Do you see students as they are or do you label them as “slow,” “middle.” or “bright”?


The real danger [of labeling students] is its threat to student potential. It’s one matter to see them as struggling or behind in their efforts to learn at a given moment, since this information helps us find ways to help them progress to the next level. It’s another to determine they are ”slow” or at “level one” because they have done poorly in academics. Once we categorize them, their fate in school has been sealed. We no longer seek their potential. They no longer believe in themselves.

How can we break out of this predicament?… Those of us who see students as fixed quantities, such as “bright” or “slow,” can choose to break away from this mindset by remembering our teachers who may have judged us unfairly. Some of us may still have residual feelings, but have managed to make our lives work, though not without struggle. Hopefully, we will not create such a burden on our students.

Perhaps we carry these judgments into the classroom. Perhaps we still see ourselves as average in a career that is low on the social ladder, and less respected than other professions. Regardless of our origins, we need not replicate what happened to us. We need not continue to label as we were labeled.

We must find our own path to greatness if we are to create these paths for our students, and heed the wisdom of Marianne Williamson (erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela who quoted it at his inaugural):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.z

Do you have this fear?

For more on seeing students at they are, See Chapter 11: Abolish Tracking in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: