the basic motivations of life.  We want to "MATTER" as Angela Maiers so brilliantly says. They want to make a difference.  What are you doing to allow them this?

in conclusion...........

THE ANSWER:  ComPassion-Based Learning - PLEASE (for the students sake) make the content more relevant.  Why do students leave high school having to know the Kreb's Cycle, Stages of Mitosis, Calvin Cycle, Cell Organelles, yet do not learn about how to grow a sustainable garden, how to be more energy efficient, how to make change at the grocery store, how to ask a doctor relevant follow up questions about your health, etc.......

Use the concept of ComPassion-Based Learning.  Teach the kids relevant information, give them autonomy and the ability to explore things that they think are interesting, even if everyone in the class thinks something different is interesting.  While they are "exploring", teach them to communicate, collaborate, learn how to learn, be creative, think critically and solve problems, etc.....  Through all of this, teach them content, because now they will be open to learning content because it matters to them.

In the end, challenge every student to use their knowledge, passions, skills to change the world.  Do projects that improve the community (whether local, state, national, or global).  This could mean providing opportunities or workshops for younger kids, sending food to a country in need, or trying to raise awareness for sustainability.  Allow the students to use their abilities to make a true difference in the world.

Every student deserves the chance to make a positive impact on the world.  I believe STRONGLY, that if we allowed students to work on more projects like this, that they would receive a much better education that would prepare them much better for their futures.  In the meantime, millions more people would be working to make the world a better place.

Why wouldn't we try this?  At Communities in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we have been doing it for one year, and I have never felt so confident that I am preparing students to succeed in whatever they want to do.  In the meantime, our students had some extremely positive impacts on our community and walked away educated, empowered, and confident.

Check out some of the things we did this year.  Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.  I would love to help make this dream a reality.

Oliver Schinkten
Communities at ONHS
Twitter:  schink10

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