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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

1,273 comments

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  2. Reblogged this on Cẩm Vân Phan and commented:
    “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.”

  3. I wish there were more teachers like you. :) And you should really let your students know jow much you care.. I think it makes a lot of difference.

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  5. jeez, fuck this guy…

    what the hell will he say when we have a RBE instead of a capitalism and employees…

    listen: LIFE SHOULDN’T BE ABOUT DOING SHIT YOU HATE, IT SHOULD BE ABOUT EVERYONE BEING ABLE TO DO WHAT THEY WANT!! LIFE IS A PRIVILEDGE, AN OPPORTUNITY!!! NOT A CHORE!!!

    Read a fucking book.

    …like: Zero Marginal Cost Society, Abundance, Transcend, Physics of the Future, etc etc

    fuck you, trying to force me to do shit. I’ll fight you! Bring it skinny bitch. I’ll fight to the death for my freedom.

    -Annonymous college drop out

    1. I’m neither the muscle nor the dirt,

      I’m the fucking heart.

      Living for love, not for stupid ass work that ppl tell me to do.

      Living for music, for adventure, for freedom.

      Not for your sad ass reality.

      Had to add that. To fuckin shit on your bitch ass metaphor, before anyone falls for it.

      Either muscle or dirt? Shitty fucking choice. Lots of more amazing possibilities for humans. We’re so much deeper beings than that.

      Again, fuck this guy.

      -Same Annonymous college dropout

      1. I get your point about the the system and why should a kid have to learn about a microscope when they could not care less about the inner workings of a microscope but….

        you say read a book. My students can’t read because when met with frustration they have developed coping strategies which involve tuning out or acting out.

        You may respond with…of course they tune out and act out because they are forced to learn about and work on things that are completely irrelevant and have no value or meaning to them.

        That definately has something to do with it. However, some of the students talked about in this post are ones who quit in all areas of life. They do nothing because thay are afraid to fail. This fear can hold them back from learning to play an instrument, take up a new sport, travel, apply for a job, etc.

        Society is messed up and the education system is messed up but for those of us who choose to work within these systems, I agree that the focus should be to learn lessons about perseverance, taking pride in what you do, not quitting when faced with adversity, focussing on the process, taking failure for what it is, learning to work together, communicating your needs, etc.

        But I hope realists and idealists like you keep chirping and hopefully working to change our society for the better by making us all think about what we say and do.

    2. Think@It,

      You say that life is an opportunity and a privilege…that is true. However, let me ask you this. In the course of fighting your teachers in class, how many future doctors are you interrupting? How many engineers are you interrupting?

      Would you walk into an operating room and tell the doctor that he was a “skinny….” while he was in surgery?

      Mr. Think@it…(I am addressing you with courtesy, please attempt to do the same).

      Do you know any doctors who are 500 years old? If not, then don’t waste everyone’s time figuring out new ways to interrupt school so that you can look cool fighting for your “freedom”.

      Our soldiers have a saying, “Freedom isn’t free.”

      And they are correct! Whether you choose to become a soldier or not. Freedom really ISN’T free.

      Teachers have the awesome responsibility of trying to market the less desirable chores of life to our nation’s youth.

      Do you REALLY want to live in a world without doctors to heal your children when they are sick?

      Do you really want to live in a world where you have to chop wood all summer hoping that you will have enough to make it through winter?

      You state that people should be able to do what they want to and while I understand that point of view, the purpose of education is to make sure that you have a full grasp of the world around you and the implications of your choices within that world.

      Without school, we would all be living a frontier lifestyle…with outhouses and no modern plumbing. We would not have much breathing room to make mistakes in our lives. Mother Nature is extremely unforgiving…only our collective knowledge has given everyone the chance to make a mistake and perhaps live another day.

      Think about it.

    3. I have attempted to reply to this comment above, but I am not sure if it is posting.

      Mr.Think@IT!

      You say that life is a privilege and an opportunity and it is.

