Updated: Jun 20, 2018
Let me hit you with a few musings to start your day. For all the teachers out there, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Acronyms. Teaching is full of them. Everything has some long winded name that is turned into an acronym to make it easier to remember. Except for the fact that you can sometimes forget what they all mean, mix them up and get confused by all the letters we are supposed to remember. We are even told that when applying for jobs, we must write the title in full and then use the acronym because not all schools/principals may know what they mean. Huh? Don’t we all work for the Department? Should it not be consistent across the board? Or is there just someone hidden away spurting out acronyms to some schools and not others, slyly rubbing their hands together in glee.
Now let me draw your attention to my favourite acronym of all- ODD, otherwise known as Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Let that sink in a minute. Say it slowly, let it roll off your tongue. Oppositional. Defiance. Disorder.
Better known as your child has severe respect issues, is capable of lashing out at the drop of a hat and overall doesn’t feel the need to listen or participate in class. Hmmmmm. Does anyone else see a problem here? I recently had a class that had seven students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) with two of them having ODD on top. They were all on medication for ADHD but weirdly no medication exists for ODD (happy to be told otherwise if I’m wrong here but hey, I’m a teacher not a doctor so I guess I can’t know everything).
The problem I have (and many teachers have) with an acronym like ODD is it attempts to normalise this behaviour and give parents an excuse for their child’s detentions, suspensions and warnings. The amount of times I’ve been told ‘Oh he has ODD so cut him some slack’ is unbelievable. Meaning it is perfectly acceptable for this one student to take away from the learning time of others because they have a diagnosed disorder and an excuse to behave disrespectfully and rudely to anyone who crosses their path. But it’s the teachers fault right? Schools go into lockdown sometimes because of students like this and this is completely acceptable.
Now let’s get to the main reason I’ve written this post today. Doctors, teachers, humans in general love to give things labels. It almost becomes a badge of honour, something to wear proudly on your chest and use as an excuse every time you make a bad decision in life, hurt someone’s feelings or generally behave like a horrible human being. Why can’t we have positive disorders like Affirmative Positive Disorder (APD), Positive Behaviour Disorder (PBD) or Kind Human Forever Disorder (KHFD)? Ok that last one was a bit of a joke but you get my point.
We continue to normalise more radical behaviours at the expense of positive character traits. I’ve never once taught a class and was told that ten of the students were respectful and kind human beings, hard workers, deep thinkers and happy individuals. We only ever get told the negative. Make sure you take a look at the class profile before you start. You’ll notice three have ADHD and there’s at least another five with behaviour issues. This is a fault of the system, a system where we plan and account for extreme behaviours and push positive behaviours to the side. There are kids in every single class, across every single school that have never put a foot wrong and yet their needs are prioritised down the list. It’s so sad.
Add to that that these poor students are just expected to put up with it, have no voice and cannot stand up for themselves. I see them sitting there, fed up, annoyed that we have once again stopped for little Johnny who has ODD. They are desperate to get on with the lesson, they are desperate to learn, they understand the importance of schooling, they want to be there. They do everything right, make consistent and positive choices, have never been given a warning let alone a detention or suspension and yet they are the ones suffering. They are the ones we don't have specialised plans for, they are the ones that do not receive special treatment. They are the ones that will actually contribute to society, help make our world a better place. They are the ones that need our full attention.
Let’s stop labelling everything and let’s start calling it what it is. Society doesn't need more excuses, more scapegoats, more reasons to pass the buck. We ALL need to start being accountable- teachers, parents, policymakers- everyone. The system is failing and this is one of the reasons why.
UPDATE: It’s as if the universe read this also and has delivered two new disorders to my repertoire. Fresh new ones that I have never heard of before. Ready?
Conduct Disorder and Mood Disregulation Disorder.
May as well buy a Dymo labelling machine and start sticking the labels across student foreheads.