We’ve all heard it, and many of us have experienced it. It’s so widespread that teachers and parents may be tempted to ignore it. In the end, schools are healthy for you! Like vegetables. It’s something you need to have, regardless of whether you like it.
But does school education’s inherent “good” and compulsory nature mean that we should not listen to students who claim they don’t enjoy it? Or should we not try to change it to make it appealing?
Being positive about school is connected to better attendance, more effective school adjustment and engagement, and higher academic performance.
Students don’t need to be a fan of school to enjoy these advantages. Even those who love school may not like certain aspects, like subjects they’re not skilled at, the need to wake up early, not having a tuckshop option, etc.
However, for sure students, the dislike of school can be a prevalent issue. They dislike every aspect of school.
Many of these students might abandon school, which could have severe implications for their future employment prospects regarding financial security and the quality of their life. Therefore, students mustn’t be enjoying school, and it’s vital to find out what is causing the issue and how we can take action to fix it.
What did we study about the school’s dislike of us?
Our study of the past investigated connections between school-related liking and the factors that have been suggested by previous research to will make students more likely to remain in school or to quit: the support of teachers, being connected to the school as well as the use of suspensions, detentions, and expulsions.
Our objective was to find out what we could do to improve the quality of education by focusing on students who are the least. We interviewed 1,002 students from grades 7-10 at three of the most complex secondary schools. These are the classes and kinds of schools that have the highest retention and suspension rates and the lowest.
We wanted to know students’ opinions about their teachers and school, their experiences with exclusionary discipline, and whether there were significant distinctions between students who said they liked and were not happy with the school.
What do we learn?
The good news is that most of the sample we studied stated that they enjoyed school. About half of these students said they have always been happy with the school. One of them wrote:
“Love it. I want to be at school. For instance, If Hogwarts were a real school, I’d like to visit it.”
Unnervingly, one-third of students reported that they don’t like the school. However, while school dislike was at its most prominent in the seventh grade, most students said their displeasure started in the middle of high school.
“Yeah, that was when I entered high school. In year 7, things became much more difficult.”
This level of dislike rises over time, with grades nine being the most popular with the most significant number of people who dislike it. These patterns align with the suspension rates, which double in grade 7 and reach their peak in grade 9.
What do students love and dislike the most?
The assumption that students from these two groups love and dislike various aspects of school proved to be correct. Although “friends” was the most-liked aspect of school for both groups, a more significant proportion of school likers than those who disliked school picked “learning.”
“I find myself feeling like every day that I attend school. I am just trying to expand my knowledge. I love to learn. Learning’s alright.”
In contrast, many people disliked “breaktime” as their most-liked feature. The appeal was evident in interviews:
“What do you like most about school?” […] “Break. Also, I get to meet my classmates.”
The same pattern was observed for the least loved aspects in school. A higher percentage of those who were not happy than liked students chose teachers, schoolwork, and the policy on discipline as the things they disliked most.
“Pretty lots of work,” because they provide you with all the assessment forms and expect you to complete it in a short time […].”
The findings are intuitive and in line with prior research on students who had a history of disruptive behavior and who also had schoolwork to be nominated and teachers.
The study that preceded it found an intriguing connection to the study. Students who struggle with learning are often at odds with their teachers, whose job is to assist them in their job. Teachers who are kind and more accommodating in handling this than other teachers.
High school is particularly challenging for these students since they must deal with many teachers and aren’t proficient in “code-switching” to meet diverse requirements and rules.
“It was difficult because you have one teacher for the entire time who would allow you to perform things, and then when you attempted to do it in a different class, it would be like, no, it’s not possible. And they’d make fun of you.”
Students who conflict with teachers are also more likely to be subject to exclusionary discipline. In our study, the school’s dislike was highly connected to receiving detention, suspension, or expulsion during the past twelve months. 40% of disliked people were removed from school (versus one-fourth of students who were likers).
Our research also showed significant variations in the students’ perceptions of support from teachers. The students who rated less favorably were the ones who scored lower in every aspect.
Both groups’ most highly rated item was “My teacher always wants me to do my best.” The lowest score was “My teacher has time for me.” The most significant variation between groups was “My teacher listens to me.”
What are the options for schools?
Relations between teachers and students can be improved, and teachers need not wait for the government to take action. A straightforward way to begin is for school leaders to introduce the school’s change initiative driven by students. This would address issues from the viewpoint of all children, especially students who do not desire to be there.
In terms of government policy, the results from our study suggest a possible option that should be considered. When Queensland moved to grade 7 from the primary to secondary phase in 2015, actions were taken to support students in their first year at high school. This included a central teacher model in which teachers take the same students to English and humanities and science and math, which reduces how many teachers students are required to work with, as well as dedicated spaces for play for Grade 7 students, which helps lessen anxiety.
Our findings from our research from 3 Queensland secondary schools suggest that the initiatives may have seen some success for two-thirds of students in grade 7 at a minimum. But, if the school’s popularity decreases between steps eight and above and the increase in suspensions, isn’t it the right time to look into whether the grade 8s and 9s could benefit from more intensive pastoral treatment?
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