Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Labels- Part 2: Childhood Labels

Even more damaging than judging an adult by there gender is labeling kids and then treating them according to that label.

Schools are very quick if not eager to put a label on a child- ADD, ADHD, Special-Needs, Gifted, Slow, Learning Disabled, Physically Disabled. The label goes on the child's permanent record, and my guess is that file is then color-coded accordingly.

What bothers me, isn't that medical professionals are diagnosing children with these issues.

My problem is with the school administrators eagerly look for an excuse to increase their budget through a child's label. I also have a problem with guidance councelors or overly-enthusiastic teachers who would rather diagnose a child with a label instead of exercising their authority as the adult in charge.

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher, Ms S. was just out of college. Fresh from the indoctrination to get kids pegged so there files can be properly color-coded and the resulting funding applied for- lest one of them be "left behind".

Late that fall we had our first parent-teacher conference. I was going to attempt to recreate the conversation, but it got boring and I don't remember it word for word anyway. Here are some of the points Ms. S. made to us regarding Punkin #1:

1- She already knows how to read
2- The other kids make fun of her for sounding out words phonetically instead of using the whole-word/guess method the rest of the class is using
3- She already knows the material in her math book
4- She makes the letter "a" incorrectly using the typewritten shape instead of the ball and stick shape
5- She talks too much during class
6- Oh- and by the way, I'm pretty sure she might need ritalin. Would you like to set up an appointment to see someone about this?

I should have asked how Ms S. was dealing with the teasing. I should have asked what steps she had taken to diminish the talking out of turn.

I couldn't get over the idea that this woman wanted to drug my daughter.

I don't know how to communicate my shock, disbelief, bafflement, horror, frustration, anger, and rage at this idiocy.

I've read Attila the Mom's blog dealing with her 2 boys who have some definite issues with ADHD and other complications. She faces great challenges at her house.

Aside from typical childhood behavior- my mate and I weren't having any trouble at home.

I really don't know how to let you know how ridiculous accusing my Punkin of ADHD is.

She doesn't have a "disorder". So- sorry! you won't be able to use her to up your budget. [Doesn't that sound like a great curse-out. "Up Your Budget!"]

She's not "hyper-active". She's probably antsy because she already knows the material.

She likes to talk. What else should she do if she's bored?

Punkin #1 never set foot in that classroom again. No way was a starry-eyed first-year teacher going to drug my child because Punkin #1 was bored with material that was too easy for her. Or call social services because we refused our daughter medical treatment or whatever other bullshit they come up with to force compliance with the label.

My mate and I had always toyed with homeschooling. Ritalin clinched the deal.

Funny how we got Punkin #1 home and didn't have any problems that required medical intervention. Hmmmmmm.

Kids are more than the labels that have been attached to them.

Whether it is labels given to them legitimately by doctors or other medical professions or the color-coded label placed on their file by school administrators.

"There's no sense letting Bart try-out for the school play, he's ADHD and won't be able to commit to practice every night after school."

Possibly more damaging to a child is the label given by the parents. Next time you hear a parent introduce their child, pay attention. Is it along the lines of "This is my son Wentworth, he's in 4th grade" or "This is my daughter Sarsparilla she's five".

Or is it more like "This is my boy Tyler, he's a real competitor. Loves his sports." or "This is Matilda, she's painfully shy."?

When a child is known by a label, the label becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Kids will start to live-up-to or live-down-to the label. They become who a child is and the label comes to define them as human beings.

After all, labels provide a powerful excuse.

Little Matilda doesn't have to try hard to meet people, she's shy and everyone knows it up front.

Tyler is expected to be more interested in sports rather than in schooling. Tyler has a built in excuse for not studying his spelling: he loves baseball and just wanted to get in a few more pitches before bed time.

"Oh, that one has ADHD so don't expect him to focus for more than a minute."

"Don't invite her, she's homeschooled and won't know how to play with the other children."

No matter who gave it to them, children are more than their labels.


janice said...

Outstanding post FE!

Plain and simple, teachers want robots in the chairs, be it girls or boys, and don't want/know how to teach anymore, or like you said be the adult in charge.

Boys are boys and NEED to run off that boy energy, period. They don't need to be medicated. They need to be taught, and I believe both sexes learn differently.

I run the risk of getting "slapped" over here (though it has not been my experience, yet) I would suggest a book by James Dobson "Bringing Up Boys" to anyone who is being told by the SCHOOL to medicate their son.

I'm just sayin'

janice said...

Also, I can only speak for raising boys. I have one, he's 21, private schools and has been an LPN for 2 years. Never an once of trouble.

I'm just sayin'

Sean the Blogonaut said...

Speaking as an ex- high school teacher from Australia.

First year out teaching is an eye opener.

You recieve no training in classroom control, you are thrown into class sizes of 30+ with anywhere between 4-8 children who have behavioral problems(most of which are due to the things FE has alluded to). You are then expected to get them to learn and to learn all at the same pace.

Oh and the politics is caustic. I was humiliated, denegrated, on the verge of breakdown from the lack of support from colleagues and senior teachers and I was one of the lucky ones.

The hardest job I have ever had and the pay was despicable.

Regular schooling does a fair job of pumping out a standard educated kid to expect any more is unrealistic.

