My thoughts on labelling in school

I am going to share regular behavioural psychology approaches with you, in the hope that it will not only inform but more so, to make you think. This cognitive reflective practice is at the heart of all the work I am doing in schools and the key to making positive changes for all.

With the young people this week the issues of labelling has come up several times. We have enjoyed some role play situations whereby I or the pupil has acted out various personas in order to help them understand how labels can be created very quickly, dependent on the behaviours we present. Pupils have been very honest in naming the labels that they have gained and the reasons why, but are also aware that these labels can at times lead them to being targeted for incidents that they have not been involved in. This negative labelling can trigger feelings of resentment and in turn anger which feeds the negative behaviour cycle.

Little actions that can help in a big way!

  • Think of the young people you teach who cause you a problem, what are their labels? Children are very perceptive and aware of how they think you perceive them. In order to make each day better for you, it is essential to make each day a new day. Be mindful that labels can easily stick and young people have not got our sense of maturity and understanding to remove them themselves. They need proof from you that they are ok, because they are already struggling with that idea on a daily basis, creating a negative sense of self.


  • If a young person has had a difficult session with you previously, then it is important to welcome them back with warmth. They will be expecting you to think the worst of them, because that is the inner model that they think of themselves. If you can prove them wrong with one minute of your time, then not only will you meet a new young person but more so that your teaching will become easier and more rewarding.


Next time: Focus on children who have little value in themselves, and how to add some currency.