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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why I'm a Jerk

I've tried to deny it for years, but I guess it is time for me to admit it: I can be a bit of a jerk. I do a lot of jerky things, and my face just naturally looks angry. I tell my students when they aren't doing what they need to be doing. I let them know when they are screwing up, and I let them know what they need to do to stop screwing up. When my students fail to put forth their full effort, I call them out on it, and I assess their work accordingly. To many, this seems like some real jerk behavior. Maybe they are right, but I am not going to change. I'm not going to change because my job is to prepare my students for the real world, and the real world is a jerk. The real world will let you know that you are screwing up in a far harsher way than a stern lecture and a low grade on an assignment.

My students need to be prepared to go to college, the military, or the workforce and bring their best effort every day, even if they are tired, even if they have big plans for the weekend, even if they broke up with their boyfriend/girlfriend, even if they just don't feel good or are having a bad day. The real world is going to expect my students to be responsible, driven, and dependable, so I expect the same thing. That is the only way I can feel like I am doing for them what I am called to do. Is it what they want me to do? In many cases, maybe even most cases, the answer is no. They do not want me to push them, to hold them accountable, to have high expectations, but I will say this: I have never had a former student tell me that I did not do enough to prepare them for life after graduation. My class is hard. It is supposed to be. If a student passes my class, they should know that they accomplished something meaningful. A passing grade in my class is not a participation ribbon; it is medal that was earned through hard work and determination. That is the way it is supposed to be. No one has ever learned anything they did not have to work for. Period. So, I make my students work.

A couple of days ago, I posed a simple question to my students: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? As often happens, one of my students turned the question on me. I will share the answer here for everyone who was not in that class on that day because it may give a little more insight into why I'm a jerk. I told the class that when it comes to my students, I am an optimist. I expect the best from them. I expect that every student in my class wants to be successful, wants to learn. I go into every class period with the expectation that my students are going to give me their best shot until the bell rings. I give every assignment with the expectation that my students are going to use it as an opportunity to push their performance level up one more notch. If I were a pessimist, any failure to meet those expectations wouldn't bother me because it would just confirm my low expectations, but that is not the case. When students sit in my class and do nothing, it bothers me. When students blow off my assignments, it really bothers me. These things bother me because they let me down. I have such high hopes for my students that when they let me down, I feel it. When they let me down, I let them know because wherever they end up after graduation, their boss, commander, professor, etc., will certainly let them know when they fail to meet expectations, and in the real world, the stakes are much higher than they are in high school.

Coaches will often discuss players by breaking them down into two skill sets. One skill set is tangible. Does the player have solid fundamentals? Do they understand the game? The other skill set is intangible. You can't measure it. How does the player respond to being coached? Are they mentally tough? How do they handle adversity? The first set of skills are less important in many player evaluations than the second because the first set of skills can be taught if the second set of skills are solid. Life is the same way. Successful people have the second set of skills. They are able to take negative feedback and learn from it. They are mentally tough enough to see it as an opportunity to get better. When they get knocked down, they look at the damage, learn from it, and move on with a determination to not get knocked down again. If a person can do that, they can learn just about anything. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. It is the case in sports, as it is in life.

If I weren't a jerk, my students wouldn't learn. If I accepted sub par work, what would drive my students to try harder the next time? The answer is nothing. If I give a student an A for something that is a C at best, will they ever actually produce something worthy of an A? Why would they? I would be leading them to believe that what they are doing is already outstanding. As far as they would be concerned, they do not need to improve; they are already at the top. If I made a student feel like not doing an assignment for my class is acceptable, what motivation do they have to turn in the next assignment. We all want to believe that getting gold star stickers for everything we do is going to make us feel so good about ourselves that we will naturally get better, but that is only partially true. While we will feel good about ourselves, we will never get better. We get better by competing, especially against ourselves. We get better by constantly striving to outdo our last effort. Without honest feedback of our shortcomings, how can we grow?

So, yes, I'm a jerk, but I'm not a jerk out of malice. I'm a jerk because I care more about my students and their future than the vast majority of them will ever understand. I'm a jerk because I want to see them be successful in life, and I know that they are going to have to work hard to do that. I'm a jerk because I would rather them get a little scuffed up within the protection of our high school surrounded by people who are there to pick them up, dust them off, and help them learn to get better than out in the real world where they will be stepped on by the next person waiting to take their position. I'm hard on my students because I know that what comes next will be even harder, and I can't look myself in the mirror if I'm not doing everything in my power to make sure they are ready for it.

