I had an interesting conversation with some students today.
My 2nd period elective is a group of six 3rd, 4th and 5th grade boys. They're in the processing of creating "Energizer videos" to be broadcast on our school's classroom TV system. The videos will guide all of the classes in our school through a series of movements designed to give students an energy boost at different points throughout the day. While I do have classes that are designated "boys only" classes (right now I have a kindergarten and 1st grade group of thirteen "Dancin' Dudes") this being a single-sex class was completely a fluke.
I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with these boys! They have an amazing work ethic. They have a fun sense of humor and are writing amusing opening and closing dialogues for each video. They're eager to create as many videos as possible, each with its own unique theme. And, most importantly to me, they are kind and considerate to each other.
So today they'd just finished practicing the sequence for their next video (it's got a Rocky theme!) and were catching their breath when one of them said, "you know that all teachers have their pets."
My ears perked up.
I'm always intrigued by the conversations I overhear. Just the other day the Dancin' Dudes (remember, they're 5 and 6 year-olds) had the following discussion:
A: Sometimes, when I pee real hard, I accidentally fart, too.
B: (With a very serious face) Yeah, I do that, too.
C: One time I accidentally farted in my dad's face.
Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.
But today's conversation about teachers' pets was one that I was really curious about, so I quickly joined it. "What do you mean, 'all teachers have their pets'?" They went on to give the answer you'd expect, explaining that teachers all had their favorites and that the students always knew who those favorites were. But I had more questions, and the interview went as follows:
OK, your teachers team teach, so they switch classes part way through the day. Are the same students favorites in the different classes? Sometimes. But sometimes different teachers have different favorites.
Why do you think those students are favored? It depends. Some teachers like the kids who make the best grades. Some like the kids who are the most behaved. When I was in ____ grade one kid was the pet because his family took the teacher to the beach. It really wasn't very fair.
What happens when your whole class goes to specials? Are the same kids favorites? No. All of the specialists have different favorites. This one likes the ones who perform best in her area. That one is mean to everyone.
What about me? We're being candid here - who do you think are my favorites? Well, we don't know. It's hard to tell with you. There are times when we all think we're your favorite. It's like you just like to see us working hard and growing.
At this point one student interjected that he felt like he was my favorite right now. When I asked why, he said, "Well, you've always encouraged me to do my best. And I always felt like you wanted me in your class."
It made me smile.
They'd been honest with me, so I was honest with them. Yes, teachers do have favorite students. Just like students have favorite teachers. It's impossible not to. Sometimes people assume that my favorite students are the ones who are the best dancers. However, that's not always the case. Often the ones who are the best dancers are so only because they've danced for years at a studio. Who are the kids I love? They boys were right. At times, it's all of them. I love to see them doing their best. I love to see them stretching themselves. Sometimes it's the kid who's doing the best he can just to get to school each morning, yet still has a smile and hug for me when he walks through the door. Sometimes it's the 5th grade girl who's an amazing dancer because she's worked hard in a variety of electives and I've watched her grow over the past 6 years. Sometimes it's the kindergartner who's doing the best he can to stay in his own space when we're doing the freeze dance. Sometimes it's the shy student who silently participates in class, then whispers a quick, "Bye, Mrs. F, I had fun today," as she darts out the door. Sometimes it's the kid who somehow manages to make all of her movement look like magic. Sometimes it's the kid who had a major meltdown, but took deep breaths with me until she felt like she had herself under control. And yes, the boy who told me he felt like he was my favorite right now IS one of my favorites - he's gone from running circles around the room as well as grunting and shrieking at me anytime I spoke to him just last year to being a well-spoken, hard-working, contributing member of our class this year.
I told him as much, and he said he wanted to tell his parents because they'd be proud of him. I suggested that really he should be proud of himself. And, to show just how amazing my kids are, the other boys agreed and patted him on the back.
That's why I teach.