I am a college teacher.
Each term begins with the same play:
STUDENT (looking at the ground in shame): May I speak to you in private?
ME: What can I do for you?
STUDENT (still looking down): I have a learning disability.
ME: Why that’s the silliest thing I ever heard of.
(STUDENT looks up in surprise)
ME: You walked in here by yourself, spoke to me in perfect English and I assume you can go potty on your own. Since you were not born doing those things, I can only assume that you somehow learned them, therefore you are ABLE to learn. How can you tell me that you have a disability?
STUDENT then explains that they are diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD or some other label. They will not look me in the eye as they continue to INSIST that they are disabled.
ME: Oh, you have a learning DIFFERENCE, not a DISABILITY. Actually, if you look at it, you don’t have a learning disability, I may have a TEACHING disability – I may not be able to teach you in a way that you can learn. Why don’t you explain to me how you learn best and then you can help me overcome my teaching disability.
At that point, the student usually lifts his or her head and smiles. These students usually become the top performers in my math classes because they are eager to spend time working to help me overcome MY disability.
Disability or difference?
I truly wish that the educational physiologists would replace the word “disability” with “difference.” Such an easy change in wording makes a tremendous difference in achievement. It instantly changes CAN’T into CAN. It creates a sense of confidence that was missing.
Labels we give ourselves and others can be so empowering or so paralyzing. We must be careful in how we distribute our labels.
Losing labels means expanding your identity past those labels.
What labels do you use to describe yourself?
- Are you bad, disorganized, scatter-brained, ditzy?
- OR are you competent, smart, capable, attractive?
We act according to the labels we attach to ourselves. Our labels become our ID, our definition of who we are – accurate or not.
Where did they come from?
Many of our labels come from our childhood, while others are cultural.
Our parents and teachers attach labels to us based on our behavior as small children. If you fell down a lot when learning to walk, you become “clumsy” for life, even as a teen. Because you are labeled as clumsy, you will act accordingly; your subconscious does not question your self-definition.
One of the most frustrating things about my own African-American culture is the negative labels we use to describe ourselves. We often attach negativity to our culture as if that is the ONLY destiny available to us.
These cultural labels force us to under live our lives IF we CHOOSE to accept them as our identity.
Cultural labels are among the hardest to shed because to do so often means being rejected by your peers.
Are these the labels you want to use to define yourself?
We become what we say we are.
We have a CHOICE. We can either accept our labels or reject them – our destiny is determined by our ID.
We have the power to label ourselves in new, edifying ways. Why hold on to paralyzing labels?
Take an inventory of the labels on your personal ID card. Ask yourself if that is who you WANT to be? Lose the limiting labels but remember to replace them with new, empowering ones.
What new labels can you come up with?
Don’t forget to visit Taquila today for more positive insight.