Committing Acts of “Assumicide”

When I taught middle school, I remember the moment that one of my students angrily walked back to my classroom after a meeting with his counselor. He was upset because she asked him, as an 8th grader, what he wanted to be when he graduated high school. He responded that he wanted to be a doctor. It was his dream. That dream ended with that conversation because her response was that it would be impossible because his science grades were too low. He needed to think of something else. To be clear, she was referring to his middle school science grades. After all that we had been through to build up his belief in himself, her one statement sent us right back to square one.

You can call it an “inference” but let’s be real. It was an assumption. This was a kid who struggled to find his way in classrooms that were un-accepting and un-inviting. In one moment, all that we worked toward was in essence undone. It would take three more years before this kid was back to seeing his own potential.

A potential dream became less real…

In all the years that I have trained teachers, nothing infuriates me more than hearing…

“My kids can’t do that.” 

I mean, did you even try? Do you have a magic elevator connected to their brains that tells you that they cannot? Let’s add to this the SPED teacher that says, “My kids can’t do that. They are special ed kids.” Really??? To be clear, these were high performing kids with autism and all that we were learning was how to create a video.

Dear teacher, before assuming what your kids cannot do, let’s take a moment and think of all the things that they CAN do. Think of the things that they do that freak you out because you don’t know how to do them yourself. Now…pause, breathe, step away from the “halt” button and learn from the same kids whose barrier YOU have built. Don’t let your fears keep students locked in the cave that you insist on living in. Don’t let your assumptions become their barrier to greatness.

While the adults that plan the learning are debating on whether or not kids are capable, the ones with opportunity are creating their own learning outside of the restrictive classroom that many of them have because kids with access know that the world is theirs for the taking. What they want to pursue, they can and a teacher isn’t necessarily needed to get them there…especially one who bases learning decisions on assumptions.

When we stop committing these acts of “assumicide”, these same beliefs can be felt by the kids who are too often marginalized.

This kids with zero opportunity because we give them zero access to it…

That is the problem with assumptions.

Comments 8

  1. Rafranz, thank you! Your post reminds me that committing acts of assumicide is not a phenomenon restricted to the classroom or education circles. This happens, ahem, correction: we do this in our families, in our churches, wherever we come together with others. We all can fall prey to our own narrow and often unqualified assumptions. This is how and when awareness can make all the difference. Listening first and fully to others before jumping in with our quick rebuttal is the first step. This is not magic. It’s the result of conscious practice and with your post you put us right there where we need to be again: pausing, reflecting, learning – for our own sakes and the sake of all those who must weather our often inaccurate judgments.

  2. We should always motivate students in every expect of life, never underestimate their weakness, who knows they might resolve it as the learning power of young students is much more then a mature person.

    Really good post it is, keep it up 🙂

  3. I understand the frustration that the student experience and the indignation that you felt at the response of the guidance counselor towards this young man. I, as you, have worked with colleagues who would insist that our students couldn’t read this or write that, etc. As a Latino male, I have endeavored to challenge my students, who for the most part, have been Latino and Black, to inspire them to aspire to excellence.

    It is also so disconcerting when we try to reach a student and he or she just refuses to try to write the essay, or read the piece of literature assigned. Sometimes they don’t see the big picture regardless of what is happening in their lives.

  4. Premature judgments on grades that may not be reflections of what a student knows…that’s what so-called “counselors” such as the person described above use to misdirect the lives of our children. How much human potential is lost? How long will the “job factory” model continue?

    As a parent, I supported every vocational interest my son had, regardless of my interest in his interest. I always gave him honest feedback on his questions, but let the motivation to achieve come from inside him. Any teacher or counselor who crossed me would have had hell to pay.

    1. Forgot to mention, I’m a retired middle school teacher and currently consult with school district on classroom assessment and sound grading practices. Also served eight years on our local school board after retirement from the classroom.

  5. I’m mystified by professionls that dash kids’ dreams. My smart, creative daughter had a tough time in jr high. Thinking I’d found a smaller, less chaotic school for 9th grade, i was furious when the counselor informed her that her dream of going to an Ivy League college wasn’t realistic. Counselor even gave her a book called Beyond the Ivies. I’m of the philosophy that you tell a child they can do whatever they desire: sky’s the limit. Like my mom told me. Left that school and “assumicide”. Daughter went on to graduate with honors from Syracuse.

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