The Problem with Favoritism

“I mean, honestly, the number of times she’s disrupted my class, she should have been suspended by now…” When one of my fellow teachers was talking about a student in her class who is a constant disruption and struggles to regulate her behavior, I cringed (on the inside) at how quickly she was judging this student and hoping for a punishment for her. What really put me over the edge, though, was when two of her favorite students got in a physical fight, requiring multiple adults and students to restrain them, and she said, “Well, I don’t think they should have any serious consequences because that doesn’t address the root of the issue. They’re really good kids. We need to talk it out with them and figure out where this was coming from.”

WHAT?!

Of course all teachers, camp counselors, and others who work with children have some kids who they feel close to and others with whom they just do not have a close bond. Some may call these kids their “favorites.” However,we must never communicate– directly or indirectly– which students are our favorites. And we must never let any bias show in our relations with kids and their families, nor should we let it cloud our judgment as we make decisions on things like discipline.

When my colleague made these two statements one day after the other, I realized the true damage in having favorite students. It lets us see the human in some students and disregard the human in others. Children are unbelievably impressionable, and they crave attention and love. If we give that love to a select few of our students, we are basically telling the other students that they matter less, that they are less important, that they are less worthy of our attention, our praise, our love.

When two students get into a physical fight, of course we need to sit down with them to determine why they are behaving in the way they are. However, there also should be consequences. And those consequences should be more severe than those for a student who is disruptive to the class simply by calling out, using foul language, or getting up out of her seat. It doesn’t matter that one is a “good kid” and another is, in one adult’s eyes, not. We need to love and support our kids fairly.

Our job is important. Some argue it is the most important job in the world. Working with children is difficult– it is emotionally taxing, stressful, and overwhelming at times. But no matter what, we are adults who need to regulate our emotions and hide our biases. We need to show each child the same amount of love we showed the last. It is our responsibility to these future amazing, inspiring, world-changing leaders to welcome them– ALL of them– with open arms.

— Written by Elise, KIT Blog Editor and Middle School Special Educator

Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.

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