What Students Really Need to Hear

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be honest with you — both in what I say and how I say it?

Here’s the thing: I lose sleep because of you.  Every week.

Before I tell you why, you should understand the truth about school. You see, the main event of school is not academic learning. It never has been. It never will be. And, if you find someone who is passionate in claiming that it is about academics, that person is lying to himself or herself and may genuinely believe that lie. Yes, algebra, essay writing, Spanish, the judicial process —  all are important and worth knowing. But they are not the MAIN event.

The main event is learning how to deal with the harshness of life when it gets difficult — how to overcome problems as simple as a forgotten locker combination, to obnoxious peers, to gossip, to people doubting you, to asking for help in the face of self-doubt, to pushing yourself to concentrate when a million other thoughts and temptations are fingertips away.

It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life after school. Because, mark my words, school is not the most challenging time you will have in life. You will face far greater challenges than these. Sure, you will have times more amazing than you can imagine, but you will also confront incomparable tragedy, frustration, and fear in the years to come.

But, you shouldn’t be worried about the fact that you will face great adversities. You should be worried because you’re setting yourself up to fail at overcoming them. Here’s the real reason I lose hours of sleep worrying about you: You are failing the main event of school. You are quitting.  You may not think you are quitting, but you are because quitting wears many masks.

For some, you quit by throwing the day away and not even trying to write a sentence or a fraction because you think it doesn’t matter or you can’t or there’s no point. But it does. What you write is not the main event. The fact that you do take charge of your own fear and doubt in order to write when you are challenged — THAT is the main event.

Some of you quit by skipping class on your free education. Being punctual to fit the mold of the classroom is not the main event of showing up. The main event is delaying your temptation and investing in your own intelligence — understanding that sometimes short-term pain creates long-term gain and that great people make sacrifices for a greater good.

For others, you quit by being rude and disrespectful to adults in the hallway who ask you to come to class. Bowing to authority is not the main event. The main event is learning how to problem solve maturely, not letting your judgement be tainted by the stains of emotion.

I see some of you quit by choosing not to take opportunities to work harder and pass a class, no matter how far down you are. The main event is not getting a number to tell you you are worthy. The main event is pulling your crap together and making hard choices and sacrifices when things seem impossible.  It is finding hope in the hopeless, courage in the chasm, guts in the grave.

What you need to see is that every time you take the easy way out, you are building a habit of quitting. And it will destroy your future and it will annihilate your happiness if you let it.   Our society cares nothing for quitters.  Life will let you die alone, depressed, and poor if you can’t man or woman up enough to deal with hardship.  You are either the muscle or the dirt.  You either take resistance and grow stronger or blow in the wind and erode.

As long as you are in my life, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you.  I am going to challenge you, confront you, push you, and coach you.  You can whine.  You can throw a tantrum.  You can shout and swear and stomp and cry.  And the next day, guess what?  I will be here waiting — smiling and patient — to give you a fresh start.  Because you are worth it.

So, do yourself a favor: Step up.  No more excuses.  No more justifications.  No blaming.  No quitting.  Just pick your head up.  Rip the cords out of your ears.  Grab the frickin’ pencil and let’s do this.

– C. Mielke


  1. Kevin Elzinga……Why do you have to post so much? Okay we get it…you are teacher of the last 10 years !! Can you not regulate yourself enough to see how arrogant you are coming across ?? You go on about “troubled teens” and they may feel “lectured to”, but geesh the more I read these comments, and see ALL of yours……….no wonder “YOU” have so many problems with students.

    1. There are several reasons why I post as much as I do.

      First, If someone challenges a post of mine, I feel the need to CLARIFY my position to that specific person so that I am not misquoted.

      Second, some of what I have posted is repetitive BECAUSE people don’t read anything prior to the last couple posts on this site. So they get a VERY skewed view of a person’s opinions on certain aspects of teaching if all they read is the last two posts.

      Third, I am testing Google. Google has had a tendency in the past to represent the worst side of a person’s posts. For example, if I posted a remark that seemed arrogant or rude, until recently, Google made sure that only THAT post appeared in a Google search of my name.

      If I posted something that complimented Chase, Google made sure to bury that remark.

      Not many people have been aware of this obnoxious side of Google, but, if you happen to be curious, look up the case of Beverly Stayart vs Google.

