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

1,755 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged and created a reply from the perspective of students. If you’re interested, please check out nextdoorhuman.wordpress.com

  2. Megan says:

    Hey! Check out my blog. I am a student.

  3. Reblogged this on The Girl With The Pen and commented:
    I think this is a post that everyone, especially students, should read🙂

  4. I was recommended this web site by way of my cousin. I’m now not sure
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  6. Irma says:

    Reblogged this on Ade I. Irfan and commented:
    love this one!

  7. jeanette says:

    This is INCREDIBLE!! I have endured countless days with little more than 3-4 hours of sleep in the hopes of making a positive difference in the lives of my students. Many times, I think of how easy it would be to “throw in the towel” and no longer invest countless hours, time, passion, and energy into motivating and engaging students in meaningful learning and character building. The opportunity to read such an amazing letter, could not have come at a better time in my life.

  8. patsy says:

    Use a mantra: ohm to coincide with your breathing to fall asleep

  9. Jane Moorhead says:

    I have saved this and will be reading it to my Community College students in the first class of each semester. It is perfect. Thank you for writing this.

  10. As the parent of a child who struggles with the “academics”, I can truly appreciate this post. We’ve tried to stress less, accept the struggle, and have moved to encouraging her growth in the “main events”. It’s teachers like you, who recognize this in a child like her, as well as the system as a whole, that make it bearable for a parent like myself. Thank you.

  11. acstratten says:

    Reblogged this on WhatItMeansForArt and commented:
    This is almost a year old, but I read it for the first time today. As I read this I have two dominant feelings… 1. As a person who works in an office for curriculum and instruction, I hope I do not come across as a person who doesn’t realize that our curriculum is not the “main event.” And 2. I hope my own children read this and take it to heart. This is the learning I want for them.

  12. howboutus says:

    if the article above was interesting check out https://wordpress.com/posts/howboutus.wordpress.com it explains what goes on in students minds FIRST HAND

  13. Yes! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Luqman says:

    this is like the best i’ve read my entire life! What an amazing writeup

  15. Reblogged this on patrickbergsmaita and commented:
    Interesting thoughts.

  16. Reblogged this on The Grafton Experience and commented:
    I came across this wonderful write up by C. Mielke on AFFECTIVE LIVING and thoroughly agree with what he has to offer on one of the most important subject today: Students.

  17. g smith says:

    You are spot-on about the need to develop resilience and perseverance to keep pushing forward in the face of challenges big and minute. What you’re saying is an idea getting some traction in education and business, as the buzzword “grit (which admittedly has some distractors .”

    I also think you should reblog this on LinkedIn (if you belong) as I think its something that college students…and admin/policy wonk types…need to hear. in light of the debate in those circles about what’s needed to help students navigate the world and figure out their direction, work-career path.

    1. Chelsea says:

      Definitely something college students need to hear as well. Thank you!

  18. Terry says:

    I agree with everything you have written, but you last line left me a little flat. ” Grab the frickin’ pencil and let’s do this. ” You worded everything so wonderfully and that had to stoop to “fricken.” Just the use of this word diminished what you have written. That word may have been chosen for some specific reason, but I think it could have been avoided and strengthened your credibility.

    1. JLord says:

      Sometimes you have to talk to these kids in the language they understand. Kudos to you, Terry, for surrounding yourself with the eloquent. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

  19. Gabby says:

    Reblogged this on Wandering Wynn.

  20. Exel Estrada says:

    This is exactly what students should read to understand the struggle that teachers go through.

  21. Susan says:

    This is the best, truest thing I have read in a long time. Bravo for saying so powerfully what many of us teachers feel, think, and live every single day.

  22. Chris McHone says:

    Thank you!!!!!!!!! I want my boys to read this, feel this, from their teachers. They are Autistic, and too young to understand this right now. And they have a couple of teachers that LOVE them, but this is so important for all children to hear and understand. I will strive to continue to help my boys and any other children I meet realize this. I commend you for your dedication. Thank you, again, for all that you do!

  23. You are so spot on, every teacher needs to read this to their students. Our society has hope in the future of our nation with educators like you. Keep your thoughts coming, so many people benifit from reading your blog.

  24. Very intelligent young man.
    Nice to see we still have individuals that still care.

    If this only sinks into a few kids it was worth the while.

    I say keep up the good work young man

  25. wonderwmn818 says:

    Reblogged this on vidalunatica and commented:
    WOW!!! I could not have said it better myself! This made me cry.

  26. celticcat says:

    Reblogged this on Celticcat and commented:
    I wish I could say this to students… I wish someone had said this to me when I was in High School

  27. Carol St John says:

    Yes.

  28. Barry Smith says:

    This article is absolutely correct for any person who is teaching { paid or volunteer}We CARE about those we teach !!!

  29. Kett says:

    Oh, how I wish I had read this when I was 16 or 17! What a great article. I’m still realizing as someone who is in her 40s that I need to develop a bit more grit. You are right on here!

  30. Tracey says:

    Same goes for parenting! Thank you for being a teacher who really really cares… The world needs more of this…

  31. Bev Landry says:

    So true! And you have to know that your young brains are what we are so exited about. You are the ones who will achieve the answers to so many of the global problems. With thanks also to great teachers, your minds are going to come up with the most incredible ideas this world has ever seen. Go Grads!

  32. I wish all teachers would feel this way. Many are worried about their jobs.

    Schools now have open enrollment a students can choose to attend a school out of their district.
    A lot of teachers don’t advocate for the one student would may need the extra mile, so to speak.

    The teachers have to stay with the masses. Bullying is on the increase and teachers often look away.
    I worry what the next ten years will display for the minority of students who are unique or not able to self advocate.
    This article needs to be a tool for all teachers.

  33. Ms. Chin says:

    I am adding this wonderful, heartfelt post to my favourites right now; I have to remember to send it to my own students when September comes!

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