The Shocking Truth About Labeling Kids in School: Is Your Child at Risk?
Updated: Apr 26
Have you ever felt bad upon getting called names in school? If you ever did, you’re definitely not the only one. Here’s a story about how labeling is used and how destructive it is.
One morning, while browsing the news, I stumbled upon an article about Singapore abandoning its ranking system for report cards, with officials stating that learning should not be a competition. As I scrolled through the comments, I was taken aback by how many people believed that some kids were simply not motivated to learn, and that without grades or incentives, they would never succeed. This made me reflect on a story from my own school days about a kid who was labelled as "unmotivated".
I remember starting fourth grade and noticing a boy named Ken, who was always getting in trouble for talking and messing around. Like many others, I assumed he was just a troublemaker and didn't interact with him much. But as I spent more time in the class, I got to know him better and discovered that he struggled with math and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the class. He wasn't even into video games like most kids his age; he just wanted to fit in and have friends. However, our teacher, Diana, was frustrated with Ken's behaviour and would often punish him by sending him to a single table to work alone.
Effects of Labeling
One day, I finished my work early and decided to chat with some classmates. I noticed Ken being called out by the teacher for talking and decided to approach him. I asked him about what he was working on, and he told me he was behind in math. As we chatted, he confided in me about how he felt like the "unmotivated one" and how his teacher constantly told his mother about his struggles. He also hated how the other kids teased him because his mother always would be called into school to have a discussion with the teacher.
A Different Side
Another day, I was writing a story and felt stuck, so I asked Ken to help me. As he wrote a paragraph, I glimpsed at his work and saw a whole soccer game play out in his story. I was impressed by his advanced vocabulary and congratulated him on his work. In that moment, I saw a different side of Ken.
Time passed quickly, and when I returned for the second year of school, I learned that Ken had been pulled out of our school due to his poor performance. I never saw him again.
In the end, people who label don’t even want to intentionally make someone feel bad. People are naturally lazy and we don’t want to spend time to figure every single person out. Labelling them and putting them into a role would be far far easier for us. The thing is, its more destructive than you think, especially in school. Kids in school are trying to figure themselves out. By labelling them, they might actually believe the label and can easily fall into it as they don’t even know who they truly are. Is labeling really what we think it is?