When School Pushes You Over The Edge

(A second guest post–part 1 is here— from an Oakland public school student and Energy Convertor, Edrees Saied)

Schools can push you, but if they don’t connect with you, it can feel like you are being pushed off a cliff. This pressure without connections undermines the relationship with school and destroys the passion for learning. Some students even in my advanced classes lose motivation to participate in class. The lack of connections made between the students and their teachers can influence the way students see school. And even how they see themselves.

If school is only about academics, students lose the passion to learn. They’ll just be in class to get the credit.

How Far is Too Far

I try to be the best student I can be. I remember a time when I literally stayed up three nights in a row just trying to perfect an essay. I’m always in class for another two hours after school everyday with my teachers for tutoring. With this, I hoped to earn my teacher’s respect. To earn my classmates’ respect. To earn my own respect. And to somehow allow my academic achievements give me a sense of meaning.

I Forgot How to Live

It kinda worked. But it didn’t. I forgot how to live.

I learned that there is a breaking point when academic coursework just doesn’t matter as much as I do. I earned my teachers’ respect. But that wasn’t what I was really aiming for. I was aiming for this bond that I would create with my teachers. A bond that a parent would usually have with their son or daughter. The bond that would help me feel safe. Like everything is going to be ok even if I knew it wouldn’t. A bond that would help me feel optimistic about my future even if I knew life still had massive punches to throw at me.

Class photo of one of my favorite Humanities Classes

Classes that Make Me Feel Like I Matter

It was only in my Humanities classes that I was able to feel a little more confident and comfortable. In Humanities classes, students and teachers analyze the essence of human nature and in turn are able to get a good sense of how each other feel sometimes. That is why I am so passionate about my Humanities classes. We don’t have enough of them at Oakland Tech.

They are the classes that make me feel like I matter. Like my soul is injected with worth. They are the only classes where I get appreciate that I’m actually human. The class just gets so personal sometimes. I can’t help but feel my emotions unraveling in our discussions. Sometimes, I’d just go to my AP or HP Literature teachers and discuss what’s going in my life, seeking their advice, guidance, and acceptance. All of which I couldn’t seem to receive at home. I try to break away from that simple “How are you doing?” — “Alright.” conversation — even though it’s like that everywhere I go. I see myself growing as a person (and as a fellow human being in this world) every time I meet those teachers. Everytime I even participate in class.

Schools Need to Teach More than Academics

Despite all the work, the expectations, the responsibility, students should be able to recognize that there is a greater meaning to their experiences in class. School’s priority should not just be to help students grow in academic areas, but also to lay the foundations for students to overcome basic struggles such as anxiety, stress, doubt, fear and insecurity. It doesn’t even have to be about personal struggles. It could be lessons about how we can confront the fact that our parents don’t live the same lives we do and never have. About how we can deal with that difference.

We need more than academics. We need guidance around things like study techniques. Understanding when to put the pencil down to get enough rest for the next day. Knowing how to use your non-academic time better. And learning how to enjoy life despite all the difficulties it brings.

A student needs to learn how they can even appreciate themselves. Most importantly, how they can truly believe that they are geniuses. Like for real. Not just you telling it to yourself.

In the end, there is greater meaning to school than to just internalize academic lessons. The life lessons and techniques that I spoke of above, I believe, helped guide me for school more than any assignment has ever done. And although not every student has the same struggles as I, all teachers should still practice giving students those life lessons because they would support student learning even more than the assignments given, and truly prepare students for the life ahead of them.


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