How do you label students?

Family docs teach CBT, and we realize everyone distorts, as we do ourselves. We label events, feelings, thoughts, other people, ourselves. We label students. We listen to newscasts, see the black and white or overgeneralizations, the catastrophization, listen to patients, try to gently confront with logic, hear it from our family members, and hear it in our own thoughts. It’s what the brain does. At home, in clinic. But never is it more in your face than in a sports event.

DJT_2965: label students Dave Thomas via Compfight

I’ve probably done lines for the last time. No, not that. Volleyball lines. As your child grows up, you volunteer as a parent to stand on a corner of the court, flag in hand. You look for foot faults (the toe touching the line on serve), balls out of bounds, and touches (the team touching the ball before it goes out). One of the most difficult spots is the antenna. Antennas are taped on each end of the net, over the line. If balls are high, it can be tough. If there are lots of players scrambling at the net, it can be tough to actually see what happened.


And then there are the other parents. Usually the most strident, most obnoxious ones don’t volunteer. Once you’re up there, you tend to have some sympathy for the linesman. Yes, you’re a parent. Yes, your kid is on the floor. And for this, more than anything, you try to display your best. Accuracy. Honesty. Integrity.


And why am I writing this? Well, I got screamed at. Again. I kept my head in the game, concentrated on the ball. While distortions whirled around my head, and in them. “Did it catch part of the line? Was it really out? I think that coach is scowling at me… He thinks…HEY JERK, watch the antenna! Ya Blind, or something? BLIND, the linesman’s BLIND!”


If there was ever a time one wanted to be just a transparent, pane of glass, a non distortional pair of eyeballs, that was it. But it’s all a game, isn’t it? More than once I’ve heard a ref tell me, “I don’t care if it’s in or out, if I disagree with you I’ll overturn the call. Just make us all believe that you know it’s in or out!” Flags swung with gusto tend to placate the audience. Tentative swings suggest uncertainty.


Sort of life training, right there on the volleyball court. If you’re going to categorize something, be definite about it. Slam it in there. Bolt it down. Stand confidently and jut your chin out.


Do you realize you label students? Have you labelled a student incompetent? Or worse, brilliant? How has that changed your interaction with her? Your teaching?


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