Labels, no matter if they are good or bad, can affect a child's self-image. This could potentially be something the follows a child for life and can be a burden. I see that in my students. There are times they just want to be themselves, but their parents have different expectations. Do they choose to please their inner being, or do they continue to perform for their parents?
For the most part I see my students not being true to themselves. They want to get good grades for their parents, or they hang around a certain group of peers simply because that is the expectation placed on them. This has led to a group of children who don't have a genuine interest in learning but want their teachers to shovel information at them in the quickest and most convenient method possible. The friendships are not close emotional bonds.
While this isn't going to have a huge impact on my 10 and 11-year-old students, I DO think it will affect them later in life. Elementary school is the place to take risks. Meet people and mingle. Miss an assignment here or there and notice the consequences. Have arguments with people who disagree with your point of view and talk it out. Unfortunately none of this is happening in my group of students. They are like little clones of each other. There is very little original thinking, but the need to live up to certain labels is seemingly more important. I am trying to demonstrate to children and their parents that part of being a good student in my classroom is to expand their thinking. It's not all about getting an A+ on a paper; it's more about discovering information that sparks an interest in more learning.
Not taking those risks now, not discovering those topics that spark creativity and interest will lead to a young adult who will take risks as a rebel. The student may decide school is not for him. She may realize that she never met people who she connected with and hang out with a crowd who will lead her down the wrong path, simply because she had never met someone with views different than hers. Boys and girls shouldn't have to carry their labels as baggage. They should be free to invent themselves with as little outside influence as possible from parents, teachers, and other adults.
To answer the original question: I was labeled as "smart," and I am. I do have to say, though, that when I do something stupid or make a dumb mistake I beat myself up over it. I don't want to let anyone down. If I can't solve a problem immediately I get frustrated. Yes, labels follow us. I don't think anyone meant to hurt me with such a wonderful label, but at some point we need to realize that we can never live up to an expectation of perfection within that label. I wonder if I can change my label to "mostly smart."