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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

Perspectives on public education

Successes and challenges during the pandemic

By Brooklyn Brown, River Heights Intermediate School | May | June 2021
Over the last few months, like everyone else in the world, I have been living through tons of new experiences. I have started virtual schooling, which is a challenge in itself. What a way to start 7th grade and intermediate school! At first, I struggled with handling new assignments every day. I had to memorize the information given in lessons, and there were a lot of lessons to complete. It was a little overwhelming and my grades were not gratifying. My solution was to work from the moment I woke up to when I laid my head down to sleep, only stopping to eat breakfast and dinner. Even doing all of that, I was still falling behind. I had little time to take care of myself or to spend time with my family. That made me wonder if something was wrong with me and I just did not have time to do things I wanted to do to take my mind off everything that was going on in the world around me. Not only have I experienced this, but many of my peers and classmates can say the same thing happened or is happening to them.
In this article, I will be giving my opinions on some problems with our public education system and how those problems can affect students’ mental health and self-esteem.
“Follow my instructions!”
Our education system was created or designed in the Industrial Age, when students in school were to grow up and become factory workers. However, the students of this generation will and can become whatever they aspire to be in the future. In school, I’ve been taught to follow the teacher’s instructions. We’re told to “Sit down” or “Stop talking” constantly during the day, even through Zoom! This is different from how I am being raised. In my home, I’m taught to be independent and a leader.
Students are rewarded for doing exactly what they are told when in reality, this won’t help us in real life. Today, jobs are looking for people who are creative, open to thinking outside of the box and can communicate with their co-workers or associates. Our public education system needs to consider how to help students become creative problem solvers and leaders, which cannot be accomplished by just following instructions.
We are all taught the same, but we all learn differently
In the classroom, everything a student learns is based on memorization. We read the same textbooks that our older siblings used and we are expected to learn it the same way they did. Some take longer than others to learn information. Students who could not remember the order of operations are considered a failure because they need more time to comprehend the lesson. I have had nights when I stayed up very late to study something and after the test for that material, I forgot everything I had learned before.
My older sister recently graduated from high school and sometimes I ask her for help in areas I struggle with that she had excelled in. She cannot always help me as much as she would like to because she simply forgot the material. She tested well in math only because she memorized the things she was taught. Now, since those math problems are no longer her concern, she has completely forgotten how to solve them. At this point, I feel that students are graded on how efficiently they memorized a subject instead of mastering it. To improve, our teachers should consider how to balance memorization and problem solving. That would make learning more engaging and also help students to keep it in their minds.
I have had nights when I stayed up very late to study something and after the test for that material, I forgot everything I had learned before.
Are students working too hard?
Sometimes when teachers assign work to students, they don’t seem to consider the amount of work that is given to us by other teachers or periods. They often say, “It’s not that much” or “This is very easy,” but six different “easy” assignments can take a long time to finish. Not to mention some assignments that seem like busywork create more stress throughout the day. On top of all of that, we have to do well on these assignments to get a good grade. During this pandemic, I’m convinced teachers have nearly forgotten about our lives as children and believe that because we can’t go anywhere, we don’t have anything else to do. To some extent, this can be true, but students still need to take time for themselves, and that can be hard to do with a lot of assignments to finish. Personally, it takes me over 10 hours to finish my work for the day, which I think is too long for any student. To improve, maybe teachers should work together so that they know how much one student has to do and can make adjustments.
Our mental health and self-esteem
Everything that I explained before can have a major effect on a student’s mental health and/or self-esteem. Constantly working for high grades can cause anxiety. We’ve been told to maintain good grades or we won’t be able to get into our colleges of choice. It seems unfair that we are basically rated on how well we remembered some material we were given to learn and if we cannot do that, we get a failing grade in the subject. When our grades are low, it can also lower our self-esteem. We wonder if we are good enough and feel unable to do anything right. According to an article from “U.S. News” in 2020, the suicide rate by teens in America alone rose almost 60 percent since 2007. This happens all the time and over nine hours’ worth of school work per day is not helping.
In summary, the design of our schooling system can be overwhelming for students at all grade levels. The mental health of students is a big concern worldwide. Luckily, I have learned a few tactics to stay on track with my work, so I’m not as behind as I was a few months ago, but I am still doing schoolwork for too long, in my opinion.
I completely understand that educators are trying their best to make the school experience efficient for all students, but I hope that my concerns will be taken into consideration and you understand my point of view. If you’re interested in looking into the perspective of students, you can watch the “Next School” YouTube channel, particularly the video: “Six Problems with our School System.”
Brooklyn Brown attends River Heights Intermediate School in the Corona-Norco School District
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