Kids never strive to be careless, lazy or unmotivated and referring to a student in this way never helps a situation. In fact, many kids that hear these labels again and again develop a negative inner voice as well as a case of learned helplessness.
A Student Story
I’ll never forget a student of mine coming into one of our sessions in a terrible frame of mind. He exclaimed, “I’m careless and unmotivated!” He slid a graded assignment across the table in front of me. Red marks cut across his work and in bold, scarring letters the teacher had told Jake that he had made many "careless errors."
Even though Jake’s grade was an 88, it took me almost an hour to convince him that he was not careless and unmotivated. Jake had learning disabilities as well as ADHD and I knew the errors that he had made had nothing to do with care or effort. The poor guy was so detached and dejected, he hadn’t even evaluated the mishaps, and when he finally looked at them, he could see that they were all unintentional.
At the end of our session, I pointed out to Jake that his teacher had misspelled careless. She had spelled it “carless.” I exclaimed, “How careless of her,” and winked at Jake. I then pointed out that even this wasn’t really a careless mistake, it was simply an "oops." “School is a place where we should be comfortable making an oops and then learning from it,” I proclaimed.
I took the paper out into the waiting room and showed it to his mother. I then asked her to do me a favor and make an appointment with the teacher. “Hand the assignment back to the teacher”, I recommended, “and point out how careless it was for her to have misspelled this word. Then pause for a short while and say, 'That’s how you made my son feel.’"
So please take care to erase these negative labels from your lexicon so your students can feel safe to learn as well as learn from their mistakes.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, I'd love to hear from you!
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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