“ I don’t want to do this work”
Most parents, upon hearing their child say they do not want to do work at school, would consider this defiance or boredom. Some might mistake it for laziness. When our daughter was in sixth grade she began telling us that her work at school had no purpose-she didn’t “feel anything”. We tried lots of strategies to get her engaged- she was very bright, she was very social, she was eleven and disenchanted! When we had exhausted all of our strategies, we just plain told her that it was best to look at the work like stuff she had to do. It wasn’t elementary school anymore-this was middle school. We told her if she didn’t learn anything, she should look at it like an act of compliance- stuff you just have to do to do other stuff. This seemed to make sense to her-but a week later she came back to us…
“What if everything I do all day is just an act of compliance?
We had to do something else. She was looking for purpose of work and our family time now revolved around her feelings of school.
Research and experience support the view that every child can learn. However, conventional classrooms are ill-equipped to meet the individual rhythm and needs of its students. Traditional classrooms require a focus on data-driven content and benchmarks over critical thinking skills, creativity, and a love of learning. Yet, twenty-first century workplaces value characteristics the conventional classroom does not have the ability to nurture without sacrificing the student as a whole person.
While traditional schools require countless hours of homework assigned, with the hopes of encoding the skills necessary to satisfy the proficiency standards set, families become increasingly involved in completing such work. In turn, this is causing children and parents alike, to become increasingly disenfranchised in the educational process. Additionally, it is shameful that this "necessary practice work" does little to increase overall achievement according to current research. Increased family tension weakens family relationships as resentment and frustration create a cycle of disappointment and withdrawal seen by even exceptionally bright students. Often these bright students can not consistently meet the standards; even with parent intervention, as they struggle not with the content but managing the workload from home.
Better yet, even the most gifted child begins to realize that school, outside of its social connections to friends, becomes a cycle of repetitive, mundane busy work. Progress in course work reflects more about work habits than on the growth and understanding of the learner. Then many parents get involved with the work and the work no longer reflects what the learner an do but what he could achieve with a shadow, nagging, or parental assistance. It becomes clear to the educated, compassionate parent that they cannot combat the type of work their student is engaged in, nor can they be the best resource for helping their child with such hours of homework- but only a few recognize the system itself is falling short of expectations, not the student.
Alongside the deficiencies of the traditional school system is the ever growing problem of weak executive skills. Weak executive functioning is a hallmark of the bright child- whose brain has developed in a way where its wiring makes reaching the student's potential in a conventional classroom challenging. Further, that environment works off the belief that this training requires additional work- which in fact only serves to deprive students in understanding the depth and richness of life and its experiences. There is a growing trend of students who have little experience with self-discovery, understanding of learning styles and preferences, as well as self-advocacy. Instead many classrooms have created environments where the minimum proficiency levels are the goal and achieving those takes precedence over any need to balance the neuro-diversity present in the classroom.
This then leaves the smart but scattered student, the witty but worried student, the diligent over-comer, the creative out of the box thinker- all at a disadvantage because this student's academic potential may rival the executive functioning and soft skills to achieve it.
In fact,like our own daughter, most bright children when they were young, long ago before the homework drama or requests to forgo work, was a child who begged to learn more- and when presented with new ideas and concepts learned it effortlessly. Conventional classrooms have failed this child- this gift- and now we either send them home with nothing additional to challenge their mind or work which only shuts it down.