Perhaps the worst consequence of judging rather than observing is that the person judged tends to live up to the label given them. Common labels given to students are “lazy”, “sloppy”, “stupid” or even “class clown” or the like. Thus, the judgement does nothing to help solve the problem but rather makes it more complex to identify since a behavioral component has now been added to the actual underlying issue.
Behavioral psychologist, Dr. David J. Lieberman, points out that children have no sense of self. As a result, children tend to identify with the message of their primary care giver. For many children the primary caregiver may not be a parent. Therefore, it is important that all educators appreciate that s/he may be the voice creating that child’s sense of self. You may also be the only voice of positivity and encouragement in this student’s life. As an added challenge you may have to counteract all the negative messages other are feeding your charge.
This is where you need to get creative and find even the smallest good point to focus on. One high school girl I was working with could not read. She had an excellent memory and relied heavily on her extensive sight word bank. For various reasons, despite early identification and a very involved mom, she did not receive effective services and the interventions provided did not work for her. In my experience most teenagers are hostile to service providers and resent being singled out when all they want to do is blend in with their peers. Not so with this young lady. Through the three years of high school I kept reminding her that she was the poster child for perseverance. That her perseverance would stand her in good stead well beyond her school years and give her an advantage throughout life over her peers for whom academics came easily.
Think of a situation with one of your charges that does not seem to be a blessing. Can you find the kernel of positive?
Of course, this does not mean ignore the necessary resolution of the situation. We did come up with a methodology to significantly improve this young lady’s reading ability. But if what you say is going to come to fruition wouldn’t you rather say something that builds instead of destroys?