Remember being a student? Remember the kid who could do no wrong in that class? Remember the one who always got asked to help? The one who always had her/his hand up to answer the question? The teacher’s pet?
I’ve been thinking about favoritism often this week. Many school districts around the country are accused of showing favoritism towards their star athletes, especially during this time of year; not just public high schools but colleges as well. You know how it goes. Johnny Football is barely passing so the coach may “talk” to the teacher to keep him eligible to play sports. Susie All-A’s might have come to class late, but that’s ok. She is smart enough to miss a little class time. “Can Dana miss that test next Friday to help set-up Science Fair?”
As budding teachers we were all told to avoid having “favorites” in the classroom. “Make every student feel equal and welcome.” I was told. Like every student regardless of their individuality. Regardless of the emotional baggage or behaviors, treat each student the same.
But therein lays the problem.
Students are not the same.
As our school systems are changing from the old one-size fits all lesson plans to individualized learning strategies, we as teachers need to realize, students are not equal just as all teachers are not equal. We, as humans, tend to like other people who are like ourselves. Football coach/teachers tend to like football player/students because they have more in common, see them more and, maybe, understand the hurtles of being a student/athlete. English teachers tend to like those students who read many books and can discuss the latest novels with them after class. Teachers and students like to have things in common with the other people in their communications. We like people like us. Our favorite students tend to be the students who “get” our jokes in class or have similar interests and tastes.
So, going back to Education 101, is it wrong to have favorites?
On one hand, a favorite should not get preferential treatment, and admittedly, this is sometimes difficult. You really like that kid. You know they meant to write a “b” instead of a “d”. They know better than that, right?
On the other hand, remember the kid who always sat close to your desk? The quiet one who only talked to you because maybe you had a troll doll on your desk and they just happened to like them too? You as a teacher connected with that student. Maybe, just maybe, you became their favorite teacher simply because you had a troll on your desk and you talked to them. Notice how that word favorite changed slightly here?
Oh yes. Students have favorites too.
Here’s what I think is important. I think successful students need at least one teacher during their schooling years who makes them feel like they are “the favorite”. Not equal. Not the same. But “THE FAVORITE”. It would be impossible to make every student in the room feel like they were the favorite. Do some soul searching. What kids do you really like? Why do you like them? Try to find things you like about your other students, also but be aware that you DO have favorites. Compare notes with your teacher teams. Who likes who? Why? Is anyone being missed?
If Facebook has taught us anything it is that we all need social connections. Like somebody today. Make them a favorite.