      However, teachers know that they must market the less desirable chores of society to at least SOME of their students or society as we know it will collapse.

      And they know that if they allow one student to dictate how the classroom is run, the stakes for EVERYONE…including YOU…could be very high.

      Would you act this way toward a doctor doing surgery in an emergency room? Would you walk in and tell him that he was a “skinny *beep*” and then proceed to do what you wanted to in the ER?

      Probably not…but guess what? Here is something you probably haven’t thought of.

      That doctor only became a doctor with the help of a few teachers.

      When you act up in class and and do what you want to in the learning environment, you are, in effect, doing the same thing as walking into an emergency room and disrupting a surgery in progress.

      A doctor who couldn’t learn in school is no more effective than a doctor who is being interrupted by a party in the ER.

      Teachers have a much more awesome responsibility than you can possibly know.

      Give them a break.

    1. What the crap do you know about being a teacher? Are you a teacher? Probably not. If you are a teacher, you should quit. You shouldn’t be around children.

    2. I’m a retired teacher. To say, “no teacher really gives a crap about a student. They just want a paycheck,” is a slap in the face to most of the people I worked with throughout my career. I disagree wholeheartedly with your comment.

    3. In the vast majority of cases, that is NOT true.

      Most people who get into the business of teaching hope to motivate kids to take up a career that they might not think they were able to take up.

      I am not saying that there won’t be a few bad apples in the teaching business. I’ve run into a few over the years who don’t seem very committed or concerned about their students.

      But to say that NO teacher cares is wrong.

      Many new teachers simply have a very steep learning curve when they first enter into the field. They simply may not be acquainted with a student’s way of thinking and they might not know how to communicate with you in a manner that YOU consider to be caring.

      These new teachers might not understand YOUR point of view on what constitutes caring.

      For example…A new teacher’s idea of caring might be providing you with knowledge whereas your idea of caring is tending to an older person’s needs.

      Both are noble ways to care.

      You may think that a teacher is wasting your time, but the teacher thinks that he or she is giving you more options to survive.

      Don’t misread your teacher’s intentions and assume that they are trying to be slave drivers or that they are addicted to power.

      While there are some teachers who are addicted to power, most are not.

      If you reach out to them, even just a little, you will find that the vast majority of teachers will reach out to you as well.

      Give them a break!

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  8. I came across your page, and this is the first post that I read, and it certainly brought tears in my eyes. Things that are not told to us, or probably we fail to acknowledge.
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  9. Reblogged this on Insolent Fool and commented:
    “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.”

  10. We are talking about motivation in school enough; however, as a teacher you can make it count if you still have students come in to your class. I have been working from regular school, private school, after school, international school, night school, summer school and now I am in alternative school. I have questions to you as Mr.Think@it posted his statements above, he is really do not want to be in school, how can you bring education back to him or some people like him?

  11. I have a friend who is energetic, bright, and motivated. He has never thought much of education, or of following rules, doing what other people expected of him. Earlier in his life when he went through a divorce he quit his high paying job in order to avoid paying child support. Later he created a company from which he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. His unwitting partner went to prison, but my friend was never held accountable. Well, his company did go under. But he now owns a house worth more than a million dollars, which he landed through years of real-estate dealing: Some would call his business approach ruthless, others would call it brilliant. But the Feds cracked down, so he needed to find an alternative source of income. Some of his financial needs he covered by embezzling more money, this time from his deceased mother’s estate (the disbursement of which he had been set over as trustee). The rest he got by driving a school bus. Now he has been arrested for 23 counts of molestation of a mentally impaired little girl who rode the bus.

    There are reasons for the rules and expectations of society. There are deep flaws with these rules and expectations, but anarchy is not the answer (by the way, if you abandon the system without implementing an alternative system, that is anarchy). If your free spirit is offended by the system, don’t opt out, help fix it.

