It’s so common it’s become a cliché in television, books and movies: young people hating school (or maybe specific subjects). In fact it’s become so common that we’ve gotten used to it, to the point where we tell our kids to just suffer through it, get it over with, act like a kidney stone and just “pass it.” The truth is, though, your young person may have specific reasons for disliking school, or parts of it. The good news is, there may be solutions that can help students overcome that loathing and, believe it or not, find joy in learning. Let’s look at some of the biggest culprits:
School may not fit their learning style
The standard method for teaching young people -- teacher at the front of a classroom, writing on a blackboard and lecturing to students -- is pretty much universal, and practiced in every school. However, that teaching style does not match the ways in which young brains learn best. In fact up to 50 percent of all young people may be struggling with this one-size-fits-all approach. Research there are many different ways that our brains can best learn new information, and the standard model practiced in school is only a handful of them.
Do a bit of research online into learning styles. You will find a number of tests for your young person to take (take more than one), usually around 20 questions. Once you get answers, you can start working to structure school learning so that it matches your student’s learning style. For instance, musical learners will benefit from playing music while studying, kinesthetic learners should take breaks for exercise, visual learners should try employing graphs and images, and so on.
Chances are a gigantic light bulb will shine brightly above your young person’s head once they figure out their learning style. Many of their educational struggles might suddenly make sense.
Your student may have gaps in their learning
This is a very common problem. In essence, your young person may not have a strong enough foundation of knowledge to grasp what’s happening in the classroom. If you picture learning as a ladder, it’s important to grasp and ascend each rung, but you can’t make it to the top if there are gaps. A student who has missed earlier steps in their learning will quickly find themselves completely lost, and this can be extremely frustrating.
Working with your child’s teacher(s) can be a great help, as can conversations with your youngster. If they just don’t know what’s going on in class, they’ll quickly start to hate it. That can be remedied with backtracking with some extra work, or finding a tutor to help catch up.
Your student may have an undiagnosed learning exceptionality
There are many exceptionalities faced by modern educators, ranging from ADHD to dyslexia and even physical issues such as hearing or vision impairments. Having such a problem undiagnosed can be extremely frustrating for young people, leading not only to a hatred of school but also social alienation, depression or worse.
Working with the school -- including the school counselor, a social worker or a child psychologist -- may result in an assessment that can produce a diagnosis. Every parent dreads such a diagnosis, but the truth is that knowing is far better than not knowing. There are always ways to work with learning exceptionalities, with steps that involve work at home, at school and outside help such as therapists, tutors and more, but getting to the bottom of learning struggles can change a young person’s life.
Your young person may have social or psychological issues
Young people often lack the vocabulary to discuss their inner lives. Instead they are likely to act out any turmoil they harbor in their hearts. This can make it extremely difficult to understand what’s troubling them, especially when their behavior tends to push people away. In truth, however, it is worth the effort required to understand those inner lives.
Help may be required in the form of trained counselors and psychologists, but emphasize to the youngster that the goal is not to label or judge them but help them find happiness -- and that friends and family will love them no matter what.
The list of possible problems can be a long one, and may include depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment, substance abuse, even assault. It can be complicated by the fact that some problems may only be a symptom of something deeper. The only way to find out for sure is to “do the work,” as they say.
Regardless of what ails your student, approach them with love and empathy, not simply worry or high expectations. Remember that while the goal is to help them find excellence in school (and life), the point of all of it is for them to be happy -- and who better equipped to help them get there but a loving parent?