Lately, my mind has wandered to pondering the status of “middles” in our world, e.g., the middle class, middle management, middle income workers, middle children, reliable average citizens and the great sea populated by moderates and the mainstream.

It seems that, at every turn, our attention is demanded by extremes—the super-achievers and the low-performers at work, in sports, schools, social settings, entertainment—and spread too thin to focus equitably on the consistent average.

Our lingo demonstrates the trend. It seems that hearing “job well done” for showing up and competently carrying out a task isn’t an adequate accolade. Now everyone has to be a “rock star” to feel the love.

I have personal experience with this. When our household grew to three kids, my husband and I immediately grasped that we were outnumbered 3:2. Where were a third set of hands and extra pair of eyes when we needed them?

When children outnumber parents, multiple conflicts present themselves. As hard as we tried to give our children equal attention, we had to choose and rotate whose parent-teacher conference, school open house, ball game and concert to attend.

I recall many times being thankful for the child who was compliant, responsible, quiet and mannered when my attention and support were directed to the child who had the greater need at the time.

Then, one day, it occurred to me to wonder what I might have missed because of my middle child’s minimal demands. Had I unintentionally overlooked her needs or failed to support her to the best of my abilities because I was focused on the others?

It was a wake-up call to be more intentional in interacting with each of my children, no matter the demands or lack thereof. Sure enough, I learned the demands were there, just quietly hidden and tucked away in a compliant nature.

Thankfully, our second-born child is a well-adjusted young adult and doesn’t exhibit any signs of feeling overlooked. But the experience has parallels to the waning voices of those in the middle class and mainstream, the solid citizens and the average students.

How does this relate to the work of the Education Foundation?

All children have needs, whether the setting is in a large family, a team on the field, or a school classroom. In our noble quest to provide equitable support to each and every student, as we continue encouraging those who are high achievers and low performers, do we also need to pause and ask ourselves how we are carrying out our responsibility to those in the middle? Are we unintentionally overlooking the needs of the quiet, average student?

Is it possible that the student in the middle is fading into the background? Do we find that we save our fanfare for students at the extremes and give token recognition to students who fall squarely in the middle, those who habitually turn in their homework and are punctual, respectful, and compliant?

This is not to suggest that support for any child should be diminished to help another child. Rather, while focusing (appropriately) on the bottom 25 percent quartile and our top-performing gifted and talented students, we want to ensure that we aren’t missing the mark when it comes to helping the 65 percent of students in the middle who cause the least disruption and require the least intervention but who might give us the highest return with slightly more attention.

It can be challenging to examine the inadvertent results of our actions, especially when our intentions are good. But if we reframe our thinking about what equitable support means, perhaps we can change the paradigm from “equity for all students” to “equitable support for each and every child.”

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