  12. I appreciate this piece so much – I read when I’m struggling with my students. I teach a summer school session and would very much like to use this piece as a shared read, both as a piece that connects to their experiences and as an example of authentic writing outside the published/book format most of the students see daily. Would you give your permission for me to do so? Thank you again for writing this heartfelt and honest piece.

  13. Wow, this is powerful. You should write more at 4am. It’s so honest.

    Your writing puts a new image in my mind that defines education. A main event. Our student’s need to hear our honesty. Our students need to hear how much we care, some – or most, won’t believe it. Maybe when they are older they might remember it. I teach primary school, and I feel like even as young as Primary 3 (Grade 2) students are giving up. Somewhere, they’ve heard a message that it’s the academics that matter, and they are not good enough. In their ignorance, they believe it.

    What I want my students to know is that one of the most important favors you can do for yourself, is love yourself. Not in a vain way, not in a way that makes your brain believe you are better than anyone else. Nope, not like that, I mean in a way that makes it okay to fail, its ok to get an answer wrong, it’s okay to be embarrassed – it’s not easy mind you. However, all our emotions are okay. It’s how we cope with them that we have to be careful of.

    I want to teach my students coping skills. I want to teach them that when there is an emotion, deal with it. That when there is a mistake, fix it. If you have hurt someone (on purpose or accidentally), apologize and try your best, not to hurt that person or someone else the same way. I want to teach my students that they cannot live this life alone, we are all in this together. Support others and accept support when you need it. Never become someones eternal crutch and never rely on a crutch forever either. I want my students to know that they have the right to be who they are, and that they will be much more successful that way. In these times, people do not want a clone as a the leader of a country, or even as a cashier, be who you are, accept your quirks. Be kind to others and do the next right thing. Be grateful for what you have, so many others have less than you. Be grateful for everything, and if you can’t think of anything – at least you are alive, what about your senses, what about your abilities, the fact that you are able to think of items to be grateful for should be on your gratitude list.

    There is much more that I want to teach my students than what is on my curriculum. However, I know that I can work these ideas in. I know that my students can learn from what I know. They can learn from each other. I want them to know that they should never stop learning, they should never be satisfied with the knowledge they have, I want them to crave curiosity. I don’t expect my students to remember everything they learn (in our times we have access to knowledge at our fingertips). I want my students to be interested in how things work, and how they can make them better, including themselves. What good decisions can I make today? How can I do better today than I did yesterday?

  14. The last several posts that I wrote above are clearly NOT the most encouraging posts, but in spite of my discomfort and hesitation as to WHETHER I should post these remarks, I felt it was necessary.

    PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG!

    There are PLENTY of wonderful children in the world and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to turn a child’s life around nor is there anything wrong with trying to reach out to a child to say that you care…but you have to be VERY careful about how you do it.

    Especially now that kids are growing up in the age of the internet. What you believe you are saying to a child is often NOT what the child is hearing. College professors are now complaining that some kids write in text speech.

    Think about that for a minute. For some children, thoughts are boiled down to 150 characters or less, after which, they may or may NOT be listening to you or fully understanding you.

    What you feel and even the rest of society may see as a touching gesture to a troubled child, the child might PERCEIVE as creepy.

    In the minds of some children, kindness, of ANY kind, is creepy. A few kids have actually said that to me. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

    And then the other shoe falls…suddenly you discover that you are a creep for being nice. And why?

    You find, at a parent teacher conference, that the kid is routinely shouted at by his or her parents and you come away wondering if the kid is being whipped at home.

    Believe me, I did a double take and several triple takes when I encountered the “kindness is creepy” belief.

    But that thought does exist and when you finally recognize how may OTHER thoughts might be attaching themselves to THAT thought, you begin to understand the depth of the problem you are dealing with.

    So whereas BEFORE encountering this unfamiliar belief, you might have simply run into the classroom singing, “The Hills are ALIVE with the sound of music”, you NOW run into the classroom, still singing, but you are also scanning for potential trip wires as you go.”

    Trust me, if you stumble across one of these children unprepared, your life can get VERY messy VERY fast.

