Bridging the Primary/Middle School gap

The following letter is a cross post, recently published as a guest post at rush the iceberg, a blog by Stephen Davis, a thoughtful middle school teacher in Orange County, California.  We became acquainted through Twitter and are enthusiastic readers of each others’ blogs.  Our connection highlights the opportunities created by social media for educators worldwide to interact and learn from each other, irrespective of what we teach, where we teach, who we teach, or how long we’ve been teaching! Teachers are learners first and foremost. We are lucky to live in an age which allows us to be part of a world-wide learning community.

Middle School

Letter from a primary school student…

Dear Middle School teacher,

Here are some things I would like you to know about me, and some questions I would like to ask you, before I leave primary school and join your class.

I am a person. I have likes and needs and wants and problems and interests. Please teach ME, don’t teach your subject.

I love learning. I am curious and I wonder about all kinds of things. I love to explore and question and experiment. I hope you won’t squash my natural desire to learn, by grading everything. My learning isn’t reducible to a letter or a number. It would be much more helpful if you gave me constructive, directed feedback to guide my future learning.

There are lots of different ways that people learn. My teacher calls them learning styles. Not everyone in my class learns best by listening to a teacher talk. Learning isn’t a passive activity. I hope you don’t think of students as sponges, who soak up what you deliver. I hope you will give me opportunities to learn by listening, by talking, by doing, by seeing and by moving around. Will you incorporate music and art and technology into our learning, irrespective of what subject you teach?

Do you think creativity is important? I’m used to presenting my learning in a million creative ways, both offline and online. I hope you are not a teacher who thinks that learning can only be expressed through a written essay. Did you know that composing a song, making a movie, creating a cartoon, recording a podcast and doing a play are all great, creative ways of demonstrating understanding

I am not used to having a different teacher for each subject. Please remember to consult with each other, before assigning homework, so that you don’t overload me. I am not even used to learning different subjects. Most of my learning has been trans-disciplinary, because that’s how learning works best. I make connections between the different areas of my learning and construct meaning in that way. Please talk to the other subject teachers, so that you can help me make meaningful connections across disciplines.

Please don’t blame me or my primary school teachers for the things I can’t do and don’t know. Maybe your expectations are different, or maybe your style is different… but you’re a teacher, so help me to learn.

I am a person, just like you are. I get hungry and thirsty and sometimes need to eat or drink, even if the bell hasn’t gone for the end of the period. I sometimes need to go to the bathroom, when it’s not recess. And yes, I sometimes just get tired of sitting still and need a break before I can concentrate again. I am a person, even though I am smaller than you. Please don’t talk down to me. Talk to me just as you would to any other human being.

Do you know the difference between work and learning?  My sister is in middle school and she often has lots of work to do. Some of it is just work. Please don’t assign work for the sake of it, unless it’s clear to both you and me how this work will further my learning.

Do you value collaboration? Will you allow us to sit in groups, rather than facing you, so that we can talk and make sense of our learning, while we continue to develop our social skills? Will you encourage us to work collaboratively, by cooperating, communicating and showing mutual respect? Speaking of mutual respect, I hope you don’t mind if I suggest that you need to respect your students, if you want them to respect you. Some teachers think they earn respect automatically when they get their degree!

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my learning. I hope you are looking forward to teaching me.

Your future student.

(See the next post for the middle school teacher’s response, by Stephen Davis.)


11 thoughts on “Bridging the Primary/Middle School gap

  1. I just think this is SO fantastic. I shared this widely in our school and there is SO much love for it! Going to share it at the beginning of next term

    Thanks again 🙂


  2. Middle School. It can be down. My classroom appeared as one on left. Had gifted and creative colleagues who really were into learning/activity centers. What I saw over decades of teaching was to exit a very male-architectural vision of classroom and subvert that with pet centers, building areas, a piano (for solo quiet time) and etcetera. In last school I was in I hauled out so many items just sitting unused and set up a learning playground. I noted students to make some adjustment to ‘so much freedom’. Great post. Thank you.


  3. Creative! This rings true in bridging the gap that exists between most primary and middle schools. You have put into words what most students can’t express. Can’t wait to send this to my colleagues.


  4. Love the letter to the Middle School teacher. It covers so much ground and speaks from the heart. It’s a gem.

    Thirty years ago I received a short letter from one of my teachers. It touched me so that I copied and reduced it– have kept in my wallet till today. I’ve just done the same with your letter and it’s now folded and sitting in my wallet.

    Your inspirational letter is a reminder we teachers need from time to time to put children first, to personalize education and to engage our students in the universe of 21st century learning.

    Thanks so much.


    1. Thanks, Richard. It disappointed me a bit that readers seemed more interested in the 10 ways series I have been writing than in this post, which I think is really important for all teachers. I’m touched by your response. Remember… N.Y.I.J!!


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