My Daughter Hates School. I Did Not See That Coming.

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The Evil Spawn has officially announced she doesn’t like going to school.She's Sleepy.

By officially, I mean she said it in the car when we were traveling back from yet another evening of supervising an athletic contest (as the child of a school administrator… she was born into the family business of sports supervision).

Her statement was short and to the point.  "Dad, I don’t want to go to school anymore."

This led to my rebuttal which was a long-winded rambling sometimes incoherent monologue about how hard I work and did she realize there are days when I don’t want to trudge into the office at 7:00 am and work until10:00 at night.

After about 27 minutes of hearing myself talk (she stopped listening pretty early on), I realized there must be more to her story.

She likes her friends.  Sports.  Reading.  Playing on her iPad.  Writing.  Corndog Thursday.  Math and science.  Assemblies.

And sleep.

Lots and lots of sleep.

School?  Not so much.

But she used to love it.

Turns out after only 5 years of education, she has decided she’s not a big fan of the daily grind of nearly 8 hours a day of sitting in a desk (of course… minus passing periods, homeroom, lunch, study hall, PE, library, computers, and music/art).

This worries me.

It’s weird because she loves to learn.

She likes the History Channel.  You Tube.  Discovering new things on the Interweb.  Going to the public library.

But sitting in class she finds a little boring.

It’s not her teachers.  She loves them (there are at least 3 on her Mt. Rushmore of Important People who have impacted her life… sadly, Buddy the Dog and I didn’t make it…).

In the teachers’ defense, they just can’t go fast enough.

Public schools are set up to teach to the middle.

And I think they should.  We’re in the business of producing taxpayers and good citizens who know how to stand in line and wait their turns.

We aren’t there to push the top 20%.  We count on colleges to do that.

I’m okay with this, but I do worry why a 10 year old who loved school has started to go the other way.

Maybe it’s just a phase.  Maybe she’s just starting to transition from tween to angry and bitter teenager (and if my mediocre parenting keeps up… one day, a angry bitter sarcastic adult).

Maybe she still loves school, but this is her way of fitting in with the other kids and slightly rebelling against the man (by the way… there’s a good chance I might be the man).

I may have no idea how the mind of a pre-teen girl works (actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t know how the mind of a pre-teen girl works).

But I do know, I miss the little person in my house who eats all my food who used to fly out of bed on school days because she didn’t want to miss a thing.

I just wish I knew for sure if it was her or if it’s us.

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12 Responses to “My Daughter Hates School. I Did Not See That Coming.”

  1. Tim
    on Feb 5th, 2012
    @ 7:50 pm

    So, after reading the entire post carefully, I have to wonder… Are you implying that you do understand how the mind of a non pre-teen girl works? If you do, you could quit and buy the ES a personal tutor so she could do other things than school…

  2. Dawn
    on Feb 5th, 2012
    @ 8:07 pm

    It is always important to cntinue to investigate those kinds of things. My daughter always loved school. One year (4th grade) all that changed. Turned out her teacher was a bizarre tyrant (long story short). After lots of volunteering in the classroom, talking with the teacher and the non-supportive principal we pulled her out. We had to do what was best for her. We put her back in after homeschooling that year and she went right back to loving school.

    My point is these things don’t come from nothing. There is usually a reason and well worth figuring out what it is and addressing it.

  3. Cyndi
    on Feb 5th, 2012
    @ 8:28 pm

    This is why gifted education is so crucial! I teach in a gt pull out program. Last week I received a letter from a former student thanking me for his 5 years in the gt elementary program. He is away at college majoring in math and architecture. He remembered EVERYTHING we did. Blew me away.

  4. Wozza
    on Feb 5th, 2012
    @ 9:07 pm

    Well I disagree with you!

    I knew it had to happen sooner or later.

    Teachers MUST MUST MUST differentiate for the gifted and talented and they MUST MUST MUST differentiate for the less able etc etc etc. Forget this teach to the middle stuff!!! It’s the road to ruin. Don’t be fine with it!

    Oh and by the way – you are definitely the man!

  5. Patrick Larkin
    on Feb 6th, 2012
    @ 6:11 am

    I think that schools are very boring places for students. All three of my kids are just “playing the game” of school, but they are not really engaged by the classrooms. This is not a teacher thing, she has very hard-working teachers. It is the traditional set up of the schools she is in. They are simply not doing anything different than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago as far as instructional practices. We need inquiry-driven classrooms that engage students. We also need more differentiation to allow those ahead to go off and go deeper and not “teach to the middle.” So what are we going to do about this?

  6. Bill
    on Feb 6th, 2012
    @ 6:13 am

    I think this me falsity strikes a lot of kids during adolescence because school does in fact become a grind and kids are “slowed” down… Teachers in middle school need to keep the inquiring and creative juices flowing so to speak. Most kids I engage in conversation say they hate HS but why is this I ask? Most times they tell me they are bored. Sound familiar and get my point? She will be OK that is the good part of your story Mike. Yours in the fight!

  7. Tracie
    on Feb 6th, 2012
    @ 3:55 pm

    Sounds like your daughter could be mine’s long lost twin. She and I have both been frustrated with school lately. Just like you said, she loves the learning, but is bored with the delivery. Even when she is given an enrichment activity, it seems more like busy work than anything. Is it possible to “leave behind” those who excel?

  8. Jim Klakring
    on Feb 6th, 2012
    @ 4:11 pm

    Chances are she’s experiencing a phase where she has some deep trial at school.It may be her lack of desire for the current subject or it can be social among her peers. I would just be patient and do things to make her have fun.

