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.

Me from 2002

Mr. 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 hate 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 my 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 don’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 start 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 they 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 notes 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 the 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!

What 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.

This 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 period 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 because 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 we 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 system 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 teachers were like you in this school. Maybe I would love learning again.

Sincerely,

Me From 2002

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