Written by guest blogger Michele Timmons of Parentfurther.com
I have spent more than 20 years working in education as a teacher, school administrator and educational consultant. I have worked closely with principals, teachers, parents, and youth to make school a better place for kids, but I often meet young people who tell me how much they hate school. When this occurs, I try to find the root of their strong feelings. From my research and experience, I have found that there are four main reasons kids don’t like school:
- The way the information is taught isn’t interesting or engaging to the young person.
- The school staff isn’t meeting the child’s individual learning needs.
- There is a hostile environment in the school or classroom.
- The child is socially disconnected at school.
Here are five tips to consider, both in the classroom, and at home to help students who are having a hard time loving learning. Feel free to share these with the other parents and teachers in your school.
1. Get to the heart of the matter. Ask questions and listen. Really listen.
At school: Set aside time to have one-on-one conversations with your students. Ask open-ended questions to learn more about what they really like and dislike about school.
At home:Be an active listener. Now is the time to really hear what your child has to say, without giving your opinions. Once you have an idea as to which reasons are behind your child’s feelings then it is easier to begin brainstorming solutions.
2. Keep the avenues of communication open.
At school: Schedule monthly check-ins to reach out to individual parents with your concerns. Offer opportunities to meet with parents to discuss your concerns.
At home: Meet with your child’s teacher and discuss your child’s concerns. The best way to do this is to address the concerns in a positive manner. Together with the teacher brainstorm strategies for making the school or classroom experience more positive.
3. Support young people’s sparks.
At school: Take time to learn your students’ spark. Search Institute research shows that kids who thrive have two important supports: Sparks and adults who support those sparks. Young people who know their spark, and have at least three caring adults who support their spark, are more likely to have higher grades in school, be good stewards of the earth, volunteer to help others, be socially competent, have a sense of purpose, avoid violent behavior, and be physically healthy.
At home: Share your child’s sparks with his or her teacher. The special ability or interest kids have is their spark. Teachers can work with approximately 25 to 200 kids every day and it can be a challenge to learn what makes every child tick. Most teachers really want their classes to be relevant to their students, so the more you share, the easier it is for the teacher to tap into those interests during class.
4. Find specific parts of the day that are enjoyable and celebrate those times.
At school: Work with parents to understand if there is a certain time of day that is more difficult for his or her child than others. See my example below.
At home: Ask your child if there is a certain time of day that is more difficult for him or her than others. One parent told me that when she and the teacher met, they discovered that afternoons were the hardest time for her 7-year-old. Given this information, Mom and the teacher came up with a solution. They agreed that Mom would call him every day right after lunch and give him a quick pep talk to help him get through the rest of his day. It took four months, but in the end this strategy worked!
5. Address safety. Assess the social situation.
Sometimes, kids say they hate school because they are bullied. If a child believes he or she is being bullied, parents can work with schools to identify whether the situation is dangerous or life threatening, and take action if necessary. Most states now have anti-bullying laws, and schools are mandated to intervene.
Many children hate school because they have few or no social connections. They truly believe no one cares or even notices they exist. If this is a concern, parents should talk to the principal, a counselor, or social worker and ask them to identify an adult at school who will check in on their child daily and build a relationship with her or him. Many schools will also identify a student who has similar interests or schedules and ask them to be a buddy for a child who may be having a difficult time. Parents can also consider enrolling their child in an after school program, club, or athletics. This is a great way to make friends and feel connected to school.
All we want—both teachers and parents—is for our children to be happy, healthy, and resilient. So when our kids tell us they hate school, we want to do something to make it better. Most often, by trying one or more of these strategies, you will be able to resolve these common concerns.