You Will Not Label My Child!
School is in full swing and most of our children are beginning to settle into their school year. Typically during the start of the school year parents begin to see an increase of behavior notices coming home concerning their child. The good news is behavior notices can bring attention to symptoms relating to an undiagnosed learning disability or the need for other special accommodations that may have otherwise gone undetected. However, behavior notices can also bring attention to other issues that may be occurring in the classroom such as racial, cultural or personality differences between your child and his/her teacher. These differences, if left unchecked, can lead to your child being labeled a “problem” for issues that are out of their control. For example, if the leader of the classroom (the teacher) has an issue with your child that is more about cultural differences rather than your child’s learning or social behaviors, then you have a problem. Because once your child is labeled, it is very hard to undo, and the label can stick with them at each grade level.
Your child’s classroom is the epicenter of their social circle. The teacher holds the most popular position. If the teacher’s perception of or honest belief about your child changes in the slightest way it can have a profound effect on your child and those around him or her. Perceptions are powerful. It only takes one or two incidents where your child does something that is viewed as disrespectful or disruptive and things can begin to change quickly, such as:
- Expectations for your child will be lessened;
- There will be a lack of patience by the teacher when dealing with your child.
- Your child’s actions will be viewed by the teacher in a hypersensitive way.
- Other students can do the same behavior and it overlooked, but there is no tolerance when done by your child.
Teachers talk to other teachers about children who they feel are giving them the most problems and headaches. I also know that teachers share this information with other parents. Before you know it, your child has been labeled by the teachers, other parents, and sometimes other students. I call this the “catching effect,” your child becomes the scapegoat for everything.
A parent at local charter school is dealing with this issue. Since the 2nd week of school, her daughter, one of two children of color in her class began receiving behavior notices for what seemed like minor classroom disruptions like playing with a bracelet. With each behavior notice the teacher’s description of the problems began to trouble her. Her child’s demeanor has changed, her social interactions with other children have changed. She can’t understand what she keeps doing wrong. She needed to act immediately when her child asked her “Am the baddest kid in the whole world?” While assuring her child that she was just fine and not bad, she began to think it was possible that her daughter was being labeled a “problem” child.
What should a parent do if your suspect your child is being unfairly labeled?
- ACT IMMEDIATELY!
- Be honest with yourself. If your child’s behavior has not been the best, now is the time to address it and work to change this behavior.
- Talk with your child, but NOT about their teacher. Reassure them that they are important and things will get better.
- Meet with your child’s teacher to discuss the situation. Try not to let your emotions lead the conversation. They may not be aware that the are actually projecting these feelings onto your child.
- Have a cooperative attitude when meeting with the teacher. Do not put the teacher on the defensive.
- Be vigilant about following up. Email, call and meet with the teacher often.
- And if necessary, consult the principal or another leader of the school or district.
If the situation does not improve, keep going up the chain of command. Talk to whoever you need to talk to until your concerns are heard and changes are done. Throughout the process of advocating for your child it’s important to remember a few things:
- Your child is THE most important person in this situation.
- Your child comes first.
- It is important that your child’s spirit remains positive while going through this process.
- It’s also important that your spirit remains positive.
- More educators are on your side than not. Believe that help is there and this problem is fixable.
I believe it is important for our children to learn the lesson of standing up for themselves by watching us do it. If something isn’t right then it isn’t right. We are our child’s advocate. By maintaining constant contact with your child’s teacher or administrative staff things will improve. The label assigned to your child will be removed and your child will be seen how they really are, a child with unlimited potential.