A few weeks ago, a friend shared an essay written by her son. It was a rough draft of an assignment in which he was to declare his independence from something.

She shared it with me for a couple of reasons. First, because he’s not a kid who likes to write, and second because there was a passion in his writing she’d not really seen before.

It’s not often I’m left with no words, but this essay made me just read and nod my head. He summed up, in a couple of pages, the frustrations many students have with the standardization of our education system.

I asked for permission to share his story right away, but I wasn’t sure how to put it out there. Then yesterday I read the latest blog post from Peter DeWitt (Finding Common Ground). According to an extensive student voice survey (Quaglia and Corso), only 46% of students feel valued in their school.

With that in mind, here is his draft.

Read it with an open mind (Yes, there are some things we probably all agree students need to learn).

Read it and remember your own school days.

Read it and ask yourself why so many students do not feel valued.

Dear School,

We have been together for twelve years now and I think it has been too long. You actually started out okay in the beginning: giving me time for naps during the day and allowing me go outside and get fresh air at least 3 times per day. You also let me play, build, pretend, create and color. At first, I thought you were pretty cool and that I would like you and would want to be with you forever.  However, I have finally figured out you have tricked me and I must say you have done a great job trapping kids in your world.  Each new school year, you take away a little bit of fun and add in boring activities that are supposed to help me “learn”.  Taking naps only lasted a mere year before you decided I didn’t need rest anymore and that I needed more work.  Very quickly, you turned my free play and discovery into subjects called math, science, reading and social studies.  You also took away my creativity and I had to do things your way or it was wrong.  Playing outside also slowly got cut down year by year.  Instead of being outside, you wanted to keep me inside of your walls.  Your subjects started out relevant and useful but quickly turned for the worse.  For example, “if you had twelve cookies to share with three friends how many would you each get?” That wasn’t enough for you because then you had to start timing me to see if I knew math facts at a certain speed.

After six years, you made me move to another one of you.  You told me how much better it was going to be and how much more fun I was going to have. I actually believed you for the whole summer but when I got there I soon realized you tricked me once again.  I had to come to you way earlier each day and once I walked in you would not let me out until you were done.  You kept me locked up like a prisoner with no fresh air or freedom.   You made your subjects full of useless information, added letters to math and made me memorize ridiculous formulas, you gave me tests upon tests, you had to grade every little thing and you took all my play and discovery away.  You gave me the worst three years of my life.

I still wanted to believe you when you told me this next move would be the best years of my life.  However, after two and a half years with you here, I cannot take any more of your lies. I’m done with you and I don’t believe you anymore.  I have to wake up at an ungodly hour to get to you and then you keep me locked inside for 8 hours.   But eight hours is not good enough for you anymore, you make me do work for you at home.  There is no way to get rid of you; you haunt me 24 hours a day.   After I am done with soccer, ski, or golf practice and want to go hang out with some friends or go relax you are in the back of my head saying “no, you can’t have fun, you have work for me to do”. On weekends, when I should be spending time with family and friends, you selfishly won’t let me do that, I have to be doing more work for you.  

I’m angry with you and I think it is best if we went our separate ways immediately. You have fooled me for practically my entire life and now I am 110% done with you.  All I wanted you to do is to teach me about things that really matter in life.  I wanted you to teach me about things that would really help me in my future.  Instead, you have squashed my creativity and love for learning.  Instead of giving me relevant information you have filled my head with useless knowledge. Instead of inspiring me, you have tested me and tested me and ultimately degraded me.   I can’t be my real self around you and I will never be good enough for you.  I wish I could say, “see you never” but as much as it pains me to say this I have no other choice but to say, “see you tomorrow”, I am trapped in your world.