This was written by my 14-year-old daughter who suffers from teenage anxiety. She is in 8th grade, where she excels academically yet struggles each day; getting her to school is incredibly difficult and a huge struggle. I suggested that she write out her feelings about why she hates school so much, and this is what she sent me. I am sharing this with her permission, with the hope that her message spreads to as many adults as possible. It is time for a change. Please share Alexa’s message to educators and parents; at the very least, this knowledge will help adults be more empathetic, which our teens clearly need.
I have copied and pasted Alexa’s letter, without making any corrections. Here are her words:
My name is Alexa Turner. I am a fourteen year old girl who goes to school just like everyone else. But not only do I attend school, I similarly hate it as well. I know that everyone needs a kind of education, I just believe that there are many things wrong with the current system.
There are plenty of different reasons why I think the school system should be changed. One reason is the way it only factors in one type of intelligence. Einstein once said “Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” If we just measured the fish on its ability to swim, the outcome would be different. Everyone person is smart in different areas. We have adapted to the idea as students that intelligence is measured by the letter written on our worksheets.
A student that has the passion and memorization skills needed for school will be the one who gets a good grade and believe they are smart. But, a student with zero interest and struggles with the skills needed for school may fail and may believe they’re stupid. But what if the second student had a passion in something such as film making but the school rarely ever took account for it? This person could be artistically intelligent but schools don’t count that as an important. Intelligence shouldn’t be measured by the letter you see on your homework or the score you got on a standardized test.
It is proven that every brain is different. Every brain has its strong points and its weak points. But the school system only measures intelligence by one kind of brain.
Another reason I believe school systems are broken is because schools lack creativity and the ability to be able to think for yourself. We are told by our parents, teachers, etc. that school is the way to be successful. But, you can’t change the world by doing what everyone else tells you to do. At school, we sit in a classroom for hours and hours doing exactly what the teacher wants. By having kids do this, it leaves them little room to think for themselves.
Schools hundreds of years ago were made so students could become factory workers. In factories, they must listen to what they’re told, so it’s acceptable they taught them in that way. But today, many successful people are successful by not doing what others have done. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all took it in their own hands to make something amazing. They prove that by being creative and not following other people, you can make a real difference.
So why do schools lack the ability for students to be unique? Schools today reward kids for finding the one right answer. But students need to learn there is always room for more. After a student graduates, there won’t be anyone left to tell them what to do. Most of life won’t be guided by a teacher or a school. This will leave students lost because they’ve never had to keep going without doing what’s told.
Another reason the school system is failing is lack of freedom. Schools control what time we go to bed, what time we wake up, what we learn, and what we don’t. Students have little control over most things in their life. School can be extremely mentally draining because most kids don’t enjoy everything to anything they learn in school. There is very little choice (more so in middle school) to what you get to learn. Everyday, students are forced to learn more and more stuff they’ll just forget. They just keep feeding useless facts everyday.
As a person with anxiety, being forced to go to school for 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week is horrible especially when I’m not learning about anything I’m passionate about. I am also not an early bird, and waking up so early everyday is so hard and just terrible for me. I believe that there should be some more choice to allow kids to show what they’re passionate about and to allow kids to be happier. Instead, everyone is fed the exact same things. In a world where being different is better, why feed all students the exact same information?
Another reason the school system needs fixing is the impossible expectations that are set for kids and teenagers. Teenagers are told to get good sleep and get straight a’s while also containing a good mental health. This is nearly impossible for a student to do because of how much of our day is spent doing mentally draining and useless busy work. For 7-8 hours, 5 days a week, we are forced to sit in a classroom and do exactly what is told. At night, we spend hours doing homework after already being in school for a long time already. If we want to do something to keep us happy, we will be up super late doing the work that is due the next day. It is very hard for kids to manage all the things that are thrown at them and the stress on top of it.
In countries like Finland, there is little to no homework, the school days are shorter, and the teachers get paid more. Their schools aren’t about who is the best, they are made so kids work together instead of trying to one up each other. It is also scientifically proven that by starting school later, students mental health will improve. In Finland, they also don’t have standardized tests to show who’s the smartest. Schools in Finland actually have realistic systems so students can be happy but also learn only the important stuff.
People may argue that the stuff taught in American school systems are there so students can think more logically and deeper. But it is just too much information in such a short time. I have so many friends that suffer from anxiety, depression and other things and all of this is worsened or caused by school and the amount of pressure and stress it puts upon us all. There is basically nothing that helps students mental health and I believe that should be the number one priority before anything else.
Lastly, schools are supposed to be a positive environment for everyone, but honestly they are completely the opposite. Everyday, students have to worry about what they wear and who is judging them. Students created the illusion of popularity. But is it really the students fault if it happens in every single school around the country? School has a horrible environment where kids just stick with their friends. It is made for more extroverted students who like to talk and be with other people. But for an introverted kid, being unexpectedly called on in class could make them anxious about it for the rest of the day.
If school had a good environment, being able to talk and share openly wouldn’t cause so much anxiety. There isn’t any difference between the way any kind of student learns. If a student has horrible social anxiety, being forced to be with so many people all day probably tears them apart.
In conclusion, I believe there so many things wrong with the current education system and every reason has to do with the happiness of students. The people who made the laws for schools and standardized tests have never taken account the feelings of a child. If all we do in school is learn and forget, then what is the real point? Many things have evolved throughout the years such as cars and houses, but why does the school system look almost identical as it did hundreds of years ago? I believe it is time for a change. It is time for students mental health to be taken accounted for. It’s time for us to be able to be who we want to be.
As a parent, it is beyond painful to watch your child suffer from anxiety. The helplessness is overwhelming at times. While changing the school system may not be possible, the way we view and treat our teens could have an enormous impact. Please share Alexa’s words with as many people as possible so we can get the word out, and hopefully have many more happy, productive teens.
In addition, here are some resources that may be helpful if you have (or know) a child or teen who is struggling with anxiety:
Further, if you have a tween or teenage girl (or are a teacher of them), be sure to check out this post for some great tips on how to best handle girls of this age! Finally, if you have your own stories or tips, please share them in a comment so others may benefit from your experiences. Thank you!
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This is awesome, Alexa! Look up the song “Flowers are Red” when you have a chance – it reminds me so much of your words of wisdom above! Be the change you want to see in the world and dare to go against the grain! I’m confident that you will be that person!
Thank you so much! I will definitely tell her about the song!!! <3
Hello! I have a high schooler who suffers from anxiety, and also an eighth grader who could have penned this article! I found a book that might be helpful. ‘Under Pressure: Confronting the stress and anxiety epitdemic in Girls ” by Dr. Lisa Damour. (as an aside, if you don’t have her first book “Untangled: Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood” by Lisa Damour. Both super helpful especially if you have girls.
Thank you – I haven’t seen those and will definitely look for them! Good luck with yours – I have a high schooler too (a junior) who suffered major anxiety in middle school who is doing great now! It took a few years of therapy but he is happy and hasn’t (by his choice) seen his therapist in 6 months!
The education system does favor only a small portion of our children and really does need to be changed. While many teachers are working to make change, it is nice to hear your perspective to know where we should go. I sincerely hope that talk to other teachers and be a part of the change as I am sure many people do not know how difficult it is for you. I am rooting for you. Find your gift and follow your dreams even if the school does not offer that option for you at this moment.
I suffer from anxiety myself so this article really hits home for me. Our school system is broken in many ways. Our district recently developed a self-care program for both teachers and students so at least part of the problem is being recognized. Wonderful letter from your daughter.
Very useful ideas. My 12 years daughter has, from time to time, some anxious feeling. But we have to handle it.