Teachers, Do You Know What the R Stands For?


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

I remember like it was yesterday. 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—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 has had this happen.

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

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.

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 students? The ones that we just sent to music or art 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 can to cross that bridge by ourselves.

But more importantly, we shouldn’t ever try.

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