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Monday, April 21, 2014

Favorites: A Pitiful Model

Lessons Learned

Don't Do It


I never was one. That honor was reserved for compliant, quiet pleasers who, if given the choice, always chose the first desk in the first row on the first day of school. If given the choice, I always perused the classroom crowd for a familiar face and bee-lined toward that row; optimal positioning for talking.  Unfortunately, it was the mid-sixties and seating choice gave way to alphabetical order which year after year landed me in desk one, row one with the name Anderson. This was absolutely not premium classroom real estate for a talker. And a talker cannot really be a pleaser; not in the sixties and not especially now either for that matter.  I remember lobbying as I got older for alphabetical seating by first name rather than last name, but to no avail; I think they were on to me. I didn’t mean to be bad with talking; there simply was much to talk about, all of the time. As an aside, students who are talkers often grow up to be teachers, which is a tremendous profession for professional level talkers. In any event, I was not a favorite, but I surely knew who the favorites were; everyone did. The favorites always ran the teacher’s secret messages to the office, always got picked for the special tasks and privileges, always got called on first, always laughed the loudest at the teacher’s not-always-that-funny jokes, always brought the first and biggest armful of spring flowers to the teacher, and always really enjoyed knowing that we all knew who the favorite was.  It didn’t matter that much because we figured that we “un-favorites” were in excellent company. Fast forward many years through college and student teaching to my own classroom, and I remember specifically asking myself, “Would I have a favorite?”  Oh I hoped not. The entire “favorite” model seemed to smack of insecurity and division, set in place to create a power differential, which is the not-too-distant cousin of bullying. Why would someone have a favorite unless the motive was to diminish, reduce, or keep in check someone else? Why would someone choose a favorite except to make clear that someone else was not? Why would someone want to be a favorite knowing subtle, covert ostracism would most likely be the ultimate outcome? Favoritism has no place in a classroom, a home, or in any significant relationship because favoritism hurts. It alienates. It offers shallow, insincere affirmation which breaks apart easily upon its fragile, fickle foundation. It’s about control, which is about power, which creates a protective wall of resentment, which absolutely impedes learning.  All sour grapes aside, I am grateful that I was never a favorite.