In today's classroom, students bring a wide range of exceptionalities to the table. Having these well-defined categories of exceptionality will ultimately help us move towards a more inclusive teaching environment. These categories allow teachers to clearly differentiate what the individual needs of a student are and how best to cater to these needs. The more precise categories we have, the better able we will be in pinpointing what type of exceptionality the student has and what the best course of action is to help this student. Broad or sweeping categories will result in more students falling through the cracks because their needs will not be properly addressed or will be treated as another exceptionality altogether. 

However, these categories or 'labels' can also be damaging to students. Whether or not the teacher is aware of it, he/she may treat the student differently on account of the exceptionality. Children are very perceptive and will pick up on this which can be damaging to their self-esteem. When students are grouped based on ability level, they will recognize the difference between the 'low group' and the 'high group.' These groups may be dressed up or identified by different numbers, colours, shapes or animals, but all students will understand the true meaning of each group: low ability, medium ability or high ability. They may begin identifying with these labels and may not feel they can move outside of their designated group. 

While I believe categories are important, I also believe that we need to tread carefully with them. Categories should be used by teachers to properly identify and assist students with exceptionalities, but they should not be used as labels for these students. Students should be able to recognize what their strengths are and how to combat their weaknesses, but they should not sequester themselves into one particular category. It's important that all students are given every opportunity to feel confident and successful in their learning. 

Tags: Education, Special, exceptionalties, labels

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These labels wonderful technique for students.

You make an excellent point about classroom labels and their inherent dangers. It is all too easy for us, as educators, to group students into neat little boxes. These boxes are transparent and students can see our filing system. I do not believe we should completely discard labels, as it is a natural thing for educators to do, but I think we should consciously be aware of our system and teach our students equitably.

-George

I agree to these points. These things could definitely bring a change in the classroom.

Obviously, kids need to know things. Currently in the United States, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have created high-stakes standards in our schools. These standards have essentially created a teacher-proof curriculum, because each standard boils down to the nitty-gritty part of the curriculum. In Singapore's and Finland's education system, there is a national curriculum based on lean standards, so teachers, students, and parents have a collective say in molding what students need to know. That's what the United States needs to do.

When students are completing hands-on projects and discovering new things and not looking for research papers for sale, they are learning the material along the way. Instead of drilling away information and always forgetting it later and in process boring them, kids can apply the material to the real world, in whatever path they decide to take.

I agree, you need to know the basics of learning, including the memorization of the multiplication tables for instance. But as Albert Einstein once noted, "A society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity.”

Knowledge can become obsolete in next season's fads, but 21st century skills are always in style.

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