(Originally posted 8/11/10)
This is a tough one. Nearly every teacher I know SWEARS that they don’t have favorites. And nearly every teacher I know has them…..and the kids know it. Kids are not only perceptive, they are smart. They not only observe, they watch, and they see.
Which students are our favorites?
The students that make us feel like good teachers. (they do the homework, ace the tests, produce amazing projects, sit in the front row….you get the idea.)
The students that think like we do. (they like the same sports, the same teams, the same t.v. shows, the same jokes, the same colors…..you get the idea.)The students that suck up. (they notice when we get a haircut, offer to get papers from the office, answer the phone, pick up books…whatever makes our lives just a little bit easier)
The students that like us. (they laugh at our jokes, say hi in the hall, wish us happy birthday, tell their parents they like our class…whatever makes our lives just a little more pleasant)
The kids don’t mind so much that we HAVE favorites. That is life. They get that. What they mind is when we PLAY favorites. When we show by our actions and our words that some students matter more than others. It may be natural, and it may be human, but it is (although I put it #2 on the list) the number one way to alienate students and destroy any chance of building strong relationships in the classroom.
When we have “relaxed” conversations before class with the kids we “like” and not with everyone….we are playing favorites.
When we allow some kids to “get away with” smart remarks, sarcasm, eye-rolling etc…but reprimand others for putting their heads down or using headphones….we are playing favorites.
When we go to football games and don’t go to see the musical….we are playing favorites.
When we have a participation point system that rewards the hand-raisers….we are playing favorites.When some students are allowed to come in late without a pass and others are not…we are playing favorites.
When we only get physically near some students when they are disrupting class…we are playing favorites.
When we allow students who are “unpopular” to hide in the back corner of the room….we are playing favorites.
When we reward our friendly students with smiles and wait for our quieter students to smile first…we are playing favorites.
The best way to see how teachers play favorites is to watch another teacher teach. You will notice it as easily as the students do when you are on ‘the other side of the desk.” The best way to see if you play favorites is to videotape yourself and watch…..your tone of voice, your facial expression, your body movements will tell you a great deal.
We all have students who warm the cockles of our heart…kids we would adopt in a heartbeat or let date our daughters. We also have students who, if truth be told, make us grit our teeth or make our hair stand on end. If we work hard, our students will never know the difference. It might actually be the hardest part of the job…it might also be the most important.
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