The Letter R: Final Thoughts

Get Ready for the Next Letter!

By: Dru Tomlin


Before I bid adieu to the letter R, I know that I’ve failed with this first list of words. But I’m all right with that. As an educator who believes that knowledge is constructed and created by dialogue with others, I think we should all be wary of lists. By design, any list written by any one person ultimately collapses and disappoints—because (1) no one person can create a definitive list, (2) there is no such thing as a definitive list, and (3) lists especially those about middle level educationtry to quantify and segment something that is boundless and infinite. I know there were a lot of R words that I left out. There were other perspectives I didn’t consider. There were other directions I could have gone. In other words, if you were disappointed and unfulfilled by this list of R words, I get it. And you’re welcome. Honestly, all of this wasn’t meant to satiate and satisfy your every cognitive nook and cranny; rather, it was meant to create a thirst for more and to stir up the mental embers, so you can ignite passion and joy for middle level education. It’s like Yeats said: “Education is not the filling of a bucket. It is the lighting of a fire.” And that’s what we’re supposed to do for the students we serve, right?

With all of that said, here are some other R words related to middle level education (with micro-musings) that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention before we move on to the next critical letter:

  • Reflect: we’ve got to give our students and ourselves time to think deeply/differently/divergently about experiences with teaching and learning if we want to be fully engaged in the process (not just the products) of education.
  • Remind: because young adolescents’ brains are changing rapidly and their organizational tendencies tend to be inconsistent, guess what? They need reminders—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, artful, often.
  • Rewind, Remember, Return: as you serve your students, think about who you were as a young adolescent. As difficult as it may be, find your middle school pictures and never forget. 
  • Race: in the middle grades, students become more aware, more interested, more concerned, etc., about ethnicity and race. We must provide space for open and honest conversations about race if we want to support our students, ourselves, our schools, our communities, and our society. Read about it. Listen about it. Talk about it. Understand, acknowledge, and act on your thread in the complex fabric.
  • Refuse, Roar, Risk, Rise: if we want to be progressive and innovative (and inspire our students to do the same) we need to refuse the stale diet of mediocrity for ourselves and our schools, take purposeful risks in teaching and learning, and roar proudly as we advocate for the critical middle grades. 
  • Reach: we are here to reach every student, and every student is our responsibility—no matter what grade level, content area, or responsibility is on the contract or nametag. Our first responsibility is to the students we serve.
  • Ruin: there is a Buddhist tradition of creating an elaborate work of art from colored sand (a Mandala) and then destroying it as soon as it’s completed, and I think we need to do that occasionally with lesson plans and school improvement plans—in order to start new and refresh and to recalibrate where we are. If we create great lesson plans, frame them, and pull them out year after year, are we practicing the art of teaching or the artifice of education?
  • Read: we need to help our students read both verbal and nonverbal text. Young adolescents not only need support as they read nonfiction and fiction text, but because they tend to misread social cues, they also need help as they read body language and group dynamics. 
  • Rung: classrooms and schools need to work with their surrounding communities to ensure that all students have access to the rungs they want to reach on the ladders to their future goals. Moreover, we need to instill our students with passion, so they reach up and reach further. 
  • So what other R words come to your mind with middle level education?
  • What letter will we tackle next in the ABCs of Middle Level Education?
  • What are your thoughts about all of this? Comment, share, connect!

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1 comments on article "The Letter R: Final Thoughts"

I agree about the importance that young adolescences have with reading. I have learned in college the importance of reading and how unique the readers level are on based from past experiences and schema but I agree with its importance. Reflecting and reminding are clearly important too. Great resource!

—Gunnar
12/11/2016 9:49 PM

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