    These same children may also see kindness as a sign of weakness. Whether YOU like it or not that IS what is going through their heads and when you finally accept the reality of what you are dealing with ONLY THEN can you take concrete and MEASURED steps to guide the child out of his or frame of mind.

    The sad reality is that there will always be at least one or two kids in EVERY school (maybe even one or two kids in every classroom) who are raised more by their peers and by the video games that they play than by their parents.

    That is an EXTREMELY heartbreaking reality, but it is a reality that NO teacher should ignore.

    Some people in the video game industry are encouraging very dangerous beliefs AND prejudicial beliefs.

    If a child happens to be hanging out with a violent street gang, he or she is also under tremendous peer pressure to be rebellious in school. It is part of the initiation process. In some countries, TEACHERS are kidnapped and held for ransom because GANGS run the countries.

    Some of those children are HERE….NOW…perhaps in YOUR classroom.

    In an increasingly diverse society, a WISE teacher stays abreast of what is ACTUALLY going on in the world rather than what he or she may WANT to be occurring in the world.

    One mistake that is very typical of new or inexperienced teachers is that they assume that ALL of the students that they will encounter will at, the very least, adhere to appropriate social norms.

    It is actually rather natural to have that desire. Why WOULDN’T the rest of the world think like you?

    Often, in situations where a child is so far removed from the rest of society, it is better to observe that child quietly for a while to determine the best approach. BELIEVE ME. If you DON’T handle the situation carefully, the horror stories I repeated above could very well become YOUR horror story.

    Too many people in the education industry are sweeping these issues under the carpet and trying to pretend that they do not exist and even shaming teachers who are saying that these problems exist.

    Often the kids who play these games bring these beliefs and “ethics” to the classroom. If a particular video game encourages a child to be merciless in any conflict, THAT is the child’s reality until someone else intervenes.

    If the child is being taught to use foul language and to be rebellious by a video game or by a fellow peer (gangs), THAT is the child’s reality and who are YOU to tell him or her otherwise.

    In summary, DO model that you care…and DO try to have a sense of humor.

    But be VERY careful how you phrase your concern and your humor to your students.

    You may not want to plan your classroom around your most difficult students, but the reality is, if one of your students is being taught by a peer or a video game to shank another student during an argument (because in their world EVERYONE ELSE…shanks their rivals during an argument), you have no choice. You HAVE to plan around these students. You HAVE to lock up the scissors or keep certain children separated from each other.

    And you have to be prepared for the possible blowback if the child CHOOSES to see you as a snitch….(peer pressure from a gang).

    In an age where kids are routinely taping their teachers… (sorry…reality)…the less you say, sometimes… the better.

    Your caring ACTIONS will speak louder than your words.

    Focus on your lessons and making them the best that they can be. Not only do you show the wonderful children that you care, you limit the ability of the difficult children in your classroom to misrepresent your words.

    And they WILL misrepresent you if they get a chance.

    1. I understand that your personal experience in working with students may have develop your sense or idea that planning around the “difficult children” is the best route to go but I disagree. You are working from a frame work of limitation and scarcity, as your idea perpetuates the idea that students (at whatever age) are incapable of change and social maturity.

      Working with students from age 7-23, I have seen many different personalities and attitudes through learning and it is important to understand that no set way will ever lead to a more controlled educational environment. There is no script to use in order to help students along their personal journey, but there are techniques that allow for a better perception of these students.

      First, we must give our students an “A.” What this means: we must assume that the students we are interacting with, regardless of their background or even how they treat us, are capable of being the best that they can be. This takes a lot of time and energy because our human nature will want to ignore this students and leave them behind because they are not on the right path, but the main purpose of a teacher is to guide students along their journey. This starts the change that their “experiences” will always impact their beliefs toward school. For example, yes many students play Grand Theft Auto (a game where an individual can stab, shoot, and assault anyone they want to, even be killed but still have more chances and no real punishments.), but to have enough confidence in them to understand that they know the difference between a game (fantasy) and real life (reality) can go along way in how you address some of the behaviors that they are showing. Limiting your thought to “students play this violent video game and thus are not capable of understanding or chaining their behavior” is dangerous road to be on a guide as it will limit your ability to reach out to those students and make the difference you want to see.

