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


1,801 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on The Captain's Adventures and commented:
    I did need to hear that.

  2. smregalado says:

    Reblogged this on Stephanie Regalado and commented:
    Needed that.

  3. Reblogged this on Schools Reviewed and commented:
    Nice one to share with all the students!

  4. writer-dramaqueen says:

    Reblogged this on Playground of Randomness.

  5. Quentin says:


  6. lauralanni says:

    I’m with you on the stress and I’m awake at 4 am from the worry.
    Final exams are in progress at college. Final grades are due. Time to officially set the bar.
    Pass them by the skin of their teeth or make them take the course again because they still don’t know the material well enough to function after graduation?
    The grade was never the point of all this effort. Learning and growth were the points. But the grade is the measure of the journey of a year of study (or insufficient effort).
    So, I’m awake. Once last chance to touch their lives and nudge them forward. I’ll sleep like a baby in July.

  7. Hi Chase,
    As a student who is currently stuck in a rut, this post certainly brought some light to my situation. I would love to see a post about fear and how to deal with the failure of meeting expectations in a family of academic individuals.

    1. bee says:

      Read BIG MAGIC

  8. OathOfCalm says:

    Reblogged this on A Source of Insight and commented:
    This is a fantastic article that every student should read. I know that many students feel like all teachers are out to make their lives miserable, but this is most certainly not the case.

    As a teacher of martial arts for seven years, I can relate to this post. I put my heart and soul into my students, and I know for a fact that some students just didn’t see it.

    Our goal as a teacher is to make sure that you, as students, have the best tools to navigate life. Sometimes this means we have to be honest, even when the truth hurts. But believe me when I say that we have you best interests at heart. We wouldn’t be teaching if we didn’t truly care.

  9. OathOfCalm says:

    I re-blogged this on A Source of Insight and added a bit of my own commentary. Fantastic post!

  10. resahhh says:

    Reblogged this on Hello Life. and commented:
    As a college student , it’s a blessing to know some teachers in the world do genuinely care about the students as people rather than robots who are taught to regurgitate information that may or may not be useful in the future. There is a point in all of this academic knowledge. Thank you for this post.

  11. shagariii says:

    Reblogged this on The Pages.

  12. shagariii says:

    Reblogged this on The Pages.

  13. Poojitha says:

    Reblogged this on Poojitha and commented:
    great post

  14. I made every single one of those mistakes, luckily I woke up in my final year and I feel that I am looking towards a healthy promising future and I genuinely feel for all the teachers who lost sleep over me I must have been a pain

  15. craftynicki says:

    OMG that’s amazing! Going to get my partner to read this! Says exactly how I feel when he lets his teenage son stay off school with a sniffle or niggly cough!!! Love that boy n want him to be a winner!!

  16. hchen102 says:

    Reblogged this on hchen102.

  17. very well said, That I can really relate

  18. Reblogged this on sheilamaeseraspe and commented:
    Educators are humans

  19. danichoo says:

    Great post!! I think I’ll read it to my teen daughter and my own students. Thanks for sharing x

  20. Reblogged this on Morning Angel and commented:
    Inspiring, honest and true. The main event of school, preparing you for the real world, with real hardships, and real people. Discipline yourself to take responsibility while still young. You are the choices you make….make the choice to read this post. Pure wisdom.

  21. Yuri says:

    I am so thankful that there are still teachers like you out there! I am a tutor at a high school and an aspiring teacher, and it’s so frustrating to see so many teachers who do not care for these students. Thank you so much for sharing! This just made my day! Thank you!

  22. Priya says:

    Wonderful post! Totally reminded me of my school days..how we waited to hear the last bell of the day…the times we would dread showing up for Hindi class..the little punishments we were given..it took all these years for me to realize that they are infact little. 🙂
    I wonder if all teachers think like you do..i wish they all did. 🙂

  23. Angela says:

    This is incredible. Can I sign up to get your blogs via email?

