On calling my students “my babies.”

I wrote this the week before school started this fall.

If you’ve spent any time reading my tweets or hearing me talk about my students in person, you may have picked up on the fact that I often refer to them as “my babies.”

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that to an outside observer, this may seem like I’m being condescending or reductive in my views on students’ abilities. And although I know #haterswillhate and such, I figured it behooved me to articulate why I say this, and why it’s a conscious choice.

I don’t like to collectively call my students “friends” or “boys and girls.” And despite the rigorous academics and future preparation students find in my classroom, “scholars” sounds a little too stuffy even for my overly formal patterns of speech. When I’m speaking to my class, I usually call them “ladies and gentlemen.”

My kids are brilliant. They absolutely blow my mind. The director of the HCP program said my room has the feel of a college course, and that’s a huge compliment to my students’ dedication and understanding. However, in casual conversations, I began noticing I call my kids my kids “my babies.”

So there’s the obvious connection that I have no children of my own, ergo I really do view these kids as my progeny. But I think there’s something more to it as well.

Many people think gifted kids can just take care of themselves, that they can self-direct their learning even when the class is painfully boring, that they’re independent, that they are little adults in tiny bodies. Reminding myself that these tiny humans are CHILDREN, despite their stunning knowledge of Norse mythology and their ability to design elaborate electrical systems, is imperative.

My sensitivity to the needs of gifted kids to be treated in a developmentally respectful way alongside nurturing their accelerated talents was brought to light when I read Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child.

These children are often academically brilliant, and they’re frequently insanely savvy about the emotions of those around them. But just because they can mimic our speech and mannerisms doesn’t mean we can let them fend for themselves. They deserve a developmentally appropriate, rigorous education.

I love my babies, and I can’t wait to begin learning with them on Wednesday.

2 thoughts on “On calling my students “my babies.””

  1. That was a wonderful explanation! These brilliant children still need to be treated as children, but with respect to their intelligence! Some have thought they don’t need “coddling.” “Hug these babies!” The general public will treat them as weirdos…when they are just extremely brilliant CHILDREN! The parents have a long struggle ahead of them. Read the books Ms.Houghton suggests and get an understanding of these wonderful, talented, humorous, bright “babies” of yours! No matter how bright they are, remember, YOU are the adult. YOU must guide them in the right direction. Caution them against the ignorant “adults.!” Remind them they ARE have special abilities, but are equal to other humans. They may have to have a high tolerence of those who don’t understand them or the world around them, but remind them to use their abilities toward the “good” of life.

  2. Shannon,
    Ever since we have become Facebook friends, I I have become completely intrigued with your approach on education. I teach the “higher functioning” special education students. Some have learning disabilities, some have ADHD,some have emotional impairments…regardless of the disability, I teach the general ed curriculum at a slower pace for 11th and 12th graders. I often wonder why I am forced to teach “Hamlet” if they can’t read. Not to mention, I am responsible for getting them to be proficient on the ACT. I was recently enlightened by one of my FaVORITE kids. We have a great relationship, and she told me she was switching out of my class (Currently, I am the only special education English 11 teacher.). When we had a heart-to-heart regarding why, she told me even though I help her understand, she can’t read the words. I was shocked. A 17 year old can’t read??? I can’t remember not knowing what words said. I was DEVASTED. I teach what I am told to teach. It doesn’t always fit their needs, and it isn’t fair. I’ve been frustrated, broken down, and I have not been able to sleep some nights. Your positive posts about your job have given me more hope. I’ve been following it all, and I think you are fabulous. Your students are very lucky to have you, and all the other teachers out there are lucky to have you as romodel and resource to look up to! You are doing great things for both kids and adults. Keep it coming! You inspire me daily!

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