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Stop labelling children!!!!

06 June 2014, 07:50

History. I always wondered why I had to study this as a subject. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t welcome in the Metal Work class anymore. At the end of standard 7 (now known as grade 9) you had to choose your subjects for the remaining 3 years, and the Metal Work teacher asked if anyone considered taking metalwork as a subject. Obviously I raised my hand, only to be met with: “You!!?? I don’t want you in my class!”. I can’t imagine that anyone would have a problem with me. I was such an amicable, well-behaved  child…

So I was obliged to change my subjects on the form. History! For 3 years!

The modus operandi in History class was that we would discuss a certain topic. The teacher was quite knowledgeable  and always made it quite interesting. Homework was to learn and memorise the topic for the next day’s pop quiz. 

Thinking back, I am sure I must have had a mild case of "attention deficit disorder". In the 80’s, yes I am that old,  the condition was not yet coined as ADD, so I had to carry the “naughty” and “lazy” label.

Don’t be mistaken, I would have owned up to those labels 100%. However, were I in school today, I would have been a zombie with my box of Ritalin to play with. Just think about it, no questioning, no talking back,  no jokes in class, no mistakes to learn from. Just fit in and keep quiet. I would be any teachers dream!

I struggled a bit to memorise the information from History class. We only stayed one block from school, so I was able to hear if anyone was kicking a ball around on the rugby field, and that was quite a big draw card for me.

Many other sounds disrupted me too, but the ball was my greatest distraction. You can smell the leather and the Dubbin, with which rugby balls were treated at the time. Needless to say, History review, or any subject for that matter, is something that wasn’t done too often (if at all!) and so I was one of the (un)fortunate ones who always had to stay behind after history class. The teacher hoped that the cane would motivate me to study harder…

Until one day…..I can still remember how I managed to stay focused on my History books for at least 15 minutes – it was a record! More than what I normally used to spend for exams anyway.

The next day I was present in history class, and the pop quiz session started. Guess with who –  with me of course!

And I started to talk…..about the Anschluss, Austria and Nazi Germany. About the Rheinland, Estland, Letland. I use words like “Heim ins Reich”, and “Fascists”. You could hear a pin drop. Even Willem and Aletta, the stars of the class, looked over their shoulder to see who this “new” classmate was. With their jaws on the floor, like the FNB advert: “Where did he come from?”

I think even the teacher was a bit surprised and disappointed. Surprised that I can actually remember some things, and disappointed as I won’t be attending the punishment session after class.

It is so easy to give a child a label, especially now with the list of available conditions, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Bipolar disorder, personality disorder, social anxiety disorder and the works.

I just wonder if it is always a diagnosis – a correct diagnosis at that – or just a convenient human made label? We tend to forget about words like mischief, naughty, fun. Children are exposed to millions of TV channels, android devices, and other technologically advanced devices, but at school they still neeed to stare at the age old blackboard and chalk. If they don’t, we reach for the list of available labels.

Children are a message we send to a time that we will not see. Let’s send the right message

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