41. Favoritism

Everybody likes some people more than others. Even teachers. We’re human, too. Teachers, in fact, like some children more than others. Even the most egalitarian teachers, somewhere deep inside, have some favorite children, and some they don’t consider their favorites. A parent or child may have a hunch who the teacher likes or dislikes, but we’ll never tell. And it’s important, in our job, not to tell. Not to say or do anything that even suggests favoritism.
Some teachers like spunky children. Some like the “cooperative” (translate: “obedient”) ones. Some like social butterflies and some like loners. Some like children who can’t stay still, and some like children who can. These labels don’t have to be permanent or omnipresent, but as ideosyncrasies manifest themselves, teachers have been known to smile or frown. There’s no accounting for taste.
I have a friend who didn’t trust Mr. Rogers, and didn’t want his children to watch the guy. He was annoyed by the statement “You are special,” and all the elaboration of that message Fred Rogers gave children. Wouldn’t there come a point in the child’s development when the child would feel betrayed? “Hey, he’s saying that to everybody! He doesn’t think I’m special!”
I like Fred Rogers. I don’t know him personally. I don’t know whether he has obnoxious traits that would bother me. But I like the message he’s giving children. It’s a global message, and yet a very personal one. And for some children who are in bad situations, Mr. Rogers may be the only one who tells them they’re special.
I once saw a sign in a principal’s office when I was interviewing for a job. It said, “Teaching is more than liking kids.” I knew right away I did not want to work for that principal. It’s not that I disagreed with the statement on the sign; I disagreed with the decision to put up that sign. Of course teaching is more than liking kids, but what was his point? Liking kids is a pretty important part of teaching, as are the other parts of teaching.
Like parents, teachers have to fight their own tendency to play favorites. Favoritism is destructive for children. If I think Mom and Dad always liked you best, I’ll be angry at Mom, at Dad, at you, and at myself. So one of Mom’s and Dad’s jobs is to find the lovability in each child, and make sure to cut off comparisons at the pass.
If you had me as a teacher, you may be wondering, “Who were his favorites?” I know I said in the first paragraph that teachers never tell, but just this once, I’m going to break the rule. You were one of my favorites.

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