School can be really fucked up... or suck a little
Travelling to schools in 15 states, we saw kids who:
- Didn't eat, with no food at home or social stigma on getting school lunch
- Didn't sleep, with crippling social anxiety or unsafe home lives
- Got in fights, got suspended, came back, and fought again
- Didn't know their teacher's names
Almost worse are the smaller, solvable, but ignored problems.
Unacknowledged anxiety, toxic and unnecessary stress, distrust for teachers, fear of asking for help, and powerlessness. Let's do something about it.
Even a small change is nearly impossible... (scroll for cheat code)
Everybody has a veto:
- The school board
- The district
- The PTO
- Teacher's unions
- Parents, voters, and locals
- The superintendents association
- State policymakers
- Federal policymakers
If one group doesn't like a change, it won't happen because every group is strong enough to stop the rest. And what would all these people ever agree on?
More importantly, who is missing from the list?
Without students, there is no school.
If you idiots all walked out tomorrow and said you wouldn't come back until the disgusting bathrooms were fixed, they would get fixed. If you went on strike for a week telling the school to hire more social workers, they would.
If you just want to do better in class, be less stressed, or even eat better food for lunch YOU HAVE SMALL, POWERFUL WAYS TO ACHIEVE THAT THAT, TOO.
School is built for you. Education is an industry that collapses without students, but acts like students don't exist.
Yes. It is mostly daycare. Only half your time is learning time.[^1]
That means you can spend the other half learning lifelong skills and getting happier.
We'll be your sherpas. You'll find a collection of Doorstops, ways to TAKE AGENCY in school from asking for an extension on an assignment to turning the whole culture upside-down with research-tested strategies.
Keep reading if you want to know more about why, or jump to the resource that's right for you:
Why does all this stuff work? KINDNESS.
No, just kidding, but kindness is close: it all comes back to trust.
Student-teacher trust is the highest impact variable on success, self-esteem, and belonging that you can control.[^2] Smaller class sizes, higher paid teachers, and more counselors are shown to help more, but that'll take a lot to change. Doesn't every movie character you love have a mentor? Trust changes lives, even when controlled for socioeconomic status.[^3]
Education is an industry. Student happiness and mental health is not a priority.
The past 30 years of education reform are viewed as a failure.
State policymakers implement policies that give them the most federal funding: Massachusetts took $250 million cash from the federal government to make a change they knew would make classes worse.[^4]
Did anyone ever ask you for input? Feedback? Give you time to reflect on school?
Imagine being forced to stay at a job for the rest of your life... before you've even had your first day. You've been rammed through 8 years of school without anybody asking you how you feel about it! Wouldn't there maybe be some useful change if they did?
We did. We've had 80 one-on-one conversations with high school students in 15 states, and we're looking to have more. If you want us to develop a Doorstop for you, we'll make it happen. We've got a network of hostage negotiators, professional chefs, helicopter salesmen, and frustrated, curious students eager to help. Reach out to email@example.com.
Reformers want to create more good classrooms. They don't help kids stuck in bad ones.
Charter schools, progressive education policy, social-emotional learning. When implemented right, stuff like this can help. But what if it doesn't help you? Maybe the school you're at doesn't have "mental health" in its vocabulary, or the environment is so toxic that folks have abandonned it.
We go directly to students. That way, we can try to reach every kid. You're the kid, kiddo.
[^1]: Don't believe us? Time it yourself [^2]: On trust positively affecting academic performance: Adams & Christenson, 1998; Goddard et al.,2001; Forsyth et al., 2006; Birch & Ladd, 1997; Robinson et al., 2019; Roorda et al., 2011. On facilitating reform: Bryk & Schneider, 2003, 41. On fostering engagement: Adams 2010, pp. 264–265. On psychological safety: Mitchell et al. 2010, 2008. On student attendance: Anderson et al., 2004; Moore 2010. On fewer discipline issues: Marzano, 2003. On behavior in general: Baker et al., 2008; Birch & Ladd, 1998; Hughes & Cavell, 1999; Resnick et al., 1997; Pepper et al., 2010. On being foundational to: human development (Bowlby, 1979), motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000), well-being (Seligman, 2012), and physical and mental health (Umberson & Montez, 2010). On teacher well-being: Roffey, 2012; Van Maele & Van Houtte, 2015. [^3]: Studies like the ones cited above have consistenly proven that trust is not correlated with success only because it's correlated with socioeconomic status. In other words, these study results are not solid becuase rich kids are more successful and more trusting, they're solid because trust is solid. [^4]: Further reading: https://epaa.asu.edu/index.php/epaa/article/view/2221