I recently read a very striking article which outlined how people don't go to school because of war, Ebola or simply because they are girls. We are all familiar with the story of how a schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for continuing to exercise her right to education. These seem like really huge and profound reasons to be denied education.
However, having read this article I was struck by the top ten reasons for students avoiding school everyday in what is supposed to be a better climate and a more evolved society. I have so many students who suffer extreme anxiety daily. Who are depressed - who feel there will never be a place in the world for them. Education doesn't seem like a gift or a right.
So, the most common reasons:
1: Homework. They can't do it. They live in fear of getting it wrong. They dread the public classroom retaliations for what they have produced. Maybe they don't have the perfect "happy family" at home to help them. Many of these students have literacy issues and spend hours on what they hand up. They never get the praise to match the effort. They feel like they have no life. They spend hours working in school and hours at home working too. Is there no more to life?
2: Bullying. This comes in all forms. From the students but it is often driven from the system by what you can't do or how you don't fit in. Especially, what the teachers say in front of the class can be very specific in terms of what others feel you are capable of. Every word that is ever said to a student is caried around by them forever. You need to remember this before you open your mouth. Students often quote the horrible things said to them by teachers years after the fact. The next biggest issue that I know first hand for myself is that teachers ignore bullying taking place in front of them or don't do anything when it is reported to them. This leaves students feeling very vulnerable and believing that no one is on their side.
3: Lack of Respect. It seems totally fine to make you look dreadfully bad in front of a whole class, year or assembly hall of people. Respect is a two way street and it is not something you automatically have - you have to earn it. You have to treat people with respect in order to earn it. For personalities that thrive on justice - they cannot cope with an environment that does not have respect.
4: Boring. School is horendiously boring for these bright people and usually by the age of 11 they have switched off forever and never bother again. They often have really involved interests outside school and endlessly research them. The school material is just not interesting enough and there seems to be no space for discussion on real life events, research and ground breaking ideas.
5: The endless drone of the fact that you are no good and never will be. What I experience myself and the feedback I hear back: "You can only do pass subjects." Even if your dreams hinges on being able to get certain grades. "Forget your dreams." Well then, why are you in school? Why bother? You are not going to be allowed to do any of it anyway. "You are too stupid to be here." "You should not be in this class." "If you get 40% you can stay in this class, no sorry, I have changed my mind you need to get 50% now because you came up 10%." This is what is happening in our schools.
6: You are not a social extrovert butterfly. You are a misfit. You are quiet and serious. You are often seen as too intense and are never invited to parties. You do not feel like you will ever meet anyone similar to you.
7: You are no good at sports. You lack the social "cudos" of fitting in to the whole set of what it seems really matters to fellow students.
8: Rules. Why are there so many rules? They are never explained. Many of them seem to create control for the sake of control.
9: Sitting still for far too long. They live for break time or yard time even from young ages. These people live for the sports pitch and only ever seem good there - but at least this leads to popularity.
10: Lack of expression. This even starts as young as 5. Sit down and be quiet. Sometimes as young as 7, you are battling not to be left as the only person in the class that has not received a "pen pass” and be the only one left using a pencil because you are "too stupid" to be allowed a pen. You will carry around the feeling forever that you cannot write. We will then wonder what "expand" really means on all of our essays for the rest of school life. What does this good mythical writing really look like?
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly.