In my class, I have several students who have been diagnosed with either a learning disability or a physical disability, and I’ve been guilty of what I’m trying to advocate against in this post – referring to th student by the disability label. For example, I hear teachers refer to these students as the resource students or the autistic students or the EL students. We give them the label first. We even identify them on official documents as such. I’d like to start a new trend. We need to reverse the label. We need to stop this practice of letting their disability be the way we identify these students.
Let’s reverse the label. Let’s call them students who are autistic, students who are EL, students who are at-risk.
I’m glad you asked.
What’s most important and what we need to focus on is not their disability or their challenge, but on the fact that they are students first. They are students who have the same goals, the same desires, the same hopes as any other student. They just have obstacles that often times prevent or at least delay them from reaching those goals.
If we as teachers, however, make a conscience decision to reverse the label, and see them as students first, there is some kind of psychological effect that it will have on us, and we will see them without the filter of the label, but as students who are reachable. A lot of times we subconsciously give up on those students because we are focusing on their label, and that isn’t fair to the student.
We can’t ignore the disability or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Our teaching style, our teaching strategies, our teaching techniques are influenced by their disability, and we must modify how we teach to better reach these students. First, however, we need to focus on the fact that they are students; they are children, who just happen to have these disabilities attached to them. Let’s give these children a chance to succeed.
I think we can start a trend. I think you as new teachers can take this idea and spread it around even to those veteran teachers who are still using the label to identify the students.
Reverse the Label.