Why Do Teens Hate School?

Sarah Almeda

Sarah Almeda: Student, Artist, and Philosopher

Teenagers hate school; everyone knows that! My name is Sarah Almeda; I’m a sophomore at New Milford High School, New Milford, New Jersey, and I love school! I’m sure that sounds strange to you, a high school sophomore who loves school…

But why do teens hate school?

School is a place to learn new things, discover who you are, and make friends. School doesn’t sound like a bad place—to a kindergartener! However, the amount of negativity on my twitter feed is indisputable. Nobody wants to go to school.

Why?

Here’s one answer: the traditional education system seems to have at least 20 different methods for helping a student’s self-esteem plummet.

School teaches children from a young age to measure self-worth with grades, athletic ability, test scores—and then proceeds to hang these on a wall. Might as well start early, right? These young, impressionable minds will compare themselves to each other for the rest of their lives!

Test scores don’t accurately measure a child’s potential for success in life, so why do school systems continue to foster that mindset? How can anyone be excited to go to a place that constantly reminds them of how he or she measures up to everyone else—and in many cases, how grim their future will be as a result?

If you happen to read my principal’s blog (Eric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal), you might have seen my guest post from a few months ago, where I referred to teenspeak as “that fictional language adults seem scared of.” I was touching upon a major pet peeve I have regarding articles on the Internet with titles such as these:

“Can you translate teenspeak?”

“How to decode the signals teenagers are trying to send you!”

“Understand the adolescent brain in 3 easy steps.”

And then there’s this poster, with the image of a cell phone along with the words, “Do you speak teen?” I have seen it in two places: hanging in school, and posted on an Internet forum. It took me, with the collaboration of several teenagers, to translate it into English.  I know I’m not a psychologist, or an expert of any kind, so I might not have a lot to back me up here… but it’s my opinion that if there’s another reason for students to dread school, it’s because they feel their opinion is undervalued. Students believe they have no say in their own education.

Students don’t want to be inspected, observed, translated, or dissected by psychologists and experts—they want to be listened to!

“But we are listening!”

Perhaps the most important part of listening is creating an atmosphere that encourages students to be vocal. I could brag for ages about how great New Milford High School is—have you SEEN our 3-D printer? However, there’s one simple thing that I feel doesn’t get enough praise: our principal, Mr. Sheninger keeps his office door open!

It’s easy for anyone to pop his or her head in and say, “Check this out!” or “Do you think we could do this better?” Not to mention we’re encouraged to e-mail or tweet, @NMHS_Principal whenever we want. And it’s not just him, either.

You’ve may have heard of the awesome things happening in our library. Our Makerspace, for lack of a better term, is the bomb-diggity. We’re prying apart computers, printing 3D renovation plans, making toothbrush robots—yet my favorite part of the library and Ms. Fleming’s open door and encouraging Twitter.

Connecting it all

The connectivity at New Milford is invaluable. Our school’s far from perfect, but there’s an atmosphere here that encourages progress and really emphasizes the role students play in that progress.

Students want to come to a place that values learning, not grades; a place that encourages individual growth instead of rewarding cramming and cheating. Students want to know that someone’s listening, because a student’s voice is a powerful and necessary thing.

Students want to go somewhere where they can learn new things, discover who they are, and make friends, the way school sounded to them as kindergarteners.

Teenagers hate school, everybody knows that—but they don’t have to.

Please also read: How Do Students That Hate School Learn?

About the Author:

Sarah “Shmarah” Almeda is a 15-year-old tuba-playing work-in-progress that likes to make cool things! She hopes to make cool things for the rest of her life, such as video games, fruit dogs, and brownies with hidden Oreos inside. Snazzy hats, smiles, and encouraging teachers are among her favorite things. She goes to New Milford High School (that’s New Jersey, not Connecticut) and you can find her on Twitter @tehshmarah.

Sarah Almeda

Sarah “Shmarah” Almeda is a 15-year-old tuba-playing work-in-progress that likes to make cool things! She hopes to make cool things for the rest of her life, such as video games, fruit dogs, and brownies with hidden Oreos inside. Snazzy hats, smiles, and encouraging teachers are among her favorite things. She goes to New Milford High School (that’s New Jersey, not Connecticut) and you can find her on Twitter @tehshmarah.
6 Comments on this post.
  • Robert Schuetz
    12 April 2014 at 8:04 am -

    Terrific question and post Sarah! I respect the courage and effort that it takes to “put yourself out there” in a positive, meaningful way. As a father of four teens, and a professional “work in progress” (educator) of 25 years, I certainly understand why many students love going to school, but hate their education. I have a challenge for you for your next post. Why do kids hate learning? If this question seems absurd to you, tell us why. Thank you for this forum Sarah, I hope it generates tremendous conversation and learning. Bob

    • Sarah Almeda
      30 April 2014 at 9:46 pm -

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’ll admit sometimes it’s scary to speak up- especially to teachers. That’s why hearing encouraging words from educators all over the web has been very uplifting to me. I hope I encourage more teachers to, well, encourage more! Thank you as well for the new post idea- as they say, “Challenge Accepted!”
      -Sarah

  • Paula Lee Bright
    14 April 2014 at 8:25 pm -

    Fabulous insights, kiddo. If all schools were so open to student input, including listening to the younger grade school kids as well as teens, like yours does, our “system” would improve overnight.

    We need to listen to what the children have to say, and we have to include that in the way we teach, classroom by classroom, child by child.

    Common Core ensures that this is not part of the program. Hey, wait. Who ever said that kids should be programmed like robots? Oops, almost got on my hobby horse. Thanks for a great post! I look forward to hearing more from you.

    • Sarah Almeda
      30 April 2014 at 9:52 pm -

      I completely agree; one of my favorite teachers often says that just because an automated, assembly line approach works in outputting standardized factory goods DOESN’T mean that the same approach can be used in education to output college/career-ready student robots. Thank you for reading my post!

  • Demetrius Petitt
    17 April 2015 at 4:11 pm -

    Hello. I really appreciate this article. I’m a sophomore at my highschool and I believe there needs to be some change. In our highschool, and no one else seems to notice this but me, they mask the school with an uprising, positive outlook. Though, the staff members aren’t too friendly at all. Questioning is simply looked down upon, as if other opinions and ideas are… Incorrect. People are praised for their popularity, rather than their positivity or personality. We have school presidents elected every year in which students stand up in front of the school and give a speech on why they should be elected. While some give out damn good ideas and bring up things that actually need to change, the ones who make the crowd laugh the most are typically the ones elected. It’s unfortunate. I’m stuck, I feel like. And because our school teaches students not to question or be concerned, I of course am an outcast because I feel the opposite, I feel like I have no one to turn to about the situation because everyone thinks alike and if you don’t, you’re being a downer, an over thinker, depressing, unthankful. What do I do?

    • Ken Royal
      Ken Royal
      29 April 2015 at 2:44 pm -

      Demetri, check out #StuVoice on Twitter as well as at http://www.stuvoice.org/ and you’ll discover you’re not alone. Students their, have also discovered their voices, and ways to move talk to action. I think they might be able to use your ideas, and you’ll meed some other wonderful students, too. Thanks for your comment; we get it, and understand. Join that Student Voice crew. ;>) If you’d like a contact there, let us know.