Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Labels and Self Fulfilling Prophecies

Labels and Self Fulfilling Prophecies

See anything funny about the wording on this kennel card? We did and so do the brand new managers of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. So starting this week, Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter will be removing all stereotypical language from their signage and describing each dog's individual personality traits rather than tired and outdated definitions. We can imagine this is going to help their adoption rate in really BIG ways too.

Thanks guys! We salute you and look forward to seeing big and happy changes roll out at your shelter. Learn more by liking Bad Rap on Facebook.

When I saw this I started thinking about labels and the self fulling prophecy.

I have seen lots of lessons on labels on Pinterest and around my school. I have seen activities where a student draws a picture of themselves and then adds labels like "smart, funny, etc." So if a child labels themselves smart will they live up to it?

When I was in school I remember learning about the idea of a self fulling prophecy and not thinking too much of it. Now I feel like I reference the idea daily. According to Wise Geek. com "The self-fulfilling prophecy is a statement that alters actions and therefore comes true. For example, a person stating “I’m probably going to have a lousy day,” might alter his actions so that such a prediction is fulfilled by his actions."

I truly believe we live up to what we think we are capable of, but also we live up to the stereotypes placed upon us. For example, if you are so certain (despite all evidence to the contrary) that pitbulls are likely to bite then you will probably be skidish around the breed and treat them differently than other dogs, maybe even be cruel to them. If the dog picks up on this and eventually becomes so scared or frustrated that they do act out, then you are going to say "see told you so."  The opposite could be true. You could believe the facts and know that this breed is snuggly, loving, compassionate, and protective; then when you treat them with love and respect and they do the same in return say see "pits are amazing" (something I say daily also.)

So the same is true for our kids. This is why I know some teachers that want to know nothing about a child's educational and behavioral past. They want to make their decisions and form their own opinions,  and thus not letting others sway how they treat a student.

The past two years I have had a student who is so attention starved that he acts out behaviorally. He is mean, hurtful, rude, and finds every way to get under you skin. Last year the kids had enough and when the teacher asked them to give input into their new seating arrangement every student in the class requested that they didn't have to sit by him. This year I feel like he is living up to that image, he is full filling his own self full-filling prophecy. If everyone hates him then he is going to do things to make them hate him. The students gave him a the nickname "not so smart" and this year I see him making "not so smart" choices.

In a recent article by the Huffington Post they posed the question "Is Bad Body Image A Self-Fulling Prophecy?" I thought this was a fascinating question. I, for one, when feeling 'fat' or 'unhappy,' tend to eat to eat junk, stay indoors, and mope. So if I feel fat and partake in activities that will in fact lead me to gain weight have I fulfilled my prophecy?

So how do we break the cycle, how do we break the prophecy?
How do we change our future? Well here are my thoughts:

1) We teach students how to use positive "I- messages." I think the "I" gives the student a sense of of ownership. If we can teach them to use positive messages then we are setting them up for a postitive frame of mind.

2) Teach our students cognitive-behavioral techniques. One of my favorite series of books is the "What To Do When..." For example in "What To Do When You Worry Too Much" there is a great chapter on talking back to your 'worry monster' and changing negative thought patterns into positive ones. By taking kids from "I'm so stupid, I am going to fail" to "I didn't do well on this test, but with more practice I'll ace the next one" we can hopefully change their prophecy.

 Have you seen the inspirational story of London? Here is dog that despite being abused and loosing his two front legs, probably never thought "I can't catch that ball." No, he probably thought really hard about what we was going to do to catch that ball and did it!

Inspirational videos I think are good to set the mood, but to really get student "buy in" I think our students need to inspire themselves.......

3) So, we need teach our students to be optimistic. Here is a Ted Ed I found from Martin Seligman on positive psychology and the 11th reason to be optimistic.

"Seligman believes that there are three different types of happy lives: the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life." One of the dig deeper ideas is to "try what Seligman calls the “Gratitude Visit” [16:53]. Keep a written journal or a video diary to record your feelings before and after the exercise." 

What do you think?

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