      A Google search of Ms. Stayart’s name was linked to Viagra WITHOUT her permission.

      Also Google search the names Lindsey Stone, Evan Emory, Fred Glespie, Teresa Badger and Justine Sacco.

      ALL of these people (as well as their namesakes) have to endure the eternal embarrassment of ONE screw up that they made in their lives.

      Google now has the ability to decide whether your resume gets a second look or not.

      Which affects your ability to get a job.

      Also, people posting in YOUR name can ruin your reputation if they happen to have a higher page rank than you.

      Think about it.

      Or don’t and wait until it affects you or someone you care about directly.

  2. The more you post on a certain site the more likely Google will pick up the website linked to your name.

    When I noticed that Google had picked up THIS website in a search of my own name, Google had made it appear that I had made a VERY unprofessional remark to Chase. Which I had not.

    There is a difference between being critical and downright rude and unprofessional.

    Google was making it look as if I had called Chase “a whiner”…which is extremely rude and NOT something that I stoop to doing when offering criticism.

    In fact, the whiner comment was made by someone else who was attacking a person who had called Chase a name.

    But Google, in their prankish ways, made it appear that I had called Chase a whiner.

    That irritated the hell out of me.

    I acknowledge that I have come across as a bit condescending with SOME of my posts, but not all of them.

    Chase writes just as much as I do on his blog.

    He has very strong opinions as well.

    And yet, you don’t attack him as being arrogant.

    I find that interesting.

    Any teacher who has experience knows that there is only so much you can do for ONE student out of thirty.

    Troubled students CAN and often DO take advantage of teachers who say that they care…when they sense that the teacher is not being firm enough, they can wind up controlling the environment more than they should be controlling it.

    They create a playful environment, and soon more students follow.

    Which gets the teacher in even deeper over his or her head.

    I am not sure Chase has recognized this yet.

    He says that he is having trouble with some of his students. They refuse to cooperate with him.


    How much time is he spending on them at the expense of his other students?

    I am afraid that Chase is not branching out enough. He is taking on too much of the burden himself. His video version of “What Students Need to Hear” will confirm this.

    He is the ONLY person who appears in the video. Not a single one of his colleagues appears, nor do any of his brighter students…who would be more than willing to help Chase do his job if he asked them to.

    He comes across as self-promoting in his video.

    Or there is a risk that he is going to be perceived that way.

    Especially by the students that he is struggling to help the most.

  3. NOW…to be FAIR to Chase…

    There are days that I would send over a student to Chase if I felt that MY approach was not working.

    Chase appears to be very patient…

    In spite of my criticisms, I can tell that he DOES care about his students.

    And for the record, so do I, but we both have different ways of manifesting that concern for our students. Some days his methods work, other days MY methods work.

    After watching his video, I give Chase the benefit of the doubt and CHOOSE to see his video as “emulating someone that he admires” rather than “engaging in self-promotion”.

    The same fairness must be applied to one’s students.

    Is this child acting up because he feels intimidated by the work or is he just trying to waste as much time as possible?

    I think a good rule of thumb when measuring whether a student cares about school or not ( in general) is finding out what he thinks about SAFETY.

    I honestly think that if a kid ROUTINELY mocks the most basic of safety rules, we shouldn’t have as much sympathy for that child as we, currently, seem to have.

    Why we tolerate kids who routinely mock safety is a mystery to me.

    But back to the matter at hand…

    I think Chase is a necessary “cool-down” teacher for kids to go to when things get tough.

    But on some days, Chase might choose to send a student or two to me, if he senses that his students are starting to play rather than doing the necessary tasks.

    If *I* can’t handle these students, we try a different teacher…perhaps a teacher who has a similar background to the student.

    If THAT teacher can’t handle the student…well…that is not an encouraging sign.

    Public Education has become very static and that is unfortunate.

    Forcing ONE student and a teacher together into a YEAR-LONG dysfunctional struggle serves neither the student NOR the class that the teacher is serving.

    A teacher might be spectacular with 24 of her kids and yet struggle with only 2 of them.

    Why NOT see if another teacher can handle those two?

    Mixing up classrooms from time to time may be the best approach to achieving what is best for both the students AND the schools in general.

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