I Really Hated School
This is a sad story. I usually go for uplifting and light, but unfortunately I can’t go back and rewrite my own history. I can say however, that the past twenty years of my live have gone above and beyond to make up for my unhappy childhood. This is not a story about my parents. They did everything that they could to help me as they saw me struggle. I have shocked my mother by retelling stories from my childhood. She never knew the gravity of what was happening to me, because I never told her. Kids are like that. The reason that I am writing this is because I know that there are kids out there today who are a lot like I was, and I don’t want for them to suffer in the same way that I did.
I loathed school as a child. I was one of those kids who had a stomachache every day and begged my mother not to make me go. And the stomachache was something that I actually felt. The though of going to school made me so miserable that it made me physically ill. My mother’s mother had been a teacher, and had given her specific direction when it came to my education. My grandmother taught my mother that the teacher was always right, and never to listen to the whiny complaints that children made about school.
In elementary school, I was separated into the group of the least successful twenty students in the grade. We spent the day coloring, basically, so that the school system could report better test scores. I was bored out of my mind and executed extremely poor work, because I had no interest in learning whatsoever. Teachers told me that I was lazy, that I wasn’t applying myself, and yes, that I was simply stupid. I became angry and my parents became concerned. In fourth grade, my savior Mrs. Barrett suggested to my mother that she take me to a child psychologist. The psychologist, after assessing my situation, administered an IQ test. She discovered that I had a form of dyslexia and told me that I was indeed not stupid, but actually rather smart. I started learning therapy to help with the disability, and from that point on I became a straight B student. I didn’t put one ounce more effort into any of the work that I did than I had to. I was still completely disinterested in my schoolwork and disengaged in learning.
Around age ten I took charge of my own education and started reading avidly. I have never stopped. I became deeply engaged in literature and it became my teacher. What school taught me was that I wanted out as fast as possible. The only reason I could imagine that the powers that be were keeping me there day after day, was to play out some sort of “Lord of the Flies” social experiment, not to educate me. The major reason that I chose not to go to college, though my parents had always expected I would, was because I didn’t want for them to spend a fortune so that I could be awarded poor grades because my professors disagreed with my opinion when I wrote a paper. I just didn’t see the point.
I was bullied. The abuse was never physical, but I was mentally tortured over and over again by the “mean girls”. I was chubby as a child, and had absolutely horrible fashion sense. I didn’t play sports and I didn’t like other children. I preferred to spend my time with adults and talk about interesting things rather than the gossip that my peers went on and on about. By age fourteen, it had gotten bad. I seriously contemplated suicide on numerous occasions. By the grace of god, a group came to my school to promote overseas youth exchange. The same day I went home, got permission, and signed up for the next year of my life in France. It saved my life. It was like breaking out of the prison in which I lived. The monotony of my educational cage was killing me.
When I read all of this I almost feel ashamed, because I see all of the advantages that the child I was had. We lived in a nice house in a beautiful community. My parents took me on fun vacations. I had the pets and the toys that I wanted. I was living a privileged life, but as I child I couldn’t appreciate any of it. My perspective was skewed. I felt as though I was trapped, or that somehow my wings had been cut.
My kids are homeschooled…no surprise there. Even though we are at home, and they are getting a far better education than I did, I still see how deeply and desperately lacking our approach to education is. I am not happy with the program and the curriculum that we are working with now. Because we work through the county, I also get to deal with the ugly bureaucracy of our public school system. Education is broken, our politicians’ answer to the problem is to add more school hours, and keep feeding our kids more of the same garbage that isn’t working. When I look logically at how broken the system was when I was a kid it is hard for me to imagine just how desperately horrible it has gotten now. There are innovators out there who know how to do it right. There are teachers who understand that the keys to education are the exact opposite of the ones that we are clinging to today. Engagement, interest, and creativity are beaten down by a system that stresses repetition, conformism, and assimilation. It is a system that came quite close to killing me. It still exists, and we must, must, dedicate ourselves to changing it.