Talking with teachers: Mr. Neal

Mr. Neal provides advice for high school students.


Ben Neal, Staff Advisor

I think I have become that old man who says things like, “Teenagers aren’t what they used to be. When I was a teen, I walked up hill to school – both there and back.” Or –  “These teens just do not know how to work.” Yes, I have officially arrived at old grumpy man status, and since we old grumpy men have earned the right to whine and complain about teens – and since I am the adviser for the Northern Light- I will take this opportunity to vent, whine, complain, or in the perfect world where I live, provide some academic advice.

1 – Show up         

If you can’t be disciplined enough to have a solid attendance, grow up and realize school is more important than your minor pains, tiredness, “sicknesses,” or whatever other soft excuses you use to stay home and sleep or play more Xbox or PS3. Also, if your mommy or daddy is enabling you with their support or lack of fight when you want to stay home, it’s time for you to be the more mature person in the house. Get up and get to school. Furthermore, the sooner you act like a big boy or big girl and do what you need to do instead of what you want to do, life will be much easier, and more importantly, much more successful.

2 – Do more than show up

A huge portion of students here at Portage Northern have this notion that showing up is good enough. They think that as long as they don’t cause a disruption and merely turn in their work on time, they are some stellar student. Whatever. Instead, try participating. Try asking questions. Try thinking beyond regurgitating exactly what some other student or a teacher said a day earlier. Try real engagement. Try to focus longer than a minute or two. Try doing more than just “gettin’ it done.” Try pushing yourself. Try taking total responsibility for your education. Try being remembered each and everyday for your engaged behavior and conduct. Step up your academic behaviors; this is your school, your diploma, your opportunity, your high school experience.

3 – Separate your image from your academic success

In one of my classes, I have this wanna-be gangsta acting, 2 Chains quoting, Dr. Dre Beats wearing, sagging pants looking, “I’m a boss” portraying student who kills the English content. He does his image thing and still brings the A game to each class, each book, and each assignment. That’s a real G. He gets it, but many don’t. So, wanna look and act like a G, go ahead, but be a great student, too. Wanna go with the dark-spirited, used-to-be emo, wearing black everything kid? Cool. Just take care of school work too. Wanna rep the “I’m the next greatest athlete, Nike sponsored, on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine all american,” good luck. Just put in work in the classroom while talking about your mad game! Get the idea – be who you wanna be, but make the school work priority one.

4 – Stop Blaming

Sure, the teacher lost your paper or assignment despite the fact that it’s your 18th assignment missing or in question just this marking period. We get it – the teacher doesn’t like you and that’s why you’re failing. Or – it is mom or dad’s fault that you’re late because they didn’t leave earlier enough even though they were sitting in the car warming it up for you so you don’t have to ride the bus. And of course it’s okay to miss a deadline because you had a game in Battle Creek last night; how dare the teachers ask you to complete an assignment on a game night. Come on, Huskies, on one hand, you complain we don’t treat you like adults, but on the other hand, you blame everyone but yourselves. Furthermore, it seems you all claim any success you have as a student, but when you fail, it’s someone else’s fault? Come on, people, it’s on you now.

I love my Huskie home, I love my Huskies, and as one of the fine staff members here, I just want all of you to reach your potential and achieve excellence. So I’m sorry if I sound a little bitter, but you must know that when I was a teen, I, of course, never missed a day of school, I gave everything I had on every assignment, I was able to wear my parachute pants while still being on the honor roll, and I never blamed my mommy or daddy.