Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Meant for the Middle

I am awkwardly comfortable. I make mistakes, I fail. I am picked up by others and I pick myself up. I am always learning. I yearn for more. I have a drive to dive deeper, not always wider. Sometimes I am lost. I embrace others helping me find my way. I listen.

I am meant for the middle.

Middle school teachers and administrators are a unique type of educator. We are quirky. At times we struggle with balance. We do as our students do. We strive to do right. We apply common sense when tempted by impulse. We offer control when others are lost.

I am meant for the middle. 

As we head into another season of instruction I would ask you one simple question. Have you found what you are meant for? If not, what will it take to get there? And, are you willing to get there?

As I have found my way to the middle, I would encourage you to think about where you are. While you reflect on that, check out these middle level traits I have found over the past nine years of my own middle level journey. As always, you are encouraged to add your own thoughts below. 
  • In the middle we must acknowledge we are awkward. The sooner we do, the better off we are. My parents and students at my middle school are often taken aback when this is one of the first disclaimers I make at back-to-school orientation. They are extremely glad that I do share this. It takes the "elephant out of the room" right out of the gate. Let's face it, we are awkward in every sense of the word.
  • Embrace what we don't know. And, there is plenty of that to go around. As we begin with rules and expectations, keep in mind that this is a new beginning academically, socially and emotionally. So much is happening our young lives we must grab on to the notion that there is so much to learn in all aspects. Keep relationships in the forefront and you are sure to have an amazing journey of learning.
  • We need guidance and direction. Life experiences are few. They are happening at each turn. Our job as the grown-ups around them is to model the right things. If we step out of line, put us back. If we fall, pick us up. Our actions and behaviors will set the tone for years to come. Be the best example possible.
  • Connect with your community of parents and support them.  Our middle level parents need reassured, supported and verified just as the students do. When at a school event or cars streaming into the parking lot before or after school, being seen is just the beginning. Engage and converse. Know your parents as well as you know their children. You'll see the impact immediately. Guaranteed.
  • Learning. Always. Academics are just the surface. Social interactions, relationships, maturity and overall emotional levels are all over the board. Our role is to be the steady. Be the constant. Model your own learning and you will see them respond in a way that shows in the classroom.
  • We need to fail. We need to be corrected. This makes us a better us. Whether with a strong voice or a conversation of "next time", we can't buffer the inevitable. We will all fail at something. Instead of always providing a soft landing, let it hurt once in a while. You'll know when. And, after the thud, carefully and strategically pick them up. Learn each moment of the way.
You know your calling. When you chose to become an educator you did so with purpose. Whether in your first year of teaching or your 30th, stay true to your purpose. Make sure you know your "why" and always be the student and the teacher. Learn, grow, repeat.