If I had kids I would homeschool them and would suggest to everyone if they have the ability and money to do the same.

It takes a phenomenal and experienced teacher to be able to control a class and challenge everyone of those students

Fiery Ewok said...

Public schools spend so much of the day wasting time it is just sad.

When I went to school there was a lot of standing in line, a lot of waiting for other kids to finish their writing, waiting for other kids to finish reading the paragraph, waiting for my turn on the computer (we got it in our classroom one afternoon per week then 26 kids got to take turns), waiting while the teacher redo the lesson for the 3rd time for the 50% of the class that didn't get it the first time.

Waiting waiting waiting.

Sure. Learning to wait is an important skill. Does it need to be practiced 5 out of the 7 hours per day at school? Nope.

Healthy kids (boys and girls) have lots of energy. Energy to be physicaly active, energy to be mentally focused, energy for curiosity, or energy for learning.

It baffles me that schools demand that children suppress all that youthful energy and then wonder why kids "lose it" and can't cope with school. Lashing out, behavioral difficulties, attention problems.

Fiery Ewok said...

I also think it is monumentally unfair to the other students to have children with severe emotional problems mainstreamed into the classroom with them.

Why should the gifted students be made to wait while the slower students play catch-up and really never get there?

What is so sacred about being with kids who are exactly the same age you are????

Adults are almost never cordoned off by age. Once you hit 21, no one cares how old you are until you hit 55 and qualify for a senior discount.

I wonder.... I wonder if it would work to test kids to determine their abilities in each subject area, and then place them in the class taught to the specific level they are at.

One 9 year old could be taking 4th grade math, 3rd grade handwriting, 7th grade literature and 6th grade history. Regardless of age. If an 11 year old can do highschool chemistry, why isn't he allowed to take it? If a 16 year old jock can't read, why isn't he still in 2nd grade phonics?

If each subject were schedule for the same time each day throughout the school, kids would just rotate to the class room being taught at their particular level.

The whole school would be doing math, the classroom you were in was determined by your level.

Hmmmmm. I really have no idea if that idea is original or has ever been tried. I don't recall ever hearing it before.

Fiery Ewok said...

My hat goes off to you Sean. I can only imagine the challenges and horrors you faced as a teacher.

It boggles my mind that something as basic as classroom discipline is assumed knowledge for a young teacher. Why should anyone automatically know how to control a group of kids X years of age????

Public school is broken and needs a radical fix if it is to function properly at all.

Right now it isn't functioning. Some kids squeek through. But how much better would their education have been if it were targeted directly to complement their strenghts and also supplement their weaknesses.

janice said...

I'm all for school choice and the voucher system. If I could have received what the county and state paid to educate my child I would have had money left over after paying the tuition to private schools.

janice said...

your idea is being tried (and very successfully) in Ohio called Montessori Schools. They teach according to the child's skill and development.

Fiery Ewok said...

Each montessori school is done according to the director's own interpretation of Maria's education models.

I am thrilled to hear that something like my idea might be implemented somewhere.

Do you have a link to any web information about them? I would be curious to follow their progress.

Also, usually Montessori is just elementary ages. Do they include highschoolers in their program?

Poodles Rule said...

I think high schools should be more specialized. I think there should be schools for academics who are planning on going to a University. I think there should be arts schools, tech schools and even trade schools. I think by high school kids get bored and frustrated being forced to take classes they really aren't intrested in.

janice said...

has a database a few people I know used to get info.
Here's a site for middle and high schoolers. After 8th grade at our parish school a lot of parents looked into Montessori style education for their children after being in small classrooms at a private school. The high school my son attended used a "block program" teaching only 4 subjects half the year and 4 diferent one the next half, spending 90 minutes a day per subject with less homework because you only have 4 subjects total. More time spent on fewer subjects really helped my son.
has info, sorry, I don't know how to attach them as links.

King Aardvark said...

Off topic, but Zeno has a post about homeschooling right now. It's not really about homeschooling in general and is really attacking a right-wing nut who wants to do away with the public school system, but it was kind of interesting. Just thought you should give it a look.

janice said...

I would love to rid this country of the public school system.

Everyone, left, middle and right have issues with the system. It's clear the government can't run anything effectively. Give the people the choice where and how to educate their children.

Charter schools and special needs schools in addition to religious schools, once accredited could all receive tuition/funds that would otherwise go to the failing public school system.

janice said...

Also, when searching for high school options for my son, I tried to get in on the voucher program in the greater Cleveland area. Using so it would have lightened the $7000.00 a year tuition load. Of course, we didn't qualify.

The tax payer is throwing 10 to 12 grand a child to educate them in America.

Let the parents decide!

Homeschoolers, charters and parochial schools all these parents would have money left over.

Fiery Ewok said...

King Aardvark: Thank you for pointing me to the Zeno post. I am giving it a look and will let you know what I think. :-)

Thanks for the tip!

BigTex71 said...

Very impressive post and follow up comments. I like your idea about the teaching to the level and not age.

Attila The Mom said...

I love love LOVE this post!

And your blog. :-)

Fiery Ewok said...

This is Fiery Ewok extending a great big "Howdy-Do" to Attila the Mom! Thanks for stopping by my blog!!!