50 comments:

  1. I am personally so glad that you push all of your students to do the best they can. It is so inspiring and motivating to know that there is someone always on our side wanting us to do well in our life.

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  2. Sometimes being a jerk is the right thing to do. A lot of students during your class just think you're being rough on them for no reason, I really think this blog would be a good thing to show your students. I just want to say thank you for making passing your class actually mean something, and giving me a chance to.
    Murray - 3rd Hour

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  3. You push us to get ready for the real world. Most of us, sadly, don't want to do that. anyway, I just want to personally thank you for pushing me to get a passing grade, well, barely passing...you had faith in me, thanks Mr. Ogle.
    -Ally Jones

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  4. I have personally never had you in class yet, but I will next year for my Senior year. I am very appreciative that you do help students and push them because some don't as much as it is needed. Although, I've only heard good things about your class and look forward to it!
    - Baylee Delashmit

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  5. More students need to realize that you're doing all of this because you care. There are teachers who don't care whether or not you pass they're just there to teach the material, and then there are the teachers like you who actually care about us and whether we do well in life.

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  6. You push us to do our best no matter what else we have going on. You're helping to prepare us for the real world and you're showing us how we need to act in order to succeed in life. I'm so grateful for that.

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  7. This is my favorite blog of all time that you have ever written. I see people complaining all the time about all the work you give, when in reality you are just doing your job. Not only are you doing your job, but you are going above and beyond by actually caring and pushing us to do our best. You go the extra mile to actually tell us when we are doing something wrong by lecturing us when most other teachers would just let the other students fail. You're teaching your curriculum and also what to expect when we go out into the "real world." Most people may see you as a jerk, but I see you as a reflection of what a teacher should be.
    - Chelsea Allen-LaBaume 2nd hour

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  8. You may say you feel like you are being a jerk but when it comes down to it you're actually just doing your job. Many students just don't understand that and I feel sorry for them because the next level after high school is truly going to be hell for them. At times I am annoyed by being pushed but when I end up doing my part and my job and getting an assignment done I feel awesome! I never ever feel very accomplished doing work in some other classes but in this class finishing my assignments I feel like I did something meaningful. I'm honestly glad I took this class because it has taught me that at times I must push myself and set my priorities. Thank you for being a "jerk"

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  9. I really like this blog post Mr. Ogle.

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  10. I agree with Chelsea that this is my favorite blog that you have posted. I love actually having a class that pushes me and just isn't a fly-by easy class. A lot of my classes are fairly easy for me and I don't have to try very hard, but with your class I do have to put in that extra effort. I think a lot of students don't want to make that extra effort and just want to breeze by and get a good grade, even though they aren't doing the work. I wish kids would appreciate you pushing us to do our best more often, but thank you for always believing in me and always pushing me to do my best.

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  11. Gillian LittletonMay 22, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    Personally, you are the best teacher I have ever had! I have only had you for a year but you are an awesome teacher. You have not only taught me grammar in English but you have also taught me some really great life lessons. I like that you are hard on us because it shows how much you really and truly care for your students. The students who say bad things about you and say that your a horrible teacher are the students that don't pay attention in class because they think its hard and yes your class is hard, but your class has helped me with my life in the future. You are a inspirational teacher and I really do appreciate all that you do for your students.

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  12. I have really enjoyed this year and with you helping me bring my grade up in your class is really helpful and i like having you as a teacher.

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  13. I think next year i am going to be more prepared for all of my classes next year as a sophomore. have a great summer Mr. Ogle.

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  14. Mr. Ogle, I don't think that you are a jerk at all. I really appreciate all of the feedback you have given me on my work. I like your "different way" of teaching because you give good criticism. You actually make me want to do better in school because I know I have someone that cares and that is pushing me, rather than some teachers who say, "try better next time" or give you a soft pat on the shoulder and say, "it's okay sweetie," because I know people are going to walk all over you in the real world and I need to be prepared for that.

