The state of our schools

Guest-blogger Evie shares her thoughts on what needs to change about the education system.

School is defined as an institution for educating people. An education is one of the greatest gifts a person can receive, yet what defines a good education? A student’s ability to pass a test? Or maybe a good education results in a student with morals and a polite manner? There is no right or wrong answer, but for so many of us, our education is being interrupted because school is a place where we feel vulnerable, pressured and alone. As you can imagine, this does not create the positive learning environment that is so often preached by both teachers and politicians.

I’m currently in my final year and as I write this I find myself reflecting on the last 6 years I have spent at secondary school. I am, to put it quite simply, an average student. I’m not badly behaved, nor am I a teacher’s pet. I don’t get straight A’s, nor do I fail. I’m not the most popular person in the school, nor am I the least. I simply exist at a school where there are 1,000 other students doing exactly the same thing.

What separates my education from others, is that I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I am, to put it quite simply, an average student. What separates my education from others is that I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What helped me at school

My mental health began to deteriorate in year 8, yet it wasn’t until year 12 that I told my teachers. Why? Because I didn’t know who to speak to, to this day I still wouldn’t be able to tell you who our school nurse is. When I first told my teacher I was at CAMHS (Child Adolescent Mental Health Services) her first response was ‘You’d be amazed at how many other people are’. This didn’t comfort me like my teacher intended it to, but instead it upset me. I shouldn’t have to imagine, if I’m not alone then why isn’t more being done at school to combat this?

My wonderful English teacher pushed our tables to the side and we did yoga. It was one hour when we didn't have to worry about grades. 

One of the few teachers at my school who ever discussed mental health was my wonderful English teacher. In year 11, every Friday we had English, occasionally in this lesson we didn’t annotate poems or discuss Gothic literature, instead we pushed our tables to the side and did yoga. Naturally at first we thought she was having a laugh, but we all grew to love it as it was one hour where we didn’t have to worry about our grades or homework. In hindsight, it was this opportunity to focus on our wellbeing that most likely improved our grades and homework. It wasn’t like we all stood there in our uniforms doing the downward dog, but we did have a little stretch and observed silence, something that teenagers probably don’t get enough of.

We need more teachers like my English teacher, but to achieve that our educators themselves must first be taught how to have a healthy mind.

I'd like to see change

I urge you to create a better tomorrow by creating a healthier today

Teachers have the duty to inform and educate yet they are slaves to a curriculum that doesn’t accommodate learning about our most powerful tool: our minds. Teaching has got harder as it contends with budget cuts and stricter policies and it is obvious to us as students that we aren’t the only ones struggling. I urge you to create a better tomorrow by creating a healthier today.

Our canteen is full of posters promoting a healthy balanced diet, yet I don’t see any regarding a healthy mind. A healthy mind is a mind that is hungry, hungry for knowledge and hungry for happiness. Sadly, a healthy mind is not one that I believe can be nurtured in the current environment of our nation’s schools.

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