My friend Dr.Mary Howard has done it again. She is so awesome at finding these amazing posts and then sharing them to the world and then I of course read them. This one #losethelabels by Dr. Molly Ness really spoke to my beliefs on labelling and the damage it does to not just students but classrooms and even the culture of a school or community.
So what are we talking about here? Why does the education system at large use labels instead of discussing the child as a whole? I don’t know but I have some ideas. Labels put students in a box, isolate the parts so we don’t have to focus on the whole.
Johnny is ADHD
Susan is Gifted
Jane is the athlete
Tommy is Autistic
Alex is an H
Sarah is a Velcro kid
Brent is lazy
Anything stick out? Where does our attention go in this situation? See the trouble we have when we label a student is that we stop looking at the whole which makes up so much more than just one piece of them.
See Johnny is diagnosed with ADHD but he has an amazing skill for drawing, he can draw a masterpiece in the time his teacher finishes the read aloud for the day. Susan is gifted in Math but lost when it comes to Science and because of that gifted diagnosis the teacher is not running to her side because he has so many other labels to worry about. Lazy Brent yeah that guy just likes to sit in the corner all day reading never-mind his social anxiety or the home issues. Jane the athlete wants to be a musician and Alex the H imagines he is in Narnia with the Pevensies every night after his mom finishes reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to him. See Alex can’t decode because of a learning disability but his comprehension is through the roof.
The risk of labelling our students does not stop at the classroom door, the “bad” kids get in trouble more from teachers that know them as nothing but their label. Parents ask about certain students that are not their kids because of what they have heard from their kids, they don’t know the student as anything else than what they have been told they are.
Labels are powerful even when they are not meant to be negative. Students are more than basketball players, they are more than gifted, they are more.
The political side of education depends on labels, the society outside of our classrooms love them, it makes it easier to put students in boxes. Our students deserve to be known as their whole selves in our classrooms and everywhere else. I read about a practice of learning 10 things about each student, I think that is a start. How can we know our students as only a label when we actively try to know them as more?
That is this years homework assignment. Erase the labels and discover who our students really are.