What Does The R Stand For?

meet in the middle

The first time it happened I cracked up. This little girl’s response took me totally by surprise. And then it happened again last week. Awesome! Totally awesome!

Rewind to two weeks ago. A young girl, probably about six years old, walked past me wearing a hat with the letter R on it. I, being the outgoing and inquisitive person that I am, had to ask what’s the R stand for? To which she replied, and I could not make this up, Rrrrrr.


I was hysterical. I was expecting her to give me a name like Reagan or Riley. Or quite possibly her favorite team such as the Redskins and Reds. Nope. Instead this innocent little girl gave me the sound that the letter R makes. And not only did she do this once. She gave me the exact same answer the following week. No prompting. I promise.

This experience left me thinking. Sometimes I think there is a disconnect that we are not even aware of. And when this occurs we believe that it is our job to help our children bridge this gap between what we know and what they need to know.

But do we ever stop to think that we have gaps too?

And that bridging these gaps may require us meeting them in the middle?

Hours upon hours are spent planning the perfect lessons or the perfect units. And sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t. Not until this very moment did it hit me though. We never have students help us plan our lessons. How could we? How would that work? Would it work? Would they be seated at the table along with the adults while the lessons are being planned?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but it seems to me that they are at least worth considering. How many times have you tried and tried to teach a skill to a student with no success, only to have another student go over and connect with that student right away? I can’t be the only one that this has happened to.

Heck, it happens at my house all of the time. I can’t convince my three-year old son to put on his red shoes no matter how hard I try. Yet, my nine-year old daughter can go in the room and within a few minutes out runs my son in his red shoes.

“People where you live, the little prince said, grow five thousand roses in one garden… Yet they don’t find what they’re looking for… And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

We often spend our evenings and planning periods combing through books, journals, websites and videos trying to determine how to best meet our students’ needs. Yet, isn’t it entirely possible that our most valuable resource is our children? The ones that we just sent to music or art or some other location while we meet with the experts to plan how to best meet their needs.

I am not implying that our children have all of the answers. But I am 100% certain that we don’t. I simply think that we need to do a better job of allowing them to teach us how to best meet their needs.

At the very least I think we can try to meet them in the middle because neither of us will be able to cross that bridge by ourselves. But more importantly, neither of us should ever have to.


  1. “Yet, isn’t it entirely possible that our most valuable resource is our children?” I agree with you wholeheartedly! This week, I was leading PD with middle & high school teachers and couldn’t quite make my point… until I brought student interviews into the mix. When we are trying to figure out how best to reach kids, we’d better start by asking them.

  2. I’m with you, Jon! The one time during the week that I can truly help bridge that gap is during Genius Hour. The kids know not to ask me, but to ask friends. If they don’t want to go to just one person, they can use the clapper at the door. They clap it, say “give me five” (idea from Paul Solarz), and then they ask their question, “Can anyone help me with….?” LOVE it! Sometimes, during “regular” class, the kids will grab the clapper. It makes me smile. 🙂

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