"And what education is, is that it’s possible for someone
to encounter material, to encounter their peers, and to encounter
themselves, and in that encounter be transformed by themselves,
the material and their peers. Transformation is what we’re after."
INNER CITY STORIES
I will not be the first nor the only one to admit this: the American education system is flawed. Because of this, students in America, especially teenagers attending high school, are stressed out and often upset due to school-related matters. Students attend school to learn, to practice and study, to eventually go out into the “real world” and begin their suitable careers, right? Well, that’s not always the case, and it’s not as easy and simple as it might sound.
It’s mostly generally known that each country has their own guidelines for grading students in schools. However, students in the U.S. seem to be intimidated by the grading system in their country.
89.5-100%: A, Excellent
70 & above: Distinction
79.5-89%: B, Very good
69.5-79%: C, Average
59.5-69%: D, Below average
40-49%: Tolerated Fail
0-59%: F, Failure
Below 40%: Fail
This table compares the grading systems in the United States and the United Kingdom. It can be seen and concluded that a student in the U.S. who receives grades in the top half percentile of “failure” is equivalent to a UK student achieving “very good” and being able to pass. With grades in the failing percentile, U.S. students often feel as if they are “stupid” and not as well educated as those who achieve higher marks, but that is not the case. Not only does the U.S. grading system damage students’ self-esteem, the fact that teachers in the U.S. emphasize that getting good marks on tests and assignments is more important than actually learning something in class actually detracts from students’ education. Getting good grades on a test, for example, is said to be a sign that the student knows what had been taught in class and understands it well, which might be true sometimes, but not all the time. Sometimes students understand the lesson and subject very well, yet they may still get a mark that doesn’t reflect their understanding and intelligence. When taking a test or quiz, there are different factors that might have an effect on the student’s performance, such as anxiety, nervousness, exhaustion, or even a fight/argument at home the night before. This kind of situation is something I know all too well and struggle with myself; I know and am told that I am an excellent, straight-A student, way above average, and even in the top five percent of my class, yet there are occasional tests and assignments that I may get a grade of around C+ on, which is definitely not up to my best potential. When this happens, I must admit that it does upset me, because I know that I understood the material quite well. It was subject matter that I had handled readily and competently on class assignments and homework. However, I will not let a small and single grade undermine me or my potential; I will not have something like that question my intelligence. All students should be able to understand that grades do not always necessarily have to measure how smart they are, and they should also be able to accept that they will have off-days, and that’s okay, it shouldn’t get in their way.
The first time I ever heard of NWEA testing was back in the beginning of this school year when I entered the Freshman Academy, most likely due to the fact that I had attended private school instead of public schools in the New Britain school district. I was really surprised and discouraged about these tests, especially since they were done during the first few weeks of school when we had just entered. I was also thrown off by the fact that we weren’t informed about them beforehand. But the thing that had annoyed me the most was that we were being given the tests before we were really able to learn anything in class; it was like the teachers weren’t being given any time to teach because there had to be this testing. The tragic thing about all this is that it seems that the United States, the government, and most boards of education are more interested in giving out all these standardized tests and whatnot to students than letting teachers get to educating the students in order for them to actually be more prepared for those tests. These kinds of situations make students more worried than they really should have to be, constantly having to be on the look-out for yet another test they shouldn’t necessarily have to be taking.
Another thing that puts a lot of pressure on students is homework. Most students in high school will take at least one, two, or three AP courses throughout their entire high school experience. These courses usually give out two to three hours of homework per night for each class. That puts a lot of stress on teenagers, especially those students who participate in clubs or sports, which also take up a good amount of their time after school. This might lead to students staying up late just to finish homework and be prepared for class the next day, which takes away from time for them to sleep, which is very important for young adults. It is quite understandable that these courses require so much work of students, considering that they are college-level, but it also should be understood by teachers and other staff that teenagers shouldn’t just be focused entirely on school. Most adults say that teenagers should have an equal and balanced focus on school, social interactions, and other important things in an individual’s life, and that they should be able to live out their youth before becoming adults. However, there is so much pressure and work put onto teenagers at this age that sometimes they don’t have the time to do anything except homework, studying, and other school-related assignments and activities. I will never forget the few times that my father offered to carry my backpack for me, mostly throughout middle school, and he would tell me that my backpack was so much heavier than his was when he was my age; he would say that kids around this age and grade level back in Poland in his youth wouldn’t get this much homework, that they wouldn’t receive homework assignments for each subject and class each night, but that certain subjects would be assigned on different, certain days. This really had me wondering about how everything is in this country in terms of school and work, and it gave me a better understanding of why most foreign parents are always troubled by how overworked and stressed out their children always seem to be.
Lastly, there are some cases where there are horrible teachers being hired. Not horrible in the way that they are “lousy” or unsuitable to teach adequately, but in the way that they scold and put down students that may be able to perform certain tasks at a higher level than the rest. Fortunately, I have never been confronted with such a situation, but I have read about many students who have been scolded by their educators for being able to read on a higher grade level, or because they solve their math problems in a different way than the teacher does, or because the teacher doesn’t like the way the student’s private piano instructor teaches her or him to play the instrument. People like that are not real teachers; teachers do not put down and degrade their students for their accomplishments, even if they are possibly done better than the rest of the class or performed in a different way. Teachers encourage students to continue what they are doing and keep doing it as best as they can; they honor them for their great and respective accomplishments and achievements.
There are definitely flaws throughout the American education and school system that cause unnecessary difficulties for students. Hopefully, one day, step-by-step, we will be able to see students who are less stressed and more self-motivated in a better environment for teaching and learning.