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  15. I don't think you're a jerk at all. What's so terrible about wanting your students to achieve their goals and pass their classes? Nothing. Majority of students are used to having their parents and other teachers give them everything. They aren't used to having to work for their own stuff. But that is how you teach your class; if your students put in the effort they will pass your class but you won't just hand them every thing they need. I think that's why I have always enjoyed your class. You teach us what the real world is like outside of this school instead of giving us everything.
    -Samantha Moore 8th Hour

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  16. I think that if a teacher acts like a "jerk" all of the time, they seem to be able to have more control over their students behavior. They are the teacher that seem to have the most successful students. If teachers act soft all of the time, students tend to think that they can get away with almost anything. The real issue is the students who do not respect those nice innocent teachers because they need to learn that they are a still their teacher. If i were teacher, i would be a jerk too just to make sure that my students listen to me.
    -Dawson Myers

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  17. I think if you act more angry or aggressive and to push your students to try their hardest that maybe you will see a change in their grades. My father is harder on me which pushes me to try my hardest in school and actuallly it really could help students. Usually the nicer of a teacher you are the more you will be walked all over, true fact. -Cheylynn Ford 3rd hour

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  18. I have noticed when a teacher is mean and angry all of the time I seem to do my work more. the only problem with that would have to be how much i hated their classes. you are not a jerk! you are probably one of the teachers that actually put effort into their students! I appreciate having you as a teacher!

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  19. I think this resembles an act of tough-love. You care about your students and want them to do what they are capable of doing. As a teacher it must be frustrating when students are highly intelligent and able to do good work but are just too lazy to do so. I think it is good that you push us as students because it is just getting us ready for college and the world around us. I think you are a great teacher that just wants the best from us as students.
    -Lydia Switzer 1st hour

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  20. I really have learned to respect you as not only an instructor but as person because of how straight up and honest you are. I like that in any leader primarily because I think it is the right way to be and I see it as an act of respect, although it can get you in trouble sometimes, it will take you a long way. Thank you Mr. Ogle for doing the right thing and treating us with respect.

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  21. Kinda like Logan said, the reason you are one of my favorite classes to go to every day is because of how honest you are with everybody. It definitely makes me respect you a lot not only as a teacher, but as a person. Being a "Jerk" isn't always that bad, you have to be somewhat to the point to a student to show that you care about them and want them to do the best work that they can.
    - Blake German, 5th Hour

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  22. This really shows how much as a teacher you care, most would be that's fine if you do not care neither do I. But you are the very exception that makes some teachers great.

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  23. Showing students the consequences, even in just a bad grade with a slight disappointment, and call out, is not being a jerk in my personal opinion. It is, like you said, expressing your disappointment, and noting that the consequences will be much more severe for not taking care of what's expected, because you care.

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  24. I wish more people in this world were jerks!! Sugar coating is what a lot of our society has come to!! At 16, I watch the news and read the newspaper and more and of the time crimes are committed and the penalty does not fit the crime. If those people had more jerks in their life maybe they would not behave the way that they do!! Teachers being jerks, that is a great thing. Hey, what about more parents being jerks, that would be even better.

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  25. Teachers have there own ways of showing a student how to get a job done. Just like a coach in a sport knows how to show a player how to get there opponent into the dirt. We do that everyday, everyones a jerk in there own little ways some people just dont show it as much as others do. Keep on keeping on Mr.Ogle its working out great.
    Josh Seibert 6th hour

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  26. your not a jerk students need to realize the only reason you do that is because you want us to pass you want us to do good in the real world and people just need to realize it isn't your job to sit around and let students fail you are trying to help them succeed in life-matthew walker

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  27. First off, I have had you for officially a whole semester and you never came off as a jerk to me. Yeah, you have your own opinions, but who doesn't? You help educate us. Just because your class is not some blow off class and it makes students mad, does not suddenly make you a jerk. You're really good teacher and I enjoy being in your class.

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  28. This is my second year having you and you are definitely not a jerk. You expect work to be done because you care about us and want us to do well in your classes. Kids think that you are jerk because they do not want to do their work and you get on them for it because you care and do not wants us to fail. I think that you are a really good teacher no matter what anyone else says.

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  29. I do not think you are a jerk at all. I have known you since seventh grade and you have always challenged me, as a coach and a teacher. Yeah, you are tough on people but it helps us become better people.
    Colton Dosch

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  30. You aren't a jerk. You simply prepare us as students to go out into the world and hopefully be successful. In the real world nothing will be handed to us and everything that you get you have to earn. I enjoy your class because it helps me be a better student. The expectations that you have in class are what many future employers will have of us.

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  31. I'm sure that many teachers feel like they are jerks to their students, but I dont think you are. You just want students to succeed and sometimes that means being harder on certain students.
    Jackson Feltt-6th hour

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  32. I don't really see how your a jerk. Honestly I've never even seen you be rude to a student before even if their being rude to you. There's a difference between being a jerk and just trying to keep students in line.

