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Dear Educator,

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. I think that we can all agree that this is not a true statement. Many of us have been hurt by a name or label given to us and yet we continue to give our own students labels that do not serve them well.


Can we please agree to stop calling our students “lows”? This broad and vague label limits our own ability to develop strategies to increase our students’ success. How about we think of a new label for our students, one that actually defines their needs? If we know what their academic needs are, the better we are positioned to support them.


For example, what if we called them “Conceptual Learners?” We could use this knowledge to provide context-based problems and manipulatives for problem solving.


What about labeling some as “Students Who Need Extra Time to Think and Solve Problems?” We could then ensure we provide adequate wait time for these students or decrease the use of timed tests.


Can we label some students as “Students with Stressful Home Lives?” We could make sure we were more patient and aware of our students’ anxiety.


What if we call them “Students with Weak Number Sense?” Could this label perhaps be remedied by reading a professional development article on ways to develop number sense?


What about the label “Students Who are Chronically Absent?” We could use this information to make contact with the District Attorney’s Office and get the student on the chronic absence watch list, therefore prompting parents to get their kids to school and on time.


Low student is practically used as a synonym for “can’t learn”. When a student is labeled as “low”, the school community: teachers, aides, coaches and administrators may see few opportunities to support the student in a way that promotes their growth. Words can hurt. Let’s agree to be more conscious of how we label our kids.

Academic Labeling and its Effects