labeling kids

Labels: Great for stationery cupboards. Useful on boxes when you are moving house. For people? Not so helpful.

Once a child has been labelled A, B, or C it is very hard for them to shake that label. None more so than that of the ‘naughty’ kid. By definition this child is disobedient and badly behaved, causing disruption to classes and everyday life. Reasons for bad behaviour vary: poor diet, boredom, lack of sleep, little structure in their life, personal issues, learning difficulties.

How many of us try to pinpoint something in the student’s life as the cause?

Having had the benefit of working with a variety of age groups, from toddlers to young adults, across a variety of settings, I continually encounter adults attempting to mould children into predefined shapes.

Our education systems are largely structured using an industrial model, heralding from a time when the masses were taught to become good workers in factories. However our world has changed significantly. Society is diverse, varied, unstable and unpredictable.

The world of tomorrow is in need of innovative, creative and free thinking students rather than those who tick boxes and pass generic exams.

So what does this have to do with the ‘naughty’ kids?

Shifting perspectives enable us to reflect on how our own behaviour and practices affect the students. From my experience the ‘naughty’ kids are often the innovative and creative thinkers of the class; the ones who give well thought out answers and connected to the knowledge they already hold.

They have less apprehension as there is no expectation for them to give the ‘right’ answer. These are the kids who do not produce the identical pieces of work the ‘good’ students do. Yet, often we draw all over their work with suggestions for improvement.

As these students do not want to adhere to school norms they are much freer to function outside the box. Sometimes, however, you need to be in the box. Literacy and numeracy is important. Being able to listen, take turns and share are also valuable skills.

How then do we reach a happy place of independent thought and competent social and academic skills for all students? Unfortunately, I do not have the answers. However a couple of things stand out for me.

Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally respected arts educator, wrote ‘The Element’ with the premise that once you find the thing you are passionate about and good at the rest will take care of itself. Throughout this book Robinson interviews people who have become highly successful across numerous fields: maths, sport, science. Many of them speak of their experiences out of the classroom as the ones that propelled them forward; that they believed school had hindered their ability to discover their talents. What they did mention, however, were those teachers who recognised and fostered their strengths and zeal for particular things. Perhaps the best advice I was given at university was to always question my own teaching and reactions; sometimes we as teachers can be part of the cause.  If we can focus on those things that bring a spark to the student’s eye perhaps we have a better chance of enabling them to be successful.

These are the teachers I would want to teach my child. This is the type of teacher I want to be.

Amberley Laverick

Supply Teacher

Smart Teachers 2012 – 2013