    -Thomas Rozman

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  33. I will admit I am not your best student I am probably one of your worst students, but in all reality your one of my favorite teachers. Yes something are difficult, but i am so glad that you have pushed to be a better student. Your class has definitely opened my eyes to what I will be facing in college next semester

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  34. I can correlate with "Big A" in terms of my success in your class or just work effort given, however it is still my favorite class to go into everyday because I like how you have the guts to tell someone when they're sucking and are also nice enough to tell them when they are excelling. -Logan Cash 5th hour

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  35. I don't see you much as a jerk. Being one that isn't doing the best in your class I understand where you are coming from and I'm sorry that its kind of annoying to have students not trying. You are just pushing them so they can hopefully do their best

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  36. Your not a jerk. You just care for other students grades and not to fail high school or drop out. Sometime students need a little bit of a push or encouragement for they don't fail.
    Alexis Miller

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  37. its how you look at it ya maybe you come off as a jerk but that's only because you want kids to try and if your nice they will treat you like a push over so sometimes you have to play the jerk .

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  38. Honestly, you do not come off as a jerk. I respect the idea of you wanting your students to do their work and achieve some success. I would get upset too if I had half of a class to not do an assignment. Thank you for showing us that you care about our grades and our future, and thank you for pushing us to get what we deserve.

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  39. I dont see it as your coming off as a jerk I see it as you are trying to benefit us by pushing us harder to succeed and make something out of ourselves because if you didnt do it then no one probably would.

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  40. I think this is completely true. I don't really think you're a jerk, you never have been towards me, but I guess I could see how others think you are. However, they only think you are a jerk because they don't want to put forth the effort to pass your class or to do their assignments. As most students are, they just think you are doing it because you "hate" them or "have something out" for them. I think the way you do things is a great way to prepare us for the future, especially for those who are graduating this year.
    - Lindsey Pitts, 6th Hour

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  41. You're not a jerk, you're a great teacher. Anyone who denies that could not be more ignorant because whoever they are, they likely haven't paid attention to what you were trying to explain. As an aspiring military member I would want my commander in tip top shape and expecting me to do better than I thought I could do myself. Just like this past week, I never understood how to diagram and sentence and you taught me how to do it relatively well in two days. You taught me to exceed expectations and to do the best I can. There's no such thing as a better teacher than that.
    Henry Arp, 7th hour

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  42. I want to thank you for not only teaching me good English but also you taught me life skills that will contribute to my success as an adult. Some teachers will pass anyone without any work but nothing is learned in that situation, like you have already stated. So in conclusion thank you for being a great life coach to us. -Mike Whitacre

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  43. I don't understand why a student would ever call you a jerk. You aren't mean. I see you as a comedian that knows when it's time to laugh and time to work. I am sometimes one of the most laziest students you've probably ever taught. It's not that i don't pay attention. I do all my work most of the time. I just procrastinate and it's something I really need to work on. But I know that when I actually do my work I tend to get good grades and it makes me feel good about myself and I'd have to thank you for that.

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  44. Thank you for being this kind of teacher. I need someone like you while growing up to be rough sometimes because I know life won't be easy and great when I get older. Thank gosh you aren't one of those teachers that acts like everything is peaches and cream, because it's not and life or the work force never will be.

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  45. Thank you for being this kind of teacher. I need someone like you while growing up to be rough sometimes because I know life won't be easy and great when I get older. Thank gosh you aren't one of those teachers that acts like everything is peaches and cream, because it's not and life or the work force never will be.

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  46. you may be alot of things, but never have i thought of you are a jerk. no, i think of you as a amaing teacher that does his best ot make everyone around him think i thing of you are a dad how try to make his kids the best they can be, even if you think they are already perfect. like i said in my poem, no body is perfect. but you try and try to make them see the things they can improve on to make them evern more of a perfect person they already are. and if you are a jerk, then thank you for being the most awesome and amazing jerk of a teacher out there :)

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  47. I personally do not think you are a jerk. You push everyone to be their best! You told us at the beginning of the year that if we put in "a McDonald's effort" we will be successful in your class. It is sad to see how many people even in my class cannot even give that. I do not think you are a jerk because you are just trying to get them to finish things in your class. People who can;t even finish an assignment when they are given weeks to do it sometimes, are going to have a hard time in the real world.
    Brenna Aitken 5th hour

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  48. I have heard people say that you are a hard teacher, but not a jerk. You only push us to do our best. Yes, and some of use are slow or should I say less receptive. Keep pushing it will only make me better. Thanks for all you do.

    Austin Fullerton 2nd Hour

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