The Nature of Middle Level

Essential Attribute #3: Empowering—providing all students with the knowledge and skills they need to take control of their lives.

As I was walking in a parking lot recently, I spotted this small plant growing out of a crack between the speckled asphalt and the flat gray curb, and I marveled at its triumph. How did it push its way through the hard, unforgiving concrete and not only grow, but flourish and spread its tiny tendrils outward into the warm summer air? With that question, I also saw the faces of many middle school students I had taught in my classroom and had worked with as a school administrator—young adolescents who had grown up in harsh conditions, under-resourced areas, and environments filled with uncertainty and unfathomable circumstances. Yet despite the hard, often unforgiving challenges in their lives, they walked into school and came into my classroom. They rose through the hours. They ascended into the days. And they blossomed with each month. We often talk about instilling our students with resilience and grit—as if they didn’t already possess it. When I think about my students and see their faces, I know they had it. As the school year begins, let’s pause and think about our students’ lives beyond our school walls, celebrate their daily triumphs, nurture their individual and collective growth, and continue being a warm place where they can flourish.


These lives come to us
Into the middle level
Eager to blossom.