      Secondly, you must believe that every student is a contribution. This means that you must believe in your heart that regardless of what the student has given you (hw, ideas, participation in class, etc.) that they are giving you the best that they can with what they are able. This doesn’t mean that you just accept that everything they do as great, but it allows for you to view them as contributing members to the community that they are in (school). You must push them to critically view their contributions and decide what they would be able to contribute, if anything the next time now that they have reflected.

      Lastly, I would suggest that each person learns that they are in charge of the attitude they bring into the room and how they perceive something will affect how the experience will go. This also supports the idea that each student is a “game board” and has control over the pieces on that board (in other words they control their lives). Something students must learn from us guides is that our boards impact everyone else’ boards as well. We are all interconnected, how they argue, work together, converse will ultimately impact other students and their “pieces on the board.” This last idea will not work if you do not view the students as a contribution and by giving them an A.

      These techniques are very hard to implement in our work, but it starts with your initial beliefs and perceptions of the students. We must know that they are good in nature and want to make the best out of their lives. No one wakes up wanting to be bad or do something hurtful to another person, chances are they are lost in their journey and need guidance. They need to know that we care about them and want the best for them

      I love what you wrote and think it is beautifully portrayed but I wanted to challenge some of those ideas.

      Have a blessed day.

      1. Mr. Reynolds, I think you misunderstand me. I agree with everything you are saying above. You want the difficult students to believe that they have a say and that they are contributing to the community. This is critical to winning the respect of the students. Being courteous and encouraging to every student from the start can go a LONG way toward maintaining a peaceful environment in your classroom.

        As much as you can muster you want to project trust and respect.

        But you also want to recognize EXACTLY where each student is both emotionally and intellectually when they come into your classroom each day.

        A teacher should never underestimate the power of peer pressure.

        For a teacher, trust and respect is about buckling down, focusing on one’s studies, doing the right thing and showing concern for one’s community.

        However, for a gang, trust and respect is about being there for family (not necessarily for community).

        Trust and respect in a gang can also be about loyalty and stepping up to be a soldier within the neighborhood when the need arises.

        I once worked in an art class in which I was very polite and respectful to EVERY student and I didn’t have any serious behavior problems at all…but at the end of the class, I discovered that 3 tile cutters were missing.

        I had every one search the class to see if they had been misplaced, but in the end, they had been stolen…perhaps to be used as weapons on the street.

        This happened in spite of my relatively sunny disposition throughout the day. I projected a very professional and courteous attitude, but, in the end, a couple of the students took advantage of my trust….BECAUSE of peer pressure. Not because of anything *I* had done.

        All I am advocating is to be mindful of the true circumstances in your classroom…not the ones that you WANT to be there….and to plan accordingly.

      2. I understand how you may have reached that conclusion from the one paragraph that I wrote above, but if you examine all of the paragraphs I have written on this site, I think you will have a better idea of what I am trying to convey.

        When the students are in your presence, you want to be as respectful and trusting as you can be…you want them to walk into a pleasant and welcoming environment so that you can minimize any conflicts that might occur WHILE the students are in the classroom.

        But conflict prevention doesn’t just start when the students walk in.

        You must set the stage in your room ahead of time to prevent the escalation of any conflicts that might enter INTO your classroom…conflicts that are often OUTSIDE of your control until they arrive at your doorstep.

        A school, and even a community for that matter, is a very dynamic place. Your classroom might be a calm tide pool in a large ocean, but it is still a part of that large ocean and it is still vulnerable to numerous outside forces working on it.

        Being fully aware of those forces that work against your peaceful tide pool is also VERY important when planning how to educate the students that you are responsible for.

