How Do Students That Hate School Learn?
It has been my privilege to know many students at many grade and age levels, who have said they hated school. They were all different, referred to as brilliant, disenchanted, disengaged, unmotivated, unchallenged, stubborn, creative, and many more adjectives than a list on a page can hold. Sure, we all realize that students will say they hate school, because that’s the thing kids say, and it is immediately preceded by, or followed by, “I’m bored!” But we need to consider what all students say on this subject, at any level, age, or degree, because there’s no template for students at risk.
Furthermore, if students suggest, say, or write that they hate school, and when questioned, give good reasons why they do, and can back up those reasons with concrete evidence—that should certainly siren an at risk alarm. No amount of student giftedness can solve that problem. A student searching for a solution alone, and searching for a way, cannot rely on luck. It requires immediate, front line recognition, intervention, and then positive action. Educators should be prepared for those front line, daily challenges to discover why. Teachers also need help developing teaching techniques for this century, and this century’s students, to help them like school better. That has a lot to do with knowing how students learn, especially in today’s digitally connected learning environment. It is not so much about the class, but more about the individual learner.
Why students really hate school is such an individual dilemma, and you’d think that, today, educators with personalized learning approaches would be able to make a bigger dent in that, but that “I hate school” line is probably one of the most text and searched statement by students, daily. Whether students are just making a statement in a search box, looking for advice, or just need to find out that they’re not alone, more students are searching solutions for hating school, and telling us that they hate school in so many ways. Additionally, more students out of school are telling us that as much as they wanted to learn at school, they hated school, and left school early. If a think tank were held on the topic, the ages of the participants would cross generations.
While it is true that today’s students have the means to tell us better using technology, they are in classrooms, where the technology either doesn’t exist to engage their own learning, or if it does exist, students are not allowed to control that learning. For the most part, if classrooms lockstep learning for students, offering the same for all, with or without the assistance of technology, students cannot fully engage in learning. They are passive instead of active participants. It is easier for active engagement to happen if personalized learning includes technology, but it is far too easy for classrooms to continue to be taught in last century ways, where education was thought to be best directed from the front, and dispensed in a one way fits all. So, at a time, where we can engage and empower student learning, we still struggle with breaking away from what has been comfortably the wrong approach to students learning best.
Possibly a way of having a turnaround moment for students is to discover, first, how every student learns. Today, addressing all students in the same way, and at the same time, can be a recipe for failure. From the start, every student should be asked, “How do you learn?” For most students the question needs to be repeated often, because the answers can change. As a matter of fact, students could eventually discover more than one answer to that question, but you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know how every student learns to start. That requires the question to be posed to every student—without exception.
The best front line to having kids rethink hating school is to have educators who know how to ask that question, as well as how to interpret the answers in the right way for each student. For that, we need leaders and teachers educated beyond just classroom management, subject topic, and last century skills and tools. Let’s make “I hate school!” the least sought after student search, by learning more about how each student learns. Don’t be surprised if many of those answers include more use of technology, by students, because it is such an inherent part of the way they learn best, today.
About the Author:
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.