Friday, March 25, 2016

Lessons Learned from Hiking in the Alps: Labels

Today is day 25 of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring this challenge and for helping me to see the importance of daily writing.


Lessons Learned from Hiking in the Alps: Labels

Last summer I went on a four day inn to inn hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps with my children.  My son and daughter in law planned the trip with a help of a company that maps your route, carries your bags, and arranges your stays.  My son and his wife wanted to do this last trip before having children. I wanted to do this because I was now a widow and I wanted to prove to myself that "widow" does not mean old. Of course I did not tell my kids my reason.

The person previously known as widow!
Now - young chicken! Ha!
I don’t like the word widow so I was determined to cast a new light on the word.  I am still young and can still hike in the Alps despite that title.  

Day one was a challenge.  I, of course was always bringing up the rear (that’s another slice of life story!) but after 7 hours of intense walking I strolled into the inn with my kids!  I made it. 

I reflected on the word widow.  What does that word mean anyway.  According to Dictionary.com widow is: a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.  Yes, by definition I am a widow.  But what I am not is old and unable to move or see the world.  That definition was based on a preconceived notion I had for that word. It was a label. At the end of the day, my tired and achy body realized that the label widow was what I made it to be, and at that point I realized that widow was a label - just a label.  It didn't need to define me.  

What other labels have I used and then place preconceived notions attached to that word? What labels are used for the children in our schools?  Did I use labels that defined a student and stuck with him/her over the years? Did that label damage a child’s self esteem or worse, stopped that student from succeeding?
 
Labels can be damaging, but as I learned in the Alps, labels can be overcome and redefined!


3 comments:

  1. Widow does carry the implication of age. I recently heard someone talk about the difference between saying "I am bipolar" and I have a bipolar disorder". I;d never considered that. Think of the time we hear people say of a child "He is special needs". It has always bothered me when people use the term that way, mostly for grammatical reason. I now see that it has greater implications and excludes the student. To say "He has special needs" is more inclusive, including the student in whatever we are doing with some measure of support.

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  2. What an interesting reflection on how the words we use carry meanings that may be unintended. I love that you were able to redefine your label and are thinking that we can do the same for kids.

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  3. Powerful piece! I love how your thoughts carry through from your experience to your students' experiences. I was led to this post by your March 28th post and am going back there now. As a side bar, I read your post to my mom who is sitting here with me and she said she absolutely gets what you mean. As a divorced woman she used to question what does that mean she is until she came to the conclusion that she is still just herself, a divorced self, but herself.

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