Teenagers: School is Tough and No You’re Not Stupid! 

Teenagers – do you feel like school just isn’t for you? Like it’s a waste of time and you’re not learning anything?

You’re not alone. A lot of teenagers feel the same way.

In fact, school can be downright frustrating and challenging at times. It’s easy to feel like it’s your fault that school sucks, and that you’re stupid, but that’s not the case.

School is tough. Sometimes you can put a lot of effort in and still not see results – but it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you.

It’s unfortunate, but in many cases a big reason for this is the way the school system is set up.

Keep reading to find out some reasons why school isn’t enjoyable for teenagers and what you can do to make it more bearable.

Why Does School Feel So Hard?

There are a few reasons why school can feel difficult. Here are some of the most common reasons:

There’s a Big Power Imbalance That Can Put You On The Defensive

Generally speaking, the way schools are structured creates a power imbalance between students and teachers. Teachers (in theory) hold the authority position, and students are expected to follow the rules.

This power imbalance creates a feeling of frustration because it’s “so unfair,” and you feel that your voice doesn’t matter. If you’re feeling like you have to defend yourself all the time, then it’s tough to learn and enjoy school.

You’re Constantly Being Evaluated and Judged

To add to the previous point, in school, you’re constantly being evaluated and judged. Every test, every assignment, and every quiz is a chance for you to be graded and compared to your classmates.

It’s easy to feel like you’re never good enough and that you’re always falling behind. This can make school feel really stressful and overwhelming.

I often talk about the Power Need as being one of the primary psychological needs that drive our behaviour, particularly as we go through adolescence. If you’re not sure what that is, the Power Need is basically the need to feel in control and to have a sense of agency over your life.

When you feel like you’re constantly being judged and evaluated, it’s really discouraging. You feel like giving up, lashing out, or taking control in any way you can (e.g. not wearing correct uniform, mitching school, or being the class joker).

There’s a Breakdown in Communication Between Adults and Teens

One of the biggest problems with schools is that there’s frequently a breakdown in communication between adults and teenagers.

There are 3 critical components to effective communication:

  1. Spoken word – what you say
  2. Voice and tone – how you say it
  3. Body language – how your body adds to the message

As teenagers, your brains are still developing as you transition from being a child to a young adult. What this means, however, is quite often, you’re particularly sensitive to the Body Language and Voice/Tone components of what someone is saying to you – to the point that you’re not processing what is being spoken to you at all. If you’ve ever felt strong, overwhelming emotions without understanding where they came from, this is the reason.

Most adults, unfortunately, do not understand this, and so when they speak to you with an authoritative tone, it can trigger you – especially if you’re already not meeting that power need and thus feeling a lack of control and competence.

What Can Teenagers Do About It?

Now that you understand some of the biggest reasons why school can feel hard for you as a teenager, let’s talk about what you can do to make school more bearable (and maybe even enjoyable).

Focus On The Things You Can Control

One of the best things you can do is focus on the things that you can control.

When you feel like you’re constantly being put on the defensive and judged, it’s easy to feel like you have no power or control. However, there are plenty of things that you can control, even in a school setting. For example, you can control:

  • Your attitude towards school
  • What you focus on at school
  • And what you do in your free time outside of school

Focusing on the things that you can control will help you feel more empowered and in control of your life. It will also help you to be more successful in school, which can make the whole experience more enjoyable.

Find A Way To Feed Your Power Need Before Going To School

One of the best things you can focus on that’s within your control is what you do outside of school.

Like we mentioned earlier, school is stressful. So you want to ensure you’re doing things outside of school that help you feel competent, powerful, and in control – that way, you won’t be as affected by the things that cause you stress at school.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to do a few push-ups in the morning before you head to school. It not only gives you a sense of competency, but also raises your heartbeat and allows you to get “out of your head” and “into your body,” releasing feel-good hormones (such as serotonin and endorphins).

Doing this on a consistent basis creates a process that allows you to begin every day in control of an action you are choosing to take.

Break Down Your Homework and Assignments Using ‘The Rule of 3’

Quite often we can feel overwhelmed with an assignment that seems too huge to even try.

You can feel more in control by breaking down your home tasks and assignments into smaller, manageable pieces.

One way to do this is to apply what I call “The Rule of 3,” which is simply taking any task or goal and breaking it down into 3 smaller parts.

For example, if your goal is to write a 2000-word essay, you might break it down into the following 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Write an outline of what points you’ve going to cover
  • Part 2: Expand on the points you’ve made and write a rough draft of the essay
  • Part 3: Edit, revise, proof-read and finalize the essay (and maybe ask someone to help you)

If any of those 3 parts still feel quite overwhelming, you can “chunk” it down even further. For example, Part 3 in the above example might still feel like a lot, so you can break it down into 3 smaller steps:

  • Part 3.1: Revise and proof-read the content of the essay
  • Part 3.2: Edit the essay for grammar and spelling
  • Part 3.3: Finalize the essay by printing it out or emailing it to someone

Breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable pieces will help you to feel more in control and confident in your ability to complete the task as you knock off each milestone.

You can use this rule for any task or goal, both big and small. And by breaking it down into smaller pieces, you’ll not only feel more in control, but you’ll also be more likely to achieve your goal.

If you’re unsure how you might be able to do this, you can always communicate with your teachers to see if they can help you by allocating your assignments in manageable chunks and credit your progression in stages.

The TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) Summary

School is tough, but there are ways to make it more bearable (and maybe even enjoyable).

Focus on the things you can control, such as your attitude, what you focus on at school, and what you do in your free time outside of school.

Do things outside of school that help you feel competent and in control – that way, you won’t be as affected by the things that cause you stress at school.

Break down your homework and assignments into smaller, manageable pieces using “The Rule of 3.”

And remember, if you’re struggling, you can always communicate with your parents and teachers to see if they can help you out.


P.S. If you’re having trouble implementing the above suggestions to make school more bearable, you may be interested in signing up for a CounterPunch Group Workshop. These workshops are designed for teenagers like you – who understand that emotions aren’t the easiest things in the world to manage, and want to work on better ways to cope with them with other like-minded teenagers.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this page and ask your parent/guardian if they can enrol you in a CounterPunch Group Workshop near you!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}