I’m noticing a trend on my blog. Every day, someone stumbles onto it using a search term that includes the words “teachers pet,” which leads them to my post “The Truth About Teachers’ Pets.” Every day. The search terms come in a variety of phrases, ranging from people who want to be teachers’ pets to those who can’t stand the idea. Check out these clips from the list of search terms just in the last seven days:
And that’s just a handful of the phrases that show up on my stats page on a daily basis. So what’s the draw of the idea of teachers’ pets? Why are students so fascinated with who is and who isn’t a teacher’s favorite? Maybe it’s because if teachers are doing their jobs well, their students shouldn’t be able to tell who the favorites are, which creates some mystery. Maybe it’s the annoyance of being singled out, or it’s the desire for being appreciated as something special. For whatever reason, people keep Googling “teachers pet” and finding their way to my blog post. I hope it provides some insight on how teachers “find” their favorites.
It’s always funny to me that students wonder if we have favorites. We’re human! Somehow, students tend to lose sight of their teachers as people – like if they run into one of us at the mall, they mentally freak out because they don’t know how to handle the idea of a teacher outside the school walls. I’ve had teenage students tell me they’re convinced we keep cots in the teachers’ lounge and sleep at the school. I think the same thing is going on here.
Come on, students! We’re teachers, but we’re still people! When we’re put in a room of 20-30 other human beings (i.e., you, our students), we’re naturally inclined to like some of you more than others. You do it, too! Or do you like every single one of your classmates exactly the same amount? Do you like all your teachers exactly the same? Instead, I’m sure you form different opinions of each one of us based on your interactions with us, because that’s what we do, too.
The difference between us and you is that you have the freedom to act on those opinions. Though I don’t encourage rudeness, you are allowed to openly dislike each other and even us. No one thinks twice about students who have favorite classmates and teachers. We, on the other hand, have the professional responsibility to treat you as though we like you all the same, despite our personal opinions. We cannot show favoritism to our favorites, and we cannot be unprofessionally hostile to those who aggravate us, disobey us, and swear at us. We also have the responsibility to speak well about our coworkers, your other teachers, whether we like them or not. It’s our job to be an example of respectful professionalism in all areas of our work.
Having said that, I can also honestly say that all the good teachers I know really do care about all of their students. I mean that. You don’t go into a career that puts you in a room full of teenagers all day unless you actually like teenagers in all their various forms. Even the students who frustrate me, get on my nerves, and downright infuriate me, I still care about them, their education, well-being, and futures. I want good things for them, all of them. I’ll work to do what I can for each one of them, favorite or not, because either way, I still like them and care about them. I really do.
So do your teachers a favor. Remember they’re human with human tendencies, likes, and dislikes, but don’t ask them to name their favorites. A good teacher won’t tell you. It’s awkward and inappropriate to name names and single out your classmates. Plus, it doesn’t matter. A good teacher won’t let favoritism play a hand in grading or discipline, so it shouldn’t make a difference in the daily grind of the classroom. What matters is that your teachers are there for each and every one of you, no matter what. Your teachers care for you and your education, no matter how well your personalities mesh.
And please don’t assume teachers base their grading on their personal opinion of you. That kind of attitude negates all the hard work and hours we put into analyzing the things you turn in, and it deprives you of the opportunity to learn from your grade. If my students do well on the work, they’ll get a good grade, no matter how much I like them. I have given straight-A’s to students who annoy me, and I have failed my favorites before. So trust your teachers to put their ideas of favoritism aside and grade you on the quality of your work. I promise, if you receive a poor grade, it’s because your work earned it, not because they “have it out for you.” Please do not accuse them of such unprofessional behavior, because quite frankly, a personal vendetta against a student isn’t worth the huge hassle it would cause. Grades are a reflection of how well your work measures up to the expectations, not of a teacher’s likes or dislikes.
So as you begin the school year, try to see your teachers as people with inherent opinions, but understand that they’ve made a career out of teaching and caring for you. Know that they care about you, so it really doesn’t matter who’s the “favorite.” And be nice to them, because teachers are human and we definitely prefer it when people are nice to us, just like you do.