- written by Susan Friese
Often I receive emails and queries from parents asking the question, “Isn’t it too late in the year to change my child’s school?” I get this at the end of the first term, midyear and in the last few weeks of the school year. My answer is always the same – no, it’s not too late if your child is unhappy.
For me (speaking from personal and professional experience) the schooling experience must be a happy one or at least not a bitter one; or the student’s education and interest in education will take a massive hit.
If a person hates every minute of their university degree, their job or their workout (for example) they would always be advised to make a change. So why then are unhappy school kids constantly told to just get on with it? In many instances it’s because the school cannot deal with the child or the teachers think the student is just not willing to adjust (read conform). The anxiety that may consequently occur is overwhelming.
Why are kids unhappy at school?
The answer is myriad. Maybe they don’t find the work challenging. Maybe they have a personality conflict with teachers. Maybe they don’t fit in with their peer group. In many cases the school and the student just aren’t a good fit. In a small study centre such as mine I see kids who have been bullied, or who move too quickly for the system because they are bright and therefore bored. And some kids just hate school. They hate the autocratic style of classroom dynamics and they battle with kids their own age. A huge percentage of school time is spent changing classrooms, queuing at the tuck shop, waiting for teachers and waiting for the class to “settle down” = 30% of the day wasted.
"In a small study centre such as mine I see kids who have been bullied, or who move too quickly for the system because they are bright and therefore bored. And some kids just hate school. They hate the autocratic style of classroom dynamics and they battle with kids their own age." Susan Friese on why some of her students don't like school.
Part B of original question: If a child hates their school why keep them there?
If they want to change to a smaller school or an international school or a co-ed school, is forcing them to stay where they are building character and teaching them to fit in?
No. Most likely they will just learn to hate their environment more.
They will learn to avoid certain situations, people and places. They will learn to tune out. They will learn to drag their feet and be late for every class. Is this what we wish to instill in our future generation?
At my study centre I want my students to love learning. I want them to finish at their own pace (even subjects they dislike), and work harder on the subjects they love. They schedule in time for each subject, reading time, time to walk about and time to have tea and chat. We have non-academic Fridays where we explore museums; visit art galleries, watch movies at the cinema, on YouTube and TV; we check out expos and exhibitions. There is more to education than pure academics and we all need to be reminded of it.
So when should a child leave the current school? You, as a parent, will know when.
When he doesn’t fit into their mould.
When she refuses to go to school every morning and life becomes a battle.
When he comes home grumpy because the boys tormented him.
When she is angry because her “friends” picked on her all day.
When he says the teachers are stupid.
When they don’t understand her.
One parent phoned me and asked whether it was too late to move her grade 9 student? Mom said the girl was crying herself to sleep every night. I told her to bring the girl to my centre the next day. She has already caught up the whole year’s syllabus; because she is motivated and happy.
Another parent questioned the transition from mainstream to Cambridge. Again, the answer came down to what the child wanted. He hated his high school. He wanted to study abroad, he was motivated to catch up and he was bright enough to do it.
So what’s the problem? There is no problem, only change.
On a personal note:
I left a government school at the end of the 3rd term to move to a Cambridge centre. I completed 5 O levels in 6 weeks, 2 AS levels and 2 full A levels the next year. I have 2 degrees and a passion for education that extends beyond my textbooks. I am the owner/operator of To Educate Academics (now Penhurst Academy), a study centre in Randburg where students complete an international high school syllabus though Cambridge and become happy and healthy individuals.
The teen spirit is a unique and vibrant entity, don’t let it be quashed.
This blog post originally appeared on the To Educate Academics website before becoming Penhurst Academy.