Recently, I had dinner with a former parent of mine who is like a family member to me. I had all of her kiddos when I taught middle school, and I love catching up with her and hearing about all of their amazing accomplishments. She said something that really struck a cord with me. She told me that even though she knew that teachers obviously had "favorites", that her kids never felt like they (or anyone else) were ever "favorites" of mine. She said this in a positive way, letting me know that her kids have recently been pretty vocal about teachers playing favorites to other students. That really got me thinking about myself as an educator.
As a teacher, you naturally have students that you connect with easier. You have students who remind you of yourself at that age, and students who you share common passions with. When I was the director of my school's musical and drama club, it was easy to fall into a routine of casting the same talented kids year after year. I can remember talking with my husband about it, remembering how the "same group" of drama kids were always cast year after year when we were involved in theatre in high school. After having those conversations, I made a conscious effort to involve as many students as I can, and started a policy with my co-director that we would cast every child. No matter what. Period. Every child, in my opinion, deserves to feel included and special. There will be so many opportunities for them to learn about defeat and failure in high school, but those early years are about feeling important and valued.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have students who were more involved than others, or students who I was closer to. There were students who received more lead roles than others, and students who were in the ensemble every year. However, I wanted (and still want) every student to know how important they are to me. No child should ever feel like someone else is more important or special to their teacher than another. That is SUCH a difficult balance, especially when dealing with young adolescents. And after talking with my parent, I couldn't pinpoint exactly what I was doing right that made her children feel like I never had any "favorites."
So, I asked her. And you know what her response was? "You treated every one of them like they were the most important person to you." That's it.
I'm not trying to toot my own horn by any means. I have more faults as an educator that I can list. But hearing that comment from that parent meant a lot to me. I can remember feeling less valued from teachers in my past, and that stigma stays with you. The relationships we build with our students are by far the most important part of our job. We have the power every day to make every student feel valued and special to us. We carry our own weather and can spark a change in the climate of our classrooms and school. It's up to us to make every student feel like a favorite, especially when things get tough.