There was a recent post on Reddit Japan that asked what kinds of students do teachers like teaching. It was an interesting post and provoked some interesting discussion. If you are interested you can read it here. It made me not only think about the kinds of students I most enjoy teaching but what were my thoughts on how I treat individual students. More specifically, how I treat students in class differently. First, my thoughts went back to an article I read in The Guardian a few years back called, Secret Teacher: the truth is we all have favourites. Click here
The senior teachers I worked with when I first entered this profession all told me that they most definitely did not have favorite students. They recommended that I treat all the class equally and not pay extra attention to any of the students in the class. I duly noted their advice.
My early teaching experiences
However, after a few months in the job I noticed that this wasn’t such an easy rule to adhere to. I was teaching younger learners at that time and recall one class that I taught on a Saturday morning. The class had six or seven first grade elementary students and they were so keen and enthusiastic so it was always a pleasure to teach them.
My changing attitude
After the class, I had a lunch break and one of the students and her mother would hang around and chat during this break. At first, her mother encouraged her daughter to try to talk to me and I would play with her in the playground. After a few months, we started to develop a bond. When she would arrive at class, she would come running over to me with a big beaming smile and give me a huge hug. The class would go on as usual and then we would play in the playground. I used to genuinely look forward to that time.
My changing behavior
As time went on, I found that I was perhaps treating that student differently in class. I was praising her more than her peers and probably devoting more attention to her. One reason for this was her sheer enthusiasm. Also, perhaps the fact that we played after class meant she was more comfortable and even more enthusiastic that the other students, but also it is possible that she was simply my favorite student and I treated her more favorably than the others.
Nowadays, I teach at a university. I am dealing with young adults with a wide range of English abilities and, of course, personalities. I am also very aware that I do have favorites. As a person, it is very difficult not to like some learners more than others. It might be a hard-working or conscientious student, the class clown, or just the one that tries 100%. I do try my best not to show this, but I do feel like I get along with some learners better than others.
What do you think?
This brings me back to the advice I was given as a new teacher. As teachers, should we have favorite students? Or, should we try to suppress this feeling? Yet again, should we let the students we like the most know we like them or do our best to avoid saying anything? I would be very interested to hear your ideas.