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Is your teen learning at school?

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Students' feelings about high school are mostly negative.

On January 30, 2020 at Yale university, in a nationwide survey, of 21,678 U.S. high school students, researchers from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center found that nearly 75% of the students' self-reported feelings related to school were negative. "The study, which appeared in the January edition of the Journal of Learning and Instruction, also involved a second, "experience sampling" study in which 472 high school students in Connecticut reported their feelings at distinct moments throughout the school day. These momentary assessments told the same story: High school students reported negative feelings 60% of the time." "It was higher than we expected," said co-author and research scientist Zorana Ivcevic. "We know from talking to students that they are feeling tired, stressed, and bored, but were surprised by how overwhelming it was."

This study was not performed with home school students - only public and private schools. I wonder how the results would have turned out using home school students?

My comments:

I am not surprised at the results. Boredom in schools starts from as early as 2nd and 3rd grade. Have you ever asked 3rd graders what their favorite part of school is? Most of them would tell you “recess.” This survey is confirming what we have already known since 3rd grade. And still the educational system doesn't change.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Unknown

One of the biggest complaints about school I hear from students is this:

“I am not going to use half the stuff I`m learning so there`s no point to learning it but I`m forced to do it anyways and that frustrates me.”

Do you think this student is learning anything in this frame of mind?

How motivated will this student be?

How excited is this student about life and his future?

How do "feelings of mostly negative emotions" throughout the day affect abilities, sense of well being, stress and anxiety levels?

Boredom contributes to negative feelings and lack of engagement which affects actual learning. Students may still be passing the tests which does not equal learning. Ticking off boxes and learning HOW TO ANSWER tests are techniques students learn with very little real learning taking place.

No wonder many boys turn to video games where they experience excitement with action-packed adventures and find significance in their online world. When they become the "hero" or referred to as the "expert" by gaming friends, this confidence boost gives significance and life meaning through connecting and socializing in a close knit gaming environment.

Unfortunately, the education system does not serve the majority of students, nor does it prepare them for life and adulthood. Even if you home school, you have to jump through hoops and tick boxes so your teens can get to where they want to go.

Let`s discuss adult learning for a minute. Would you learn about engineering if there was no point to it? Adults learn what they are excited about and when there is a purpose. I would never take an accounts class because I hate accountancy and there is no reason for me to study accounts. A few years back, I never thought I would ever need marketing but now that I have my own business, it is crucial to understand marketing for my business success. Although it is very challenging at times, marketing is a necessity for any business to survive.

So why do adults and professionals treat students differently when it comes to learning and expect them to "just do it" with a good attitude?

We say, learn this and do that and just get it done because you need this subject to graduate. And then we pull teeth. It`s frustrating for parents to see how schools can kill creativity.

We can`t change the education system so let`s work on what we can change.

How can parents support their teens in high school?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Encourage them to find the 2% enjoyment in a task. This requires a mindset shift and builds grit and resilience.

  2. Evaluate short term gains or benefits with long term benefits. Get them to think about what they are gaining from NOT doing their work. There is always something they GET otherwise they wouldn't do what they are not suppose to do. Short term gains could be: "I get to do what I want," "I get to watch a movie," "I get to play video games." Then get them to look at the long term costs: not graduating, not financially stable, less freedom, living in the basement and not leaving home. When they evaluate short term gains (instant gratification) with long term costs, it gets them thinking.

  3. Encourage a growth mindset and healthy fear of failure. People with growth mindsets learn through making mistakes and going through challenges. Ask questions like: "What did you learn in History today that has relevance to ........(the elections, gun control). "When you persevered through that math problem, what did you learn about yourself?" It`s OK to fear failure but a healthy mindset to failure is learning to "fail forward" (learn through mistakes).

  4. Help them to apply themselves to what they are learning in school. Challenge them to find meaning and connections as they relate the content to their worlds.

  5. Practice empathetic understanding with your teens. Be fully present when they want to talk. Make sure they feel "HEARD" and that you are listening to their concerns and opinions. This helps them to feel valued and respected and they will be more willing to talk to parents.

  6. Give them experiences to explore their interests. This could be travel, internships, extra-curricular activities, finding a job, volunteering, small business.

  7. Find a coach or mentor who can come alongside your teen on this journey.


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