The Calling of a Middle Level Educator by Bobby Thompson

    When I was approached about becoming the Middle School Principal, I was an acting High School Assistant Principal. My first thought to the questions was, why in the world would I want to go work in a middle school? I was a substitute teacher for 5 years, a custodian for 8 years, and did my student teaching all in a middle school. I know what those kids can be like! After much prayer and consideration, I felt like I was being called to lead a building at the middle level. Boy, am I glad I took this position!

    One of my first experiences at the middle school as the principal was meeting with the assistant principal to see what I was inheriting. The assistant principal that I had the pleasure of working with was in his last semester of service. He had served the same community and building for 42 years. One of the first questions I asked him was, why did he stay at the middle school for 42 years? His response shook me to the core. He said, “Bobby, I feel like middle school is truly the last opportunity we have to help students shape their future.” It took me a while to digest this profound statement. After serving at the high school level for almost 10 years and now having served at the middle school level for 5 years, I see what my assistant was talking about. I feel that we who serve at the middle levels have the most important role in the educational process.

    When the students enter our building, they are starting to really tackle complex and deep learning all while figuring out social and emotional development. Middle level educators have to truly be masters of the art and science of teaching. We have to be able to connect to our students’ social-emotional needs, build enduring relationships, work with their demanding emotional and learning needs, help them find their learning passions, and teach them in-depth knowledge in core content areas that will help them be successful at the secondary level. As I reflect on my years of leading a middle school, I now see what my assistant was talking about. I too feel that middle level educators can have a profound impact on graduation rates, identifying learning pathways, and helping our students build work place skills that will allow them opportunities to have successful adult lives.

    I would highly encourage you to reach out to IMLEA so that we can help you connect with other passionate educators around the state who can help you with this monumental task of leading, teaching, and serving middle level education students. IMLEA offers many supporting services such as Schools to Watch Program, generationOn Indiana, plus valuable and pertinent professional development materials offered via Twitter, Facebook, our website, e-mails, and IMLEA newsletters. We would also love to hear about the great work you are doing so that we can learn from you. It takes a village, and in education we find ourselves isolated in many situations; however, none of us are as smart as all of us! Please connect with us, offer suggestions, ask questions, and let us know how our organization can be of assistance; it will only help us offer a better learning experience for our students.

    Bobby Thompson has been a professional educator for 13 years. He has sat in about every school seat possible in his career, holding varying jobs from custodian to principal. Bobby also has experience in the business world helping build, implement, and train users on HR software. During his tenure in the education business, Bobby has had the wonderful opportunity to work with some of the top educators in the United States. He has also been a part of a complete High School reform project. Bobby has had the opportunity to present on various educational topics at both the state and national levels. He is the acting President of the Indiana Middle Level Education Association. Bobby also is an executive board member of a not-for-profit foundation, Blue River Community Foundation, Shelby County Arts Alliance, and the Shelby County Purdue Extension. He has a gorgeous, wife Tiffany, and two, beautiful children, Liam and Nolan. In his spare time, Bobby enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, traveling, and making memories with his family.

    Bobby Thompson IMLEA President
    Principal, Triton Central Middle School
    Northwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County Fairland, Indiana