A few weeks ago before our students arrived grade levels met to discuss students. Teachers told stories of each child on their past years roster. Each child discussed had a story and many had a label. A label that identified that child like a scarlet letter. A label that spoke for that child as if the child did not have a voice of their own. This label told the child’s new teacher this child was different. This child was not capable. This child need accommodations. This child would not be as successful as those without labels.
I was sick to my stomach listening as teachers did what they were told and discussed a plus/delta of these labeled children. WE were setting these kids up to fail, and not in the sense of first attempt at learning. Fail as in not succeed, not meet their highest potential, not compete internally to do the best that they could. We were limiting these children in what they could do. Even the label “gifted and talented” tells teachers this child is brighter than the next. Thats NOT true, just because they performed high on some standardized label making test does not make them anymore gifted or talented than any other child. All humans are gifted and talented in some aspect of their life.
I looked at my roster and realized the majority of my class had a label and some of the children had multiple labels. I do not have children of my own. I am a private person, but in order to share my thoughts on labels I am going to tell you my story. I am divorced, however when I first married I was soon pregnant. Overcome with so many emotions my then husband was in the Army and I was only 23. I had just graduated college and moved away from my family. I was scared and excited to start a family. Skip ahead a bit, at my second sonogram the nurse asked if there was a reason I was having a sonogram. I told her nope just the routine check up. She looked at me and then back at the screen and told me she would return shortly. I knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it could be. She returned with my doctor for him to tell me he believed the baby may have Down’s Syndrome. My heart sank and I began questioning every higher being I knew. Fast forward again, my doctor referred me to a high risk doctor. Many test later, including a very painful DNA extraction from the baby, I was told it was not Down’s Syndrome. I remember being so relieved until he told me it was actually Turner’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder in which the individual only has one X chromosome. I had no idea what this was and begin searching the internet day and night wondering what life my child would have in this world. Long story short, a few weeks later I miscarried.
I tell you this story that not many know about me for one reason: what labels would my child have had? I can only imagine that her cumulative folder would have been one of the thickest in the filing cabinet. I can only imagine that because of her chromosomes not being just like the other children she would have been “accommodated.” I understand there are many profound cases where children should not be in a “normal” classroom setting. However, we are limiting their ability to be as “normal” as they can by sheltering and labeling them.
What if at the beginning of every year teachers were given their roster with no indicators, no labels. The teachers met their new students on the first day of school with no prejudgments of their abilities. The playing field was leveled for all, the teacher made her own judgments about capabilities. The teacher helped EVERY child reach their highest potential not determined by a label. I know I can only ask “what if” because the education system is a long way from dropping labels. However, you can ignore those labels as I did this year. YOU can push every child to reach their highest potential no matter what prior judgement has been placed on that child. Remember all those labels mean nothing, that student is someone’s child. It is our job to provide an education and promote lifelong learning in every child not just the “normal” kids. All our students are geniuses, let them shine!
P.S. Most notable “geniuses” had a label too. It is said that Albert Einstein himself was Autistic. Label each kid in your class a genius instead of limited in the abilities and let’s see what the outcome is.