Monday, May 12, 2014

I Was Asked to Speak at a Prom Banquet...and I Addressed Plagiarism. Yup.

Alright, before I go too far with my post, I want to first point out that some excerpts have been used from Chase Mielke's post entitled, "What Students Really Need to Hear". Go check it out here. I will reiterate the places I have used from Mielke's post to supplement the speech I had already prepared. I in no way intend to infringe upon any copyrights, so Mielke's copyright statement is posted here too:

"(C) Chase Mielke and AffectiveLiving, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chase Mielke and AffectiveLiving with appropriate and specific direction to the original content."

I have posted links to Mielke's blog AffectiveLiving so that all credit for his work is given to the owner.

Alright, let's get started. I was asked by some of the junior girls if I would speak at their Prom Banquet. Until I started teaching here, I had never heard of a Prom Banquet...we never had those! But I do love the idea. The entire junior and senior classes are invited to a nice meal--one of their last together as high school students. At the banquet, the junior and senior class presidents give a little speech and they always ask a faculty member to speak too.

When they asked me, I was honored to speak to them. And then I got nervous. "What in the world am I going to talk about?" I worried. Then I thought of all of the things I really wanted to say to my students. Why I worried about them. Why I think they can be better human beings. Why I think we all can be better human beings and what that would look like. But what happened is, I started writing down my thoughts and then I saw Mielke's post and his copyright notice. "Aha! I'll use excerpts to reiterate my points and then give Mielke due credit as per his copyright."  So here we go!

My speech went something like this:

What if I told you I really wanted to copy a “Letter to Students” and pass it off as my own? You can seriously answer that. What do we call that in class? Right, it’s plagiarism.

There are a few things you would probably think about me. First, you might think “Mrs. Entzel procrastinated and didn’t have time to write a speech for our banquet.” Not true.  And then that could lead into, “Mrs. Entzel was lazy and didn’t write a speech, so she just took someone else’s.” Again, not true. But then you might think, “She really doesn’t like us, so she just found something that’s already done so she wouldn’t have to put much effort into it.” For the third time, not true. At all.

In reality, when I read Chase Mielke’s post entitled “What Students Really Need to Hear” on his blog AffectiveLiving, I thought-- “That’s perfect! I feel the same way about my students!”

You might not believe me, but it’s the truth. Just listen to a few paragraphs he wrote and I’ll try to convince you.

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.

Okay, now before you all start laughing at me...give me a chance to explain. The words this guy has written are true! The thing about school is that the most important thing is NOT the academics. Okay, those of you who disagree with me, hear me out! The academic aspect of school IS important, but it’s not the MOST important part. You do need to know how to communicate to others. You do need to know how to add and subtract so you can balance your checkbook. You need to know how to present yourselves appropriately online. You do learn important things here at school.

But the most important thing to learn before you graduate is how to be a decent human being. When I read the words, “I lose sleep because of you,” I meant it. Seniors--if you make it to graduation and I have the nagging feeling in my mind that you won’t be successful, I will feel like a failure.

Juniors--if you don’t take advantage of next year and be the best human being ever, if you don’t learn how to take criticism, how to put up with something--or someone you reeealllyy don't like, if you don’t learn how to communicate your ideas--I will feel like a failure.

Okay Seniors--I can officially say this now. You are my first ever group of seniors that I’ve had the privilege--sometimes a frustrating privilege--of teaching for your last year of high school. Remember that day when I came in and we talked about the poem “Barbie Doll”? I remember walking into the English classroom, absolutely terrified. What if I failed? What if I taught you the lesson and in the middle of it--someone started throwing things at me? I had no idea what to expect. Do you know what I remember? I remember students who were helping me to succeed. Seniors--you’re almost done with your High School career! Congratulations!

Juniors--it’s your turn. Remember when we went to “The Great Gatsby” last year? I do. We were all so excited--I couldn’t wait to take a group of mature sophomores to a movie. I thought it was going to be a blast. I guess I was wrong, huh?  Do you remember when I said that I’d never take you to another movie during your high school career? Don’t worry, I’m sticking to that promise. Even though we won’t go to another movie, I am happy to see how everyone has changed this year. Everyone has had the opportunity to mature and grow up this year. Some of us have taken advantage of that, some of us haven’t. You know which group you fall into.

But what I’ve come to realize is that as tough as life can be, I don’t ever want any of you to feel that quitting is an option. Sometimes we don’t realize that quitting looks different to everyone. In Chase Mielke’s post, he outlines different scenarios for quitting. He says the real reasons for losing sleep are these:

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…

Some of you quit by skipping class on your free education….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...the main event is learning how to problem solve maturely.

...some of you quit by not choosing to take opportunities to work harder and pass a class, no matter how far down you are...the main event is pulling your crap together and making hard choices and sacrifices when things seem impossible.

...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.

Chase Mielke has found many challenges for students and teachers alike. As much as I wanted to not include any information in this speech that was not my own, I found his words inspiring. I found his words challenging. And if I could find these words inspiring, I wanted to share them with you. I know that we all have urges to quit. We want to give up on a task, we reeeeaaallllyyy don’t want to go to work, we don’t want to put forth extra effort just because. But what would happen if we ALL chose to not quit? What if we all chose to write one extra sentence to explain ourselves? What if we all chose to be extra respectful to others we see every day? What if we all chose to be present, both physically and mentally, every day? I can only dream about what our school would look like and how others would view Fisher Public Schools.

Mielke's message isn’t just for students--it’s for humans. My challenge for you is to not quit. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Try to be the best human being you can be. In the end, it really doesn’t matter which formulas you remembered for your chapter 12 test, or if you know what a dangling modifier is. If, at the end of your high school career, you can go off into college or the work force as a successful human being, we (your teachers) will have succeeded as well.

I left my students with one final thought. I directed one student at each table to hold up a copy of a book and show it to everyone else.

And then we read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" I hope they realize how much I do care about them and I do hope they succeed.

Students, if you're reading this--remember that your teachers are always here for you!

Go check out Chase Mielke's blog AffectiveLiving and see what he's all about!


  1. This is all so true! I didn't really think teaching would be this emotionally invested when I started out!

    1. I agree. It's a crazy ride and I do think about their successes & failures.


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