I have had students in high school accuse me of picking favorites. At that age, it’s understandable that they would have difficulties with the way the world works. They are still young and look at how unfair everything is–a fact they can’t seem to accept. Therefore, when they see a teacher showing perceived favoritism to someone, they want to call him or her on it.
Recently, I had a college student accuse me of picking favorites. He or she wrote it in the comments section of the course evaluation that goes to my supervisors, citing it as proof that I’m the worst teacher ever. I had to laugh. That comment says more about the student than it does about me.
As a teacher, I try to be fair, ethical, and professional in all of my dealings with students. Truthfully, I am not always perfect at this: I have good days and bad days; I don’t always handle difficult situations or students in the most professional manner. When I have made an error in judgment, I try to right my wrong through an apology or another action that makes sense. However, picking favorites does not fall into this category.
If this student would have had the courage to talk to me about this perceived slight, this is what I would have said to him or her:
You are right. I do have favorites. However, the truth of the matter is my favorites are not decided by me; the “favorite” distinction is completely decided by the student.
My favorite students are the ones who talk to me with kindness and respect. I am a collaborator with them in their education. If a student does not put value on that teacher/student relationship for this reason alone, then he or she will never be my favorite. I am only an enemy to those who see me that way.
My favorite students are the ones who work hard in and out of class. They may not be the brightest students, but they are working hard to become successful on their academic journey. I don’t care if at the current moment, they are A, B, C, D, or F students ; if they are working hard, then they are my favorites. Students who expect a passing grade for failing effort have failed themselves. Regardless, I would never mistreat students who are failing. Their experience in my class has nothing to do with me.
My favorite students are the ones who are respectful to their classmates. I really love the students who contribute appropriately to classroom discussions, who wait their turn, and who acknowledge that everyone has an opinion. The students who make snide remarks under their breath and who can’t respect someone who has a different opinion will never be my favorites, unless those students apologize for their errors in judgment and correct their ways.
My favorite students are those who are courteous, instead of rude; who talk to me, instead of about me; who ask me clarifying questions, instead of complaining about me.
So, yes. I do have favorites, and I always will.
If you are not one of my favorites but want to be, what areas do you need to work on?