Friday, January 11, 2013

Living Up To Our Names

I wrote this back in February of 2012, but the topic came up again today:

There is a thought that has been coming at me again and again lately and that is - the power of a name.  We discussed it similar ideas in my behavior class a few quarters back.  I heard it as I was listening to my audiobook of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, 1999) a few weeks ago.  I talked about it with one of my good friends when she was here for my birthday, because she influenced me to go around calling all of my kiddos "sweet boy" and "sweet girl".  And again tonight as I am studying for my research methods class, it shows up in the article that we are critiquing.

So here's an example from someone I love and admire very much.  She has amazing parenting skills and loads of experience with children, but in a weak moment, this fabulous mama gave in to frustration (as we all do sometimes) and said "My son is driving me crazy.  He's such a hitter!"  So my challenge to her, and to you, is to think about the names that our children will be living up to.  If this child is going to live up to the name that he's given, perhaps it would be better to say that, "My son is a sweet child (imperfect by definition of being a human being, and immature by definition of being young) who is learning appropriate social skills.  I love him cuz he's mine, but he is really driving me crazy today."  Either way, we can acknowledge our children's poor choices and our own frustration, but in essence this child changes from being "a hitter" to being "a sweet child who is still learning, but special anyway because he is wonderfully made and he belongs to me".  And after all, aren't we ALL still learning?  We are all wonderfully made, but we never quit learning.  

A similar comparison was made in the research study I was reading for class tonight (Sheppard, 2006).  They argued that "assigning wretched labels (such as academically unacceptableˆ) [to under-achieving high schools] is not the answer.  Who can possibly benefit from such designation?  Conceivably, the labels may have been designed to jumpstart listless administrators, teachers, and students.  Unfortunately, early outcomes indicate that once schools are tagged with low performing labels, they have a tendency to maintain that undesirable status which may imply that the listless remain listless" (p. 622-623).  

I heard an illustration this week in my culture class about a piece of sand.  If you put the piece of sand into a human eye, it irritates the person and eventually may turn into an infection.  However, if you put that piece of sand into an oyster, it irritates the oyster and turns into a pearl.  So what do we do when irritations come along in our own lives?  Hmm... Gets you thinking doesn't it?  

With hope and gratitude,

Covey, S. (1999). The 7 habits of highly effective people. London: Simon & Schuster. 

Sheppard, P. (2006). Successful African-American mathematics students in academically unacceptable high schools. Education126(4), 609-625.

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