    1. chasemielke says:

      I believe you can . . . though I don’t know how ha ha. Shoot me an email at cmielke@plainwellschools.org and we can figure it out together!

      1. MMcAdoo says:

        This was great and as a former educator for 34 years – I feel your pain and have stressed many nights over my kids too. Now – write one for WHAT PARENTS REALLY NEED TO HEAR. How we need to work together to help their kids succeed in LIFE – not just in math or science – but in the real world. Good luck to all of you who are still fighting the good fight in the classroom – helping kids, caring for kids, even when they don’t care themselves. Keep caring and don’t give up on the kids – they need you.

  24. segmation says:

    Sadly I am up at 4 am as well. Thanks for posting this blog! Sorry for all your stress! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com

  25. glennalan75 says:

    I Love the repetition of the main event… Teaching as an existential quest!

  26. aryasena8 says:

    Reblogged this on My Blog | The World of Creative Inspiration and commented:
    What Students Really Need to Hear

  27. sjoycarlson says:

    I’m a fellow educator. Perfectly put and beautifully written.

  28. I hope this thought gets into the mind of all those frustrated and depressed students who sacrifice their lives for their grades.
    Life is far beyond this. These things don’t define us.

  29. neillbarry says:

    Perseverance is what student should receive a degree in. Nice post.

  30. Sandra Lim says:

    Reblogged this on youcanfindsandra ♡ and commented:
    Do yourself a favour: Man up. Woman 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!”

  31. Reblogged this on girlwithravenwings and commented:
    Never truer.

  32. Elisa says:

    Reblogged this on Elisa's Spot and commented:
    Oh, this is such a better way of saying it!

  33. Tracy says:

    Excellent! Very well said. My kids will read this today. I couldn’t agree more. As a parent, sometimes it’s seems easier to jump in and rescue but this is one of the biggest mistakes I think we can make. Stepping up is what gives us the ability to meet our challenges and enjoy life head on. Thanks.

  34. Great post ! Check out my blog !

  35. sgrofamily says:

    I’m sharing this one with my juniors! Can’t wait to hear what they think about what you’re saying. This is my new favorite blog.

  36. LIFE IS A DRAG says:


  37. dan kraus says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. Printed this and shared with my 14yo who really struggles to understand the point of school. He read the entire piece, somewhat thoughtfully.

  38. This was so refreshing to read. It is a very inspiring piece and I appreciate you for sharing this. Throughout my life if there is one thing I can say about teachers it’s that so many have shared with me words of wisdom that has made me aspire to be a better person and a better student of the world.
    🙂 Thank you!

  39. Noah Weiss says:

    This was amazing. It mirrors some of the lessons that I have recently learnt in the teaching certificate program at Northwestern–the life skills and lessons are the big point of education, and the content of the classes are a conduit to teach these skills.

    I wonder why people can be such quitters in some area and think that they are still successful…

  40. Jessica says:

    I shared this yesterday with my middle school students (7th and 8th graders). I told them that this letter from you is exactly what I’ve been trying to vocalize to them but didn’t know how to put it into words. After reading this letter to each of my four classes, I noticed an immediate difference! I got a hug from a student who seldom spoke to me, in another class I started crying towards the end of reading the letter and the kids came and gave me hugs and said how much they like me. Finally, I had one student who said she didn’t want to leave my class to go to another teacher because she didn’t want to leave me. Honestly, my kids are now aware that I sincerely care about them as a person and that I have their back. This letter is so on point and right on time. Thank you so much for making it public. You have made a significant difference in my life and the lives of each of my 117 kids! Stay Committed 😀

    1. Sharon says:

      I also shared it with my middle school students today. It was hard to read out loud, but I felt that at least some of the kids I have been having a hard time with needed to hear it. Thanks for articulating what we all feel.

  41. Leen 7E says:

    OMG! wow i loved this ! this is so true !:D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s