This blog post by a student was something that really resonated with me and challenged my thinking. I did an accompanying podcast to talk about some of the ideas here, but you can also check out the full post below. Karen’s (the student) post is a must-read for educators.
I was happy to be tagged in this post, “I’m a Loser Because of School,” written by a student named Karen. I was honored to be referenced, which is why I was tagged in the first place. There is so much to go through in this student’s post who discusses how they are a “loser” because of their focus on doing school and being schooled. She referenced my “School vs. Learning” blog post and used the following image:
She makes a powerful statement on how she looks at school and learning that I feel many students feel:
When I say I hate school, I mean I hate school itself. I hate doing school things, but I love learning. I love those “aha!” moments that make my brain feel big and adrenaline course through my body, but they usually don’t happen in school for me.
When I read this, it reminded me of this Michael Wesch video from 2011 where he tells a story (starts at 2:11) of doing an informal survey with students and asks them, “How many of you do not like school?”, to which he will usually receive over 50% of them raising their hands. When he changes the question to, “How many of you do not like learning?”, no hands raised. Karen brings this point home in her own experience.
Although the above point from Karen comes in later in her post, the first paragraph alone jolted me:
Almost all of my teachers go crazy about homework and projects and exams. I spend at least four hours a day doing homework, and I’m already at school for six hours. I’m taking eight classes this semester, six of them being high school classes. I don’t really know what’s going on half the time, but I guess I’m doing well because I have almost all A’s.
Work ethic is essential to develop in students but a) what about work/life balance and b) what about enjoying youth?
Karen then goes on to make comparisons to school in the current day compared to the past.
As students, our goal is to pass school like those kids. The only difference between them and us is that they’re less miserable because the standards today are unrealistically high and the pressure is extreme.
As a student, I do not remember the pressure that I am seeing students face today. Of course, we wanted to do well, but what Karen is discussing (and what many educators and students share as a concern as well) is that this is something entirely different in today’s education system. I do not know if this is a relevant comparison, but when I was a high school student-athlete, I had the opportunity to play different sports in different seasons. I am so glad that I had that opportunity as I feel it made me more well-rounded. But now, you are seeing more of the single-sport athlete with “year-round” basketball (or whatever sport). Wayne Gretzky, considered by many to the best hockey player ever, actually believes that most kids who play sports benefit from playing in different activities throughout the year. Yet, the belief for many (and I think this comes mostly from adults) is that how could you compete playing a sport for only a few months to others who do the same activity year-round? This mindset seems to be similar to school and a deep focus on “academics” that often starts in Kindergarten, or even in pre-school.
Karen then goes on to discuss “three reasons why I’m a loser because of school, and what schools can do about it.” What I love about the points she makes (“I’m obsessed with my grades,” “I’m not resilient,” “I have no time to do anything but school”) is that she provides solutions and different ways of thinking about each area. It would be easy to complain about what is right, but to offer ideas and points of discussion for each item is pretty powerful and compelling. I am not sharing any of her thoughts and/or solutions for these three points because I think it is imperative to read the whole article.
At the end of the article, Karen makes a powerful statement with some essential questions for her peers:
Why do I go to school? Am I learning? Is everything I do for a grade? For myself? Do I want to be well-schooled or well-educated?
Every student needs to take a step back, reflect, and do something about their loser-ness if they realize that they are one (or partially one).
Karen, if you ever read this, understand you are NOT a loser. Just by reading this one post, I can tell you are an amazing and thoughtful individual. The advice you give at the end of your post is pretty powerful, and one all educators and students should consider:
So, just as schools need to put learning first, students also have to want to learn and make it their priority.
The second part of Karen’s above statement is not as powerful unless schools consider the first. I could go on and on about how much I learned from this post, but I think Karen’s entire article would be an excellent piece for discussion in any school. I encourage you to check it out.
You can check out the full podcast below!