Last week my son began seventh grade! I have never been so anxious about the start of a school year. Yes, I was nervous when he went to kindergarten, but there was much more excitement than anxiety. This year there is worry … Can he handle the independence of middle school? Will he align with the “right” peer group? Does he have the study habits necessary for success? (I don’t think he does… AHH!) How can I support him without being overbearing? (He is entering my wheelhouse and I have to be Mom and not Mrs. Shaffer!) But most importantly I worry that his teachers will see his label and not see him.
In first grade, my son was diagnosed with ADHD. This was no surprise! When he was a toddler, I sometimes described his activity as a top that just kept spinning and spinning – words that I am pretty sure I stole from an ADHD rating scale. Although he has made significant strides managing his inattentiveness it is a journey and last year his teachers and I decided that a 504 plan would be beneficial to ensure his success. As an educator, I know this is only a document that will guarantee he receives everything he needs to ensure he learns; but as a mom, I was making the decision to label my child, the person who matters more to me than anyone in this world.
When a label is placed on a child assumptions about that child follow. All learning is easy for the gifted child, but they may need help making friends. A child with anxiety is going to struggle with attendance and can not handle redirection. The ADHD child must sit close to the instruction, will be distracting to those around him and will never turn in homework on time. While some of these generalizations may be correct some of the time for some kiddos and may provide very early guidance for classroom teachers, they are generalizations!
I beg that all educators look past these labels and truly get to know the learners in their classrooms. I also demand that all educators remember that these labels are A descriptor and not THE descriptor. Every child in our classrooms is an individual and needs different things from the adults who are supporting learning … please value each child’s uniqueness and help his or her learning thrive!