Classroom Labels – When They’re Damaging Rather Than HelpfulBy Teachers.Net News Desk
In today’s classroom, students bring a wide range of exceptionalities to the table. Having these well-defined categories of exceptionality will ultimately help us move towards a more inclusive teaching environment. These categories allow teachers to clearly differentiate what the individual needs of a student are and how best to cater to these needs. The more precise categories we have, the better able we will be in pinpointing what type of exceptionality the student has and what the best course of action is to help this student. Broad or sweeping categories will result in more students falling through the cracks because their needs will not be properly addressed or will be treated as another exceptionality altogether.
However, these categories or ‘labels’ can also be damaging to students. Whether or not the teacher is aware of it, he/she may treat the student differently on account of the exceptionality. Children are very perceptive and will pick up on this which can be damaging to their self-esteem. When students are grouped based on ability level, they will recognize the difference between the ‘low group’ and the ‘high group.’ These groups may be dressed up or identified by different numbers, colors, shapes or animals, but all students will understand the true meaning of each group: low ability, medium ability or high ability. They may begin identifying with these labels and may not feel they can move outside of their designated group.
While I believe categories are important, I also believe that we need to tread carefully with them. Categories should be used by teachers to properly identify and assist students with exceptionalities, but they should not be used as labels for these students. Students should be able to recognize what their strengths are and how to combat their weaknesses, but they should not sequester themselves into one particular category. It’s important that all students are given every opportunity to feel confident and successful in their learning.