The life of a high school student is filled with frustrations that can hinder the educational process and lead to many students dropping out in favor of their GED equivalency. Teachers are up against a set of politician-induced standards, and current modes of standardized testing require them to hit certain benchmarks or else. That can be difficult when you’re dealing with a classroom of 30 to 50 students, with some smarter than others.
(In some cases, much smarter.)
This frustration often spills out into the classroom and infects every single person, who is interested in learning.
A recent Quora discussion dealt with some of these frustrations. While the entire conversation is worth a look if you want some insight from actual high schoolers, these responses highlight some of the biggest frustrations high school students face.
1. A Stamped Out Love Of Learning.
The most popular response from the Quora discussion — submitted by user Rin Shimizu — points out how teachers can miss opportunities to encourage excellence. Rin explains: “I’m sitting in my Chemistry class:
“Teacher: We’re gonna learn about Gibbs Free Energy today. All you need to know is this little symbol, yes, this one here. If there is a negative sign in front of the symbol, then a reaction is spontaneous. If there is a positive sign, the reaction is not spontaneous.
“Me (Rin): Why? Why’s that?
“Teacher: It’s just the way it is. That’s all you need to know.
“Me: Surely there is some reason behind that? I’ve heard that whether a reaction is spontaneous is related to the enthalpy of a reaction…
“Teacher: That’s true, but all you need to know is that if there is a negative sign…”
Rin sums up his entry on the list of frustrating things about high school by stating, “This is basically what happens in most of my classes. Questions inquiring beyond the syllabus? Slapped down! Classes are to prepare us for exams and to ace the syllabus, not to acquire knowledge for the sake of learning.”
Rin’s complaint is a common one from students and teachers alike. So much emphasis is placed on “teaching to the test” and “meeting the benchmark” (by politicians) that the most powerful tool for learning — the sheer love of it — is discouraged.
2. Other Students.
Teachers sometimes seem like they’re in a constant state of frustration and/or anger with students, who make it hard to deal. Well, as it turns out, other students can be a major source of frustration for high schoolers, too.
Tony Nguyen, a high school freshman, writes: “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some really cool people during my first semester of high school, and I’ve had great times with them. The close-minded ones, the ignorant ones, the ones who blindly restate ‘official-looking facts’ to anyone who listens. (I had a kid today trying to convince me that the world will blackout for three days starting Friday — straight-faced.) I’ve seen countless reposts on Instagram stating that love starts exactly at four months, otherwise it’s just liking someone (based on the ‘psychological studies,’ no less).”
Nguyen continued: “Some of the most reckless, promiscuous, most rude people at my school claim to be living ‘for God.’ I have no problem with what they do; in fact, I’ll encourage them to be themselves. But repping Jesus and making fun of the awkward studious girl in class are two different things. But I guess all of these things are to be expected when you pack thousands of pubescent teenagers from different backgrounds into one building.”
3. You Can’t Do What You Want. (No, Seriously, This Isn’t Whining.)
For high school senior Brianna Ruffin, the inability to do what one wants may seem like a good thing on the surface, but it actually punishes the wrong people.
Ruffin explains: “A lot of teenagers want to do really stupid things, like sit at home and smoke pot instead of going to school. If some kids could do whatever they wanted, that’s exactly what they’d do. Mature high schoolers don’t even have basic independence. If the class is in the middle of working on homework individually, students still have to raise their hand and get permission to the bathroom. (At my school, you’re only supposed to go during the first or last five minutes. What the heck? Am I supposed to wet myself because I need to go ten minutes before class ends, not five?)”
“Students can’t even study what they want to,” Ruffin fumed. “My school tries to pass a levy every single year and it fails repeatedly. What happens when levies fail? The school cuts classes. They never cut the regular or intermediate classes, no, they head straight for the AP ones. All the kids who wanted to study AP Chemistry this year? Too late! The AP Physics and Calc DYAD? Bye, bye. There isn’t enough money to go around, and our education suffers for it.”
4. Grades, Grades, Grades.
Assessment is a necessity for determining where a student is at and how far they have to go. However, but for people like Alex Tamkin, the overemphasis has cheapened the pleasure of learning.
One of the biggest ways this happens, Tamkin says, is by forcing the student to focus on a comparatively unimportant of the process. “I’ve known people who ignore their teacher’s comments on how they could improve, skipping right to the letter or number. That’s right — sometimes I see my classmates get back a paper with tons of comments scribbled in the margins, and jump to the last page just to see the grade at the bottom. What does this say about the institution of grades that people value them over meaningful, helpful feedback?”
5. Peer Stupidity.
Student Elizabeth Howland sums up the attitudes of many of her peers better than we ever could.
