How Labels Shape Our Identity! - Navima

Who is Good, who is Bad!
Who is Sharp, who is Blunt!

Have you ever thought why, in a classroom, all students who get equal education perform differently? Is there something in students or, is there anything wrong with the teachers in what they are doing? Let’s talk about how labels shape our identity.

As an educator, I don’t use the word SMART. I request all my students not to use this word for anyone. I make sure not to use this word during any of my interactions with students.

What is powerful about this phrase is that it compels us to examine how we might feel and what judgments we can make for a student. The word SMART has become a sellable product. Thus, we might be using it to describe people and things that are smart in diverse ways, but we use terms with an understanding that there is still something more to the meaning.

According to the connotation that comes out with the term, SMART is very wrong. Ever thought, what message do we convey to people when we say somebody is Smart? Or, how exactly their mind interprets this word? Being able to perform a specific skill? The Tyranny of Exceptionalism we are talking about once again here? When we tell kids that they are smart, it does nothing good to them. And this word has become a way for people to classify children into two different categories: Smart and Not Smart.

So, how is label an issue? It can affect a student’s identity. Sometimes teachers give their students labels, which the students then must carry for the rest of their academic careers.

If we give labels students not smart, then based on their perception of the word, they can consider themself as a failure. That can affect their interest and lower their motivation. Students might also experience a sense of social stress. They might feel like giving up as they are not getting rewarded for the efforts they are making.
If we enter the notion of smartness, which has consolidated into a meta-synthesis under which children are assessed. This also refers to two other directions in the quantitative growth of exposure to labels: first, into labelling that makes children compare themselves to one another; second, into labelling that confirms that society divides people into categories.

When it comes to education, giving labels to students lead to comparison among peers. That may develop an inferiority complex and insecurities among the students as peers exert the most influence during their early years of education. So, the point made here is that when we label any student in their early years, it can be damaging for them in the longer run.

In different instances of life, even as a teacher, I can relate to these kids. I have always struggled with solving math problems, so by societal standards, I thought of myself as someone who falls into the Not Smart category. I could have never taken a different frame of reference, considered innovative ideas, and what areas and parts of math did I struggle with? What did I think would be worth understanding better? Was math too hard?

No, after years of being a student in the classroom, I realized that my peers were not SMARTER than me at math, this was never the case. They just exuded intelligence, and I did not. That led me to believe that I was somehow dorky than my peers. But I just learned at my own pace, and so I required distinct help. But teachers, parents, and students misuse the word SMART as a label that you had to earn.

Instead of telling a child that they are smart, specify what they did precisely and why it was deliberate. Preferably tell them how the skills they exhibit will confound the outcome of a situation. Children are more than a label. Please know this. Knowing all of this now, I pray that you will modulate your whole panorama on yourself.

Some points might make an impact on the system. Like, we should stop saying comparative sentences while addressing a class of students. Appreciating every student’s skillset helps to boost confidence. Let us accept the fact that we have some weaknesses. Understanding the child’s area of forte and weakness develops a balance of perception of ours and the others.

There is no issue with the word – SMART or other labels but how people or society interpret it from any sentence. It is just another beautiful word for appreciation. It’s us who use it in such a way that as soon as it comes out of our mouth, it is a tag and describes it or understands it subconsciously as a foundation of yet another discrimination.

Let us use these words as it was supposed to be used and not as a label.

Thank you for reading my immensely long post, which is somewhat of me venting while also aggravating to rouse you. I hope it seizes to your heart.

-Navima