Friday, July 17, 2015

How to fix education: Stop labeling kids.

Hey, I want to warn you that I’m going to say some hard things in this blog. My goal is not to offend you, and I am not writing this to be inflammatory, or claim any sort of superiority. I write as a reflection. I write with myself as the primary audience. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t coming across as a rant. I just want to get better at helping my students learn.

Secondarily, (I’m adding these as I write) when I say “we,” I mean universally. I guess, more specifically, stereotypically (may not be a word). I’m not assigning any belief to my fellow teachers either implied or empirical. The teachers at my school are titans. They are role models.

That being said:  If we are going to fix education, we must stop labeling kids.  

We label our students by the color of their skin.

We do this all the time rather we realize it or not. In our schools, we have:
  • Black kids,
  • White kids,
  • Brown kids,
  • Every once in a while, during concerts, we have Green kids.

We label our kids on how they perform in our system. We label our kids by how well they do school. When they don’t achieve at the levels we expect, we use phrases like “our clientele” or “our population.”

In our schools, we have:
  • Smart kids,
  • Struggling kids,
  • Lazy kids,
  • Underachieving kids,
  • Hyper kids,
  • Those kids,
  • Your kids,
  • My kids.

We label our kids on a factor they cannot control.

In my school, we have:
  • Rich kids,
  • Poor kids,
  • Good family kids
  • Two family kids
  • Raising their family kids

We label our kids on a factor they cannot control.

Here’s my main point: We turn these labels into expectations. We see a kid that has x, y, z factors, and expect them to behave, and achieve in a prescribed way. When labels become expectations, we have lost.

I want to teach in a system where the only label a kid has is their name.

I want to teach in a system where rather than survey the a kid's situation, I look at who they are. Instead of focusing on what the student looks like, does, or can control, we focus on the relationship. Instead of saying you are this color, do this well in school, and come from this home, I want to say:

Your name is Jackson (my oldest son’s name who happens to be reading this right now , and is not pleased I’m using his name) and I know who you are, I know what you need, and I want to support you. Trust me to do those things, and I will celebrate your success.

Special thanks to @schmiaah and @mrsturp for some language in this post. Another big thank you to (not yet registered because he’s 7) @jackbarner for some key influences and reprimands.

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner

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