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A Rose's Name Does Matter!

Far be it for me to disagree with the Bard himself, but I must take umbrage at his assertion that “[A] rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare seems to be claiming that the word describing something is irrelevant; the essence of the being remains the same.

On the face of it such an assertion seems to make sense. Would not a rose smell the same no matter what it is called? However humans always bring emotional preconceptions to experiences that color them. The choice of labeling makes a difference. In last week’s blog, I compared people’s instinctive reaction to “gun control” versus “gun safety.” I would guess that most people admire “freedom fighters” while condemning “terrorists” though they might be the same people.

Likewise, I would welcome “refugees” into my country while I want to keep “illegals” out. I would rather eat “orange roughy” than “slimehead,” as the fish was known before it graced our plates. (“Chilean sea bass” was once known as “Patagonian toothfish.” It was not an overfished species with its former name.)

Given the power of labels, leaders ought to spend time contemplating how they refer to items in the workplace.

In schools, shouldn’t both faculty and staff understand the school’s direction and important issues? Yet, we often have faculty meetings, not employee meetings even if staff is invited.

Similarly, I never understood how the professionals who work with students who have learning differences were often called learning specialists. Aren’t all good teachers learning specialists? And isn’t the school the learning center, not the room where students with learning differences come for support?

Would you rather be the school’s customers or one of their families? I don’t know about you but I would rather be in upper school than in lower school. Lower than what?

While it might seem trivial, spending time thinking of how we label things can create a more inclusive and more embracing environment. It is worth the effort.


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