Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Benefits of Labels

Quick caveat: I don't feel a great urge to label students. I'm lucky to work at a school where the support students receive is based on their need, not their labels. It does matter when it comes to accommodations for standardized testing and it might matter more when kids get to middle and high school however. (I don't know enough beyond elementary to say.)

As a first grade teacher I have worked with students with special education labels every year. Those little darlings all had been identified in preschool. It's easy then to keep that label and support those students and give them those accommodations.

A student who gets to kindergarten or first grade without identified learning disabilities has a lot more trouble getting that label. I completely understand that we do not want to willy-nilly slap labels on students. I truly do.

That said, the testing that is done in the process of identifying learning disabilities gives so much information about how a child learns. It gives insight into visual or auditory processing difficulties for example. Unfortunately when a young child is up for discussion, the most frequent response is, "They are so young. Let's give them more time."

I don't really want the label. I want the testing. I want to understand what is keeping a student from learning the way all their peers are doing. But if you are testing a lot of students and not finding labels that is questioned. So we don't test. We don't learn. We don't understand. We don't help as well as we could.

I have reread this numerous times tonight trying to ensure my language actually conveys my thinking. I hope it does. I'm sure there are places here where the language I have used illuminates biases I have. If you notice any, please point them out to me. We are often blind to our biases and could use help from others identifying them.

1 comment:

Mrs Em said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. This is something I have really been thinking about recently. Although my first preference is to avoid the labels, many hours go into planning learning experiences and observing to find the ways our struggling kids learn best. Begs me to question whether it is fair to lose all of that time if a test could readily show this.