  9. Kate Fail
    on Feb 6th, 2012
    @ 6:58 pm

    Hi Mr. Smith!
    I’m back again to comment on your blog. (I’m the one from Mobile, AL…GO JAGS remember? :) ) I must say that I can remember feeling the same way your daughter did when I hit middle school. I enjoyed elementary school because I was involved in PACE. This was essentially the gifted program for elementary school children. We were allowed to be creative and interactive and explore our interests. Then came middle school…. I was so incredibly bored. I would zone out many days and contemplate being a middle school drop-out (you can imagine how that went over with my parents). Suffice it to say, I struggled through and am so glad I did. I love college and have regained my love of learning.
    So, I say all that to wonder whether this boredom that students face could be helped by the use of more technology. As I am in a class (EDM 310) that is teaching me about the use of technology in the classroom, I am learning and seeing the benefits it can offer. Students seem much more engaged and excited about learning. Now I’m not stretching this to the point where I say it will make every child LOVE school, but could it not help?
    I enjoyed the post and wish I could say we girls become easier to handle as we get older, but…well you will find out in time. Good luck! :)

  10. Liza Meiris
    on Feb 20th, 2012
    @ 8:57 am

    I was struck by this particular blog post because your little girl is the “me” of 15 years ago.

    Always loved school and my teachers, got straight A’s, obliterated books each and every day when I got home from school. For me it started when I stopped doing homework, because why do 25 math problems when I know what I’m doing when I could be reading? Why write the essay for my teacher when I was done the book they’re reading in class weeks ago and I could be writing in my journal?

    Then I started getting my classwork done as fast as possible so I could read or write about politics in my journal instead.

    Then I stopped going to class because my petty teenage dramas took precedence over re-learning conjugating German verbs because other kids in the class failed a quiz I got 100% on.

    By sophomore and junior year I was on a dangerous spiral down. It was a therapist that said that I should skip senior year and go to college because my real problem wasn’t authority, or laziness, or a lack of intelligence, my problem was that I was bored and getting myself into a lot of trouble.

    College at 16? Got a job at an animal hospital, my GPA went from below a 2 to a 3.67, and I loved life and school again.

    And now I’m a teacher and realize that there just wasn’t much they could do for me. Gifted programs consisted of classes with too much HW and trips to see broadway plays. Differentiating only goes so far. I can give my kids more busy work, or ask them to read a book, but I was doing that stuff myself anyway. And how much can you really differentiate? It’s not like my math teacher could have taught me calculus when I was bored in geometry.

    My suggestion? Get her out. Find a school that’s so outside of the box that she can work at her own pace. Homeschool, cyber school, college….something. Because if someone had put a pile of books and tests in front of me and said, “When you know all of this, you can be out of high school” I would have gone to college far younger than 16. And I wouldn’t have so many regrets about the dumb things I did as a teenager, I could be proud of myself.

  11. disillusioned
    on Feb 25th, 2012
    @ 5:57 pm


    I enjoyed your post and my answer would be that it is us. My son recently started high school and comes home with stories of being picked on because he befriended the geeky kid who had no friends. Taking a complete stranger to the office after he was pushed in canteen line and cut his leg to which the staff said he was nice for staying with his friend all lunchtime, he said ‘we’ve only just met’. Stories of having hisproperty stolen and nothing being done about it. Him jumping off the bus to go to the aid of another student who was hit by a car. Yet I receive a phone call from the year advisor the other day to tell me he is not paying attention in class. Why do they never notice the good things.

  12. Erik
    on Feb 29th, 2012
    @ 9:22 pm


    Many of your posts strike a cord with me, but this particular one really hit home as my oldest daughter who used to love school has recently changed her tune. She is a student at the school where I work, and she is in all honors and/or AP courses, and with the weighted grades, she has over a 5.0 GPA. Much like the ES, she is also involved in a wide variety of sports, clubs, and activities, and due to our frequent trips downstate to visit family, she (again like the ES) does a lot of homework in the car.

    As she has many friends, seems to enjoy stopping in with said friends to visit me (usually to borrow money from the Bank of Dad, which is controlled by the Bank of Mom), and she seems to sincerely like all of her teachers, I am at a loss as to why she seems to be down on school. In fact, she has even asked (multiple times) about being home schooled. (I am not sure by whom as my wife and I both work, and I am not sure Daisy the Dog is up to the task, but that is another story.)

    Last night, I think I hit upon a possible answer to her changing views of school. I (along with about 500 other educators and parents from our suburban area) attended a screening of the film A Race to Nowhere, which I strongly encourage you to see, if you have not already. The film was followed by a panel discussion that included a doctor from a local hospital who treats teen depression and stress-induced anxiety, a college counselor from a local high school, a social worker, and a college student from Loyola University. The host also allowed dozens of comments and questions from members of the audience.

    Long story short, the film focuses on all of the (real or perceived) pressure on kids to succeed today, and how (due to school, activities, and increasing amounts of homework—sometimes three to four hours a night) they no longer have a chance just to be kids. All of this pressure to perform and literally be “on” for 16 to 18 hours a day is leading to increasing rates of burnout, school avoidance, depression, cheating, etc.–not fun topics, but very important topics nonetheless.

    Again, I would strongly encourage you to see this film as it was very eye-opening, to say the least. By the way, after the presentation I ended up in a conversation with multiple parents (some from my school), and one of them strongly recommended reading The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I am not sure if you have read or heard about the book, but it sounded like an interesting read, particularly in our world of ever-increasing technology use, which seems to be taking the place of real, social relationships and time previously spent outdoors.

    Looking ahead, good luck with the ES, and the rest of the children whose lives you impact on a daily basis, and enjoy your time off with Buddy. As much as my wife has encouraged me to take the same path (and no, I am not referring to time with Buddy), I just can’t convince myself to go under the knife…. You are a brave man, Michael. A brave man….

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