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What Kids Say About: School

It's that time of year. The new school year is getting going — or already has — for millions of kids. We know everyone likes summer vacation more, but when we asked kids if they liked school, would you believe many of them said ...YES?

No, they don't love each second, every pop quiz and art project gone wrong. But on most days, 65% of kids said they liked school a lot (25%) or some (40%).

But what about the other 35%? We asked 965 kids, so that means about 337 kids were not happy on schooldays. On most days, 13% of those kids said they disliked it some and 22% said they disliked school a lot. That's a problem considering many kids spend 180 days a year in school.

Boys Are Less Happy

Girls were generally happier than boys, with 29% of girls saying they liked school a lot compared with 21% of boys. Similarly, 44% of girls said they liked school some, while only 35% of boys said that.

When it came to disliking school, here's how kids answered:

  • I dislike school some: 14% boys; 13% girls
  • I dislike school a lot: 30% boys; 14% girls

If kids aren't happy at school, it's usually because of some problem — or a group of problems. It could be low grades, trouble with friends, or problems at home. Kids can find help by talking to a counselor, teacher, or another adult at school. But more than half of the kids said they would find it difficult or impossible to use this kind of help.

Without seeking help, kids are less likely to solve the problems they're having. Grades may get worse, a bully may keep on bullying, and worry over a family situation could keep getting in the way.

It Can Be Hard to Ask for Help

Boys, who are more likely to dislike school, also are the least likely to seek out help from a school counselor or staff member. Overall, about 60% of kids said it would be at least a little hard to talk to a school official about their problems. But twice as many boys as girls said they would never talk to an adult at school about their problems.

Doctors and other experts say that kids might not seek help for the following reasons:

  • "I don't want to talk to a stranger."
  • "I don't think anyone can help me."
  • "I don't want my friends to know."

But here are some good reasons to seek help anyway:

  • Talking to a stranger: It can feel a little weird to open up to someone you don't know. But school staff aren't exactly strangers. They're trained (and paid) to help kids at your school — and that means helping kids with problems.
  • Thinking no one can help: It's normal to feel sad if you have a tough problem to solve. But counselors, in particular, are experts in helping kids. Even if they can't solve your problem right away, they can help you make a plan and they can invite other people in to help.
  • Not wanting to be different: If your school makes it super-obvious that you're going to see the counselor, it might make you feel a little weird. (For instance, if you have to carry a fluorescent orange hall pass.) You can look for alternative ways to communicate with the counselor. You might call from home, write a note, or send an email.

    Your mom or dad also could offer to call the counselor for you. If your counselor wants to meet at school, you can do it before school, after school, or at some time other than class. Also remember that you don't have to tell people that you are seeing the counselor or what you're seeing the counselor about. It might help to practice what you plan to say if someone asks you why you're going.

If you start talking about a problem and beginning to solve it, you just might find you don't dislike school so much anymore. You might start noticing that school is the place where your friends make you laugh, you learn new things, and your locker opens on the first try — at least on most days!

What's a KidsPoll?

The group that took this KidsPoll included an almost equal number of boys and girls who were between 9 and 13 years old. They answered the questions on handheld data devices while visiting these health education centers and children's museums:

  • Children's Health Education Center — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • HealthWorks! Kids Museum — South Bend, Indiana
  • Health World Children's Museum — Barrington, Illinois
  • Kansas Learning Center for Health Education — Halstead, Kansas
  • Lilly Health Education Center — Indianapolis, Indiana
  • McMillen Center for Health Education — Ft. Wayne, Indiana
  • Weller Health Education Center — Eaton, Pennsylvania

A poll, like the KidsPoll, asks people a list of questions. Then researchers compile all the answers and look at the way the group answered. They calculate how many (or what percentage) answered "yes" to this question and "no" to that one. Polls give us clues about how most people, not just the ones who answered the poll questions, feel about certain issues. We'll be conducting more KidsPolls in the future to find out what kids say — maybe you'll be part of one!