Are We Stigmatizing the Students?

Yet again, through the wonderful world of Twitter, I was directed to this interesting Edutopia blog (thanks for sharing @gcouros).  This article for me, rubs the idea of normalization right in my face.  It is my belief that people that are in the education field should be there because of their passion for education and children (now I know this may not be the reason everyone in the field is here, but I think that generally, this is a common trait).

The reason this article makes me stop and think is because even though most of us are here for the children and because we want to make a difference, we still need to be aware of the “norms” that threaten to bring us down, and cause us to make assumptions and generalizations about students.  This blog isn’t meant to condemn people that find challenge in teaching diversities, and teaching students of different socio-economic backgrounds, or those with special needs, etc.  because I also believe that as an educator we need to constantly be questioning what is right and how to approach the variety of needs within a classroom.  What this blog is about is my desire to be aware of my student’s needs without compartmentalizing them to fit my “norms”.

Even though I’m finishing my degree in a couple of weeks, I have a greater understanding of the saying “the more I learn the less I know” and I find myself questioning the best way to teach and the best approach to take within my future classroom.  I also find myself questioning if and when I will catch myself using terms that could potentially stigmatize my students.

This semester, I have spent a substantial amount of time within an educational environment that would be susceptible to many of these limiting ideas.  I have worked one on one with a student that many people would consider to be “vulnerable” or “at risk”.  I think a really big part of my learning and success in working with this student was that I have always had high expectations of her and I was very aware that this student was very much a promising students and the things in her life (including the negative experiences) all contribute to who she is and how she is going to learn, and I do not have the right to take that away from her by labeling her “at risk”.

As an educator I am going to strive to always understand and be aware of the fact that my students all have individual experiences that help them to look and things as well as learn things in their own way because of who they are – not in spite of it.

Will I always be successful – probably not, as I believe it is really easy to work with labels and groupings than it is to work with individuals.  It is my hope, that being cognizant of the labels and limitations will help me to continue working with my students as individuals.

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