Teaching Profession

Playing Favorites

By Francesca Duffy — September 27, 2012 1 min read
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A recent feature on CNN.com explores student favoritism in the classroom from the perspectives of a student, teacher, and child expert.

The piece initially stemmed from an editorial that a student wrote a couple of years ago for his high school newspaper on this topic. Alec Faranoff, now a college student, wrote about how his 5th grade teacher used to hand out candy to his classmates but never to him, no matter how many times he raised his hand to give correct answers in class. Faranoff wrote:

Teacher favoritism hurts those poor unfortunate souls out there ... . This is not to say that kids get bad grades because they do not do certain things to become favorites; instead, kids who might actually deserve bad grades sometimes receive higher grades based on how well they can alphabetically sort a stack of 150 papers for a teacher.

Pediatrician and parent Melissa Arca said that teachers often spend more time with or pay more attention to a particular student because of his or her temperament and unique personality. “So perhaps it may seem at one time or another a particular child is being favored in some way. ... Well, perhaps that child needs those extras,” said Arca, who also stressed the importance of parent-teacher cooperation in addressing the effects of favoritism on the child.

According to Dryw Freed, a veteran teacher in North Carolina and Virginia public schools, teachers “do their best to treat all kids fairly. ... With that said, we are only human and do respond differently to different children.” In her experience, almost every student in a classroom becomes a favorite at one point or another. “It’s not a case of a few favorites and a bunch of goats. It’s more like a collection of beautiful, funny, endearing little people, a couple of whom happen to stand out slightly at one end of the spectrum or another,” she said.

The comments below the article also portray varying opinions on favoritism. One commenter explains that is it human nature to pick favorites, while another points out the hypocrisy in how teachers will favor certain students, even though they dislike when their own principals pick favorites among the faculty.

What are your thoughts on favoritism? Is it inevitable? Or do great teachers find a way to elude it?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.