“What most frustrates me is the ignorance that the kids around me regularly and blatantly put on display. They don’t want to learn, feel, or think,” she explains. “I used to think it would get better in AP classes, but now I’m in two (English and US History) and there’s little improvement. The kids still make racist jokes, laugh at cruel things, refuse to pay attention even when something fascinating is put right before them — these kids will laugh at everything, just so that they don’t have to take it seriously.”
Howland relates an example of what her AP English teacher deals with each class day. “My English teacher is one of the best teachers in the school,” she said. “Recently he’s tried to have us have ‘Socrates Cafe’ discussions — talks where we, the students, lead. The book we’re currently studying is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is not my favorite but is growing on me because I really want to understand why it is so loved. In an open discussion, where students are finally given the reins, the opportunity to talk about really important things with our peers, the majority of my classmates would still prefer to sit and gossip in their little cliques and talk about cats. They only join the discussion to turn it overwhelmingly negative or to mock the people who actually care. It makes me sad, and a little sick.”
Unfortunately, how a student acts in class is often indicative of what they’re allowed to get away with at home. Behaviors like these aren’t just a student issue, but a parental one, and it’s difficult for teachers and the students, who care, to overcome 14 to 18 years of lousy parenting.
6. Education Aimed At ‘The Bottom Of The Barrel.’
What do bright, thoughtful, intelligent, and well-spoken students really think of their education system? Arielle Cole, one such student, says that she loves learning, writing essays, and “certain classes,” but she hates high school.
“This is because high school wasn’t designed to encourage mature, motivated, passionate young adults to learn — it was designed to cater to the bottom of the barrel, to create a population that can follow directions, memorize facts, and fill out paper work.”
“The worst thing about high school is that it wasn’t designed for me, an individual student; it was designed for the students, and there is no structure currently in place to remedy that. We are so lucky to be receiving free education. Shouldn’t we be making sure that it is worth every individual student’s while?”
In other words, bright students do not feel challenged by their current classes, and they don’t feel there are any options in place, which may do so.
7. Losing Yourself.
High school junior Shai Ki believes that high school saps one’s individuality, explaining that, “Losing what makes you special in order to fit to the criteria; losing your ability to think, learn, imagine and be curious, and more importantly — the wish to even have these abilities; and losing your motivation to do something great, to be something great, and instead getting only the will to do what people want from you” are to blame for most frustrations.
“There’s a reason why all successful people, and mostly scientists and entrepreneurs, were a failure in school: school is just doing it wrong, and makes us all do it wrong,” Ki adds.
8. A Refusal To Use Technology For Independent Studies.
Abdulrahman AlZanki, a 17-year-old iPhone developer from Kuwait, places most of his frustration on the feeling that he has to spend most of his time waiting on other students to catch up, spending “45 minutes on on something that I could’ve learned on Khan Academy for 7 minutes.”
This brief statement highlights the profound need for the US education system to incorporate more technology in allowing students to branch out into independent studies. Most schools throughout the US are still using the lecture/textbook model. They’re not entrusting students enough to take the reins of their own education.
This could be, in part, because of a lack of qualified teachers, but it’s more likely a problem at the administrative level. There are still numerous “old-timers” running schools, who see technology as more the enemy than a helper. They’re so worried about students making Facebook status updates during class — which they do anyway — that they try to suppress the independent use of technology. Perhaps by bringing in more reputable sources (like Kahn), schools could accomplish far greater things than they currently are.
9. Schools Are Sacrificing The Passion To Learn For The Idea Of A ‘Well-Rounded’ Education.
While it’s important to branch out and learn about different subjects, some students feel boxed in to the “well-rounded” education model that hasn’t proven to be that “well” or “rounded” as of late. Students with clear passions feel like they’re doing a juggling act because they have to learn this or that.
High school junior Waldo Juarez explains: “Participating in what you actually enjoy can have some serious side-effects. If you’re into art or writing, not only will it be extremely difficult to actually get the classes you want, but the time you dedicate to your passion has to be senselessly juggled with monotonous book work.”
“In my high school, for example, music department kids really get the short end of the stick,” Juarez said. “I’m a member of my school’s orchestra, and because of that I’m forced to take summer classes every year in order to graduate, and even then I had to forfeit AP Chemistry (because of the way the administration arranged the classes, no one in orchestra could take the course), and am going to have to forfeit my third foreign language class my senior year.”
The current education system leaves many students feeling boxed in. While trying to bring most students up to a mediocre standard, many schools are failing to encourage the excellence that rests in other students. As a result, it can leave bright, intelligent young people feeling snowed under.
Which of these frustrating things about high school most bother you — and which ones did we leave off the list? Share your thoughts with us!
[Featured Image via Teach.com]
[Image via Phoenixx138.files.wordpress.com]
Written by Aric Mitchell
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