  15. Stay true to this. You inspire something every teacher believes somewhere inside: that our kids need to know the truth, and you have expressed that truth well.

    Thank you!

  16. I have said from the beginning that being a compassionate person is important. And I know, and other teachers, know that Chase really does care when he writes this…because we are all teachers and we know what works with ourselves. We are naturally very hard on ourselves and extremely driven. And we have a hard time admitting weakness in ourselves. We drill sergeant ourselves to death when we screw up.

    But we are adults and we forget what it was like to be in 7th grade…TERRIFIED of public speaking. I was a freaking MESS in 7th grade when I had to speak.

    Now…it is second nature.

    ALL teachers struggle with being able to separate what works with themselves with what works with a student. It is both a gift and a curse to be as driven as we are.

    But I know, from LONG experience, that some students will read Chase’s motivational speech and they will choose to hear: “EVERYTHING IS YOUR FAULT!”

    If you doubt me, read this excerpt…pretending to be a defiant student.

    “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.”

    Chase has good intentions when he writes this…but his focus is not as self-reflective as it should be. It has an overtone of accusation. Which NEVER goes over well with a difficult student.

    They get that enough at home…and now…et tu…Mr. Mielke?! Then die student!

    Chase would be more effective if he told his students to embrace their current weaknesses as temporary and that he was going to be with them through thick and thin. That he was going to be in the trenches every step of the way and take the fire with them.

    Once more into the breach fellow students! CHARGE! Take down that weakness, Sir Michael! Slay that insecurity, Lady Madeline!

    I see that dragon sneaking up on you all! I’VE GOT THIS ONE STUDENTS! YAH! NO WEAKNESS IS GOING TO TAKE MY STUDENTS DOWN!

    Some students just need that boost of encouragement. That ability to laugh in the face of failure and know that they can get back up and try again…with a team around them.

  17. I’ll make one more remark and then see if I can keep my fingers quiet, warm and snug inside a pair of mittens until next year.

    If a teacher is in a neighborhood where crime is relatively commonplace, there is a high probability that he or she will have to intervene in a fight of some sort at least once per year and probably once per month.

    Knowing these probabilities does not make one a cynic. It simply makes one a realist.

    So REALISTICALLY, you have to plan how you are going to address situations that could rapidly escalate into a fight.

    And here is how this become tangentially related to what Chase is writing here.

    Again it boils down to PERCEPTION. What are my STUDENTS perceiving?

    The attitude that a teacher projects is going to be interpreted differently by each student. And each day, each student could have a different interpretation of the same situation from the day before.

    The challenge that every teacher faces is knowing, sometimes within seconds, which tactic to use to win the cooperation of his or her students.

    In an escalating argument…You have the option to use humor to defuse the escalating situation, or you can use threats of punishment or even force.

    I once defused an argument that was QUICKLY heading into fight territory by stepping in between the kids and doing my best Michael Jackson routine (from the video Beat It!)

    We all know the scene: Don’t fight guys! DANCE!

    The tactic worked…very well, in fact. The kids laughed and forgot about the trivial matter that they were arguing about and then spent the rest of the recess hanging out together.

    Humor worked. THAT time.

    However…

    In another situation, my attempts at humor were drowned out by a noisy barrage of insults that volleyed between the two students and no matter how hard I tried to be congenial or distracting or diplomatic, the argument continued to escalate to a point where a colleague of mine and I eventually had to step into that dreaded gray area of restraint that NO teacher WANTS to venture into.

    And yet, sometimes a teacher’s actions are forced upon him or her.

    The reason that I have written so much here is BECAUSE I know how Chase’s words will be interpreted by some students.

    Even if their interpretation of his writings are wrong…they will still believe their own interpretation until their misconceptions are addressed and dealt with.

    And to DEAL with these misconceptions means that the teacher must wade into new or forgotten territory…away from the safety of his or her own adult perceptions of the world and into the perceptions of his or her adolescent students.

    That is when the TRUE teaching (and learning) begins.

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