Community Vision for Education of Children
Student Perspective
By | Alana Marie Barros

The current education system is set up in a way where students are in high-stress situations all through school. Many students feel as though the school board and their teachers care more about numbers than the students they are supposed to be teaching. When I take a look around my high school I see countless kids who are unhappy and struggling. The pressure to do well in school started at a young age and has been pulling kids apart, and draining them of their individuality. Most kids want to be at the top of their class and have the highest grades but not everyone can be number one. It is believed that to get into a good college you must take all the hardest honors and advanced placement (AP) classes. Most of those classes do not relate to real-life in any way and are of little interest to students. Also, students stress about standardized tests and pointless numbers that do not measure their intelligence but rather how well they can take a test. The school system’s hyper focus on these numbers can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and can lead to depression.

The pressure to do well in school starts as early as elementary school because many families raise their kids to believe the only way to be successful in life is if they get a college degree from a prestigious institution. I believe that high school should be formatted more similarly to college in the sense that each class is weighted equally instead of weighted GPAs for honors and AP classes, and students can begin to take classes about skilled trades that actually interest them. If schools catered more to each individual student, parents would feel more confident in not only the social-emotional aspects of school but also the quality of education. The current education system is very “one size fits all” and does not work because every student is unique. Additionally, I have noticed that many kids are diagnosed with a learning disability and prescribed simple solutions like extra time for tests etc. while that might be good for a kid with OCD, it may just make the process harder for a kid with extreme ADHD or who has test anxiety and more time just allows them to stress for longer.

Home life also is not taken into account when a student begins to fall behind in school. A child’s home life can have a huge impact on their performance in school. A child who is worried about where their next meal will come from or has unstable housing because of the dramatic increase in the cost of housing or living, changing family dynamics due to financial strain or whose parents are going through a divorce will have issues focusing in class and often try to lash out without really knowing why. These students are then stuck in a cycle because they are labeled as a “trouble maker” or a “bad kid”.

Often times in low-income areas teachers are seen as “temporary” due to constant staff turn-over related to funding deficits, negative school culture, and poor student behavior. High staff turnover can further agitate a student who is already lacking stability and reinforce beliefs around worthiness, trust in others, and the ability to build lasting relationships with those in a position to demonstrate
positive adult traits.

I wish that there would be more educational reform and individual focus on the student. My younger cousin who is a freshman and is only months into his high school career has already begun to struggle in school because his home life is unorganized and stressful. There are many aspects of his personal life that are challenging for a kid his age to understand and deal with. I think that his teachers cannot connect with him or understand his struggle because they have too many students and it then becomes easy for them to label him a “trouble maker”. I want to be able to help him and look for ways to support him through school; but, it is hard when I am only a student myself.

However, if there was more focus on the individual student and their specific learning needs, including their social emotional needs that allowed students to feel safe and supported paired with more diverse teachers who have more global experiences, he and other kids like him would have a better education experience. I know my cousin and countless others just like him are extremely smart and talented, and with the right support or mentorship they could be extremely successful in whatever career or trade they choose.

I really like the idea of mentorship as a solution. I wonder if there is a way to connect students who are struggling with teachers or administrators in the school who resemble them and can relate to their perceived struggle, or through partnerships like a Big Brother and Big Sisters organization on steroids. Someone who has the time and dedication to build a relationship, who can advise, be a supportive ear and to help brainstorm solutions that are culturally sensitive and responsive to the students needs.

As a student athlete I have found support inside and outside the classroom through coaches that are invested in me and my future. I know that if I need to talk or am having a problem during the school day I can stop into the counseling center to talk to my coach or one of the assistant coaches who are also teachers in the building and that they will take the time to hear me and also excuse my absence or tardy to my next class if it takes longer than the five minutes of a passing period.

The relationships I have with some of these people have a huge influence on how I do in school and life. They are also very important to me and do not resemble any other relationship in my life. This type of support should be available across the school community and not just the smartest or most talented kids.

There is not going to be one right way to educate the students of tomorrow. What schools need is to become flexible and focus on being adaptable to the ever changing needs of the student in the changing world that they are growing up in. College is not the only answer to a bright future and students need to be exposed to alternative options without bias.

This look at education is written by high school junior, student, leader, and athlete, Alana Marie Barros.