We Make the Class Trouble-Maker
During my work placement, the class trouble-maker got told off and sent to the corner. But this time, they hadn’t done anything wrong and I was there.
The trouble-maker got accused by the teacher’s pet. After having a civil reading session, the teacher’s pet claimed that the trouble-maker had messed with her book whilst she was reading.
This never happened.
Immediately told off by the teacher, the class trouble-maker tried to defend himself. However, having a pre perceived opinion of him, the teacher dismissed everything he said.
He got sent to the corner — sad and defeated yet not surprised.
Whilst the teacher’s pet sat there smiling, happy with the outcome, I went to set the record straight. After, apologising, the teacher removed the trouble-maker from the corner and told the teacher’s pet off. Both surprised by this turn of events.
Clearly, the pupils in this story seem to fit each others label more than they fit their own. The teacher’s pet was in fact the class trouble-maker in this scenario. However, they were treated by the labels they had already been assigned.
Science Behind The Effect of Labelling Children The Trouble-Maker
The Labelling Theory, by Howard Becker (1963), shows that individuals can be influenced by the labels place upon them. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy for both the labeller and the labelled.
If students are aware of their ‘trouble-maker’ status, this may be formed into part of their identity. On one hand, they might start to act in ways that reflect this label. On the other, they are treated as if the label were true.
I have watched many of my own class ‘trouble-makers’ give up on the work early because they had already been told they were going to fail by others. In the end, they only failed because they thought it was fact, not because they were incapable.
When teachers and other students apply the label of the ‘Class Trouble-Maker’ to a pupil, it impacts their ability, potential and behaviour. They start to see it as fact instead of something to be changed or disproved.
What Can Teachers Do
On the contrary to these class trouble-makers, the students that are labelled the ‘best in the class’ work extra hard to maintain this status. No matter how true it may be. Often this statement is only proved by the hard work to maintain it, not the natural talent. I firmly believe that anyone could have been the ‘best in the class’ if encouraged in the correct way.
Teachers are responsible to provide encouragement and disregard negative labels that hinder progress. By providing a good environment for learners we can push the idea that everyone works together and not against each other. There would be no good student or bad student. We can make an environment where the students succeed together, encouraging and helping each other.
“Labels can set limits on what pupils can achieve”
— Marc Rowland, Director of Policy and Research at the National Education Trust