What Students Really Need to Hear



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English III Name _______________________________________ Period _____________

What Students Really Need to Hear

1It’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.

5This 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?



10Here’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.

15The 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 20after 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 25of 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 30challenged — 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.

35For 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 judgment 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 are worthy. The main event is 40pulling 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 45enough 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 — 50to 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



DIRECTIONS: On a separate sheet of paper, answer the following questions.
Part 1: Central Argument and Analysis

In one to two sentences, state the central argument made by C. Mielke. Then write an analysis (one to two paragraphs) in which you provide at least two pieces of relevant textual evidence from the text that supports the central argument.



Part 2: Draw Inferences from Text

What can you infer about the teacher’s view of his students? Support your answer with textual evidence.


Part 3: Analysis of Key Detail

In lines 19-20, Mielke states, “It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life after school.” In one to two paragraphs explain what he means, and analyze how this phrase emphasizes the teacher’s central argument.


Part 4: Evaluate

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the author’s central argument? Cite specific textual evidence to support your answer.


__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What Teachers Really Need to Hear
If you’re like me, the article “What Students Really Need To Hear” has come across your Twitter or Facebook feed. While I read it and enjoyed it, someone I know hated it. That someone would like a word with you, C. Mielke. Me from 2002.
1Mr. Mielke:

You don’t know me, but, judging from your article, I’m pretty sure I am your worst nightmare. I am a male. I am a minority, and I come from a broken home where neither of my parents went to college. In fact, they both barely graduated high school, so needless to say: we don’t have a lot of money. Life is tough. Oh, I also 5hate school. I only come to play sports.

You seem like a great guy, Mr. Mielke. I wish all my teachers cared as much as you. The fact is, most don’t. They just want to collect their paycheck. Some are so weak they let me and my classmates run the show – being big and brown and having a mean stare is enough to get most of my teachers to leave me alone – and others don’t understand why I rather put my head down, listen to my Ipod, or talk with my friends than do 10my sixth ditto of the day… why are they called dittos anyway?

I didn’t always hate school, I learned to hate school. The fact is, Mr. Mielke, I go to a school where many of the teachers aren’t good. You see, teaching is the most important job in the world and if you are bad at it, you can really hurt us kids. Don’t get me wrong, my teachers weren’t bad people, but not one taught with any passion. If my teachers don’t teach with passion, how do they expect me to learn with passion? If they 15don’t love teaching, how can I love learning?

I had to be at my bus stop at 6:15 this morning. I went to bed at midnight last night. So, I’m tired and my teachers are boring, why are you surprised that my head is down or I skip the occasional class? I mean, why do they have to start school so early when so many studies say us high school kids needs more sleep? It’s funny, Mr. Mielke, I might be seventeen, but I solved this problem already: if they would just flip the 20start times of elementary and high school I would be so much happier. I mean, my little sister has been up since 5 watching cartoons. Make her go to school early! I told a teacher about my solution once, she said she would put it in her circular file… I don’t know what that means.

Anyway, I guess my head being down looks like quitting to you, but I came to school didn’t I? Here I am! Teach me! What do my teachers have planned for me today? Is it something I want to learn or something 25they want me to learn? Something “I’ll need to know in the real-world” like Trigonometry because I can guarantee you I’ll never need to use it. Why do teachers get so mad when I ask, why do I need to know this? It seems like a really important question.

Are they teaching facts, today? Do I have to take notes? I hope not, since anything I need to know I can just look up on the computer when I need to know it. Thanks, Google! This is good because I’ll just lose the 30notes anyway. No one taught me how to be organized. Trigonometry, yes. Organization, no. No one ever taught me how to take notes either, now that I think about it…

Is it a test? I hope we don’t have a test today! I didn’t study; no one taught me that either. If there is a test today, I’ll probably just cheat on it since the system values grades more than learning. I’ve had to get really good at cheating since school punishes me for not learning something right the first time. Hey, the stuff on 35the test won’t be on the final will it? I forget everything right after I learn it, since it doesn’t matter to me.

I hope my teachers aren’t doing that thing where they give an example once on the board and then tell us to try it while they work their way around the room helping us. My classes are so big, my teachers never seem to make it to me to see if I need help, and I can’t raise my hand to ask for help, Mr. Mielke, I have a reputation to protect!

40What about homework? Do we have homework tonight, even though studies show homework does very little to help me learn? I hope not because my last seven teachers gave me homework, too. I also have three tests tomorrow. I have wrestling after school, and I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done tonight. I mean, I have to make dinner for me and my sister; my mom is working until 9 again. Grilled Cheese is on the menu.

45This all must sound like excuses or quitting to you, Mr. Mielke. and that’s what makes me most angry about what you said. Mr. Mielke, you questioned my toughness; my GRIT!

I am the toughest kid you’ll ever meet, Mr. Mielke. This year, I got a 1250 on my SATs and led the team in tackles. How many kids you teach can say that? The problem is your definition of toughness and my definition of toughness are very different. You must have not heard, I dislocated my finger in the second 50period of last nights wrestling match. My team needed me to win, so the trainer popped it back in, buddy-taped it, and I won the match at the buzzer with a sick blast-double! I was a hero! But, no I don’t have this super-power-GRIT to shut up, sit in my seat, and finish some long, boring assignment or standardized test that my teachers give me. I do have the GRIT to not smoke the pot I was offered at Saturday’s party, though, because I’m trying to be the first person in my family to go to college. Not 55because I want to, but because I was told I have to.

No! You know what: I question my teachers GRIT, Mr. Mielke! Why can’t teachers have the GRIT to stand up to the politicians that have no business making decisions about what I need to know. They don’t know me, you do! Why can’t teachers have the GRIT to close the learning gap between white kids and minority kids like me? Why can’t teachers have the GRIT to call for year-round schooling when you know it’s what 60we need! Why can’t my teachers have the GRIT to teach against the test and the textbook? Most importantly, why can’t my teachers have the GRIT to create an engaging, relevant curriculum where I’m actively learning what I want to learn how I want to learn it? Why, Mr. Mielke? “No more excuses. No more justifications. No blaming. No quitting. “ Teachers need to man up and grow some balls!

Here’s the thing, Mr. Mielke. You’re blaming the victim: the student. There’s a problem with the education 65system and no amount of student-GRIT is going to change that. You’ve taken the first step, though Mr. Mielke. You care about me. I’ll never tell you, but that means a lot to me. That is enough to get me to meet you halfway, Mr. Mielke, and that is the most you can hope for from a reluctant learner like me. But don’t blame me. Fix the system.

Anyway, this might have sounded mean or negative, Mr. Mielke, but know I appreciate you. I wish more 70teachers were like you in this school. Maybe I would love learning again.

Sincerely,

Me From 2002 (Chris Aviles)

DIRECTIONS: On a separate sheet of paper, answer the following questions.
Part 5: Central Argument and Analysis

In one to two sentences, state the central argument made by Aviles. Then write an analysis (one to two paragraphs) in which you provide at least two pieces of relevant textual evidence from the text that supports the central argument.


Part 6: Draw Inferences from Text

What can you infer about the author’s view of his teachers? Support your answer with textual evidence.


Part 7: Analysis of Key Detail

In line 11, Aviles states, “I didn’t always hate school, I learned to hate school.” In one to two paragraphs explain what he means, and analyze how this phrase emphasizes the student’s central argument.


Part 8: Evaluate

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the author’s central argument?


Part 9: Write a Letter

Which letter do you disagree with most? Write a rebuttal letter to the author and cite specific textual evidence to support your response.

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