So, why is there ever resistance to reading about a new student’s learning profile before meeting them? A teacher may say, “I like to get to know students first without any preconceived notions” or a parent may say, “Would you like the report? I realize you may want to draw your own conclusions first and I respect that...” In the parent’s case, I think it is just a wise marker of respect, signaling a certain deference to the professionalism of the teacher. Yet, because of what is at stake here, I hope more parents will find other ways to do that. And I definitely hope that excellent teachers will reflect upon the fact that
- Their very excellence and professionalism is what protects them and their students from any sort of “bias,” or “prejudgment”—any negative narrowing of the lens through which a student is perceived—as a result of reading a neuropsychological assessment, or pass-up notes from colleagues.
- There have surely been other excellent teachers all along each student’s journey, and those teachers’ reactions to a struggling student as they have gotten to know them are mentally paired with the student’s self-concept as much as the reactions of less-experienced teachers. That is, if school has been primarily a place of struggle and failure, if we react to the student even in subtle ways that they have seen before--ways that even skilled, kind teachers have reacted--we are still reinforcing the student’s sense that this year will be just like last year and the year before... Basically, what could be an opportunity to signal a genuine new beginning has unnecessarily become just the opposite.
As a learning specialist once upon a time, it was a key part of my job to try and ensure that all agreed-upon accommodations for students were in place “from day one.” This, to me, should be the very minimum we do to pave the way for student success. I’m asking reflective teachers to help us do much better than that.