Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hey Mr McCracken, who is your favorite student?

"Hey Mr McCracken, Who is your favorite student?"

Talk about a loaded question.  Students ask their teachers about favorites all the time; favorite music, food, radio station, TV show, band, and even student!

I met a student one morning hanging out.  We were discussing the roles of a principal and he asked me if I had any favorites!  Definitely a loaded question for any educator.  As teachers we think we pride ourselves as being objective, neutral, fair and equitable.  But I knew that wasn't the case, so I referred to a story.  I fell back to my favorite children's book, Green Eggs and Ham and mentioned these two characters began their relationship from different perspectives.  Sam-I-Am initiated the relationship through a passive, calm and simple introduction.  "I am Sam," "Sam I Am."  These two phrases on the signs he held up influenced what the grouchy guy thought.  Clearly, the Grouchy guy did not care for Sam!  Yet, together, they set out on adventures of increasing intensity. In fact, Sam's first request was delivered from the other end of a long pole.  Sam didn't want to get too close, but then he reeled it in after the introductions were made!

Once they began their adventures together, two important characteristics developed.  First, the adventures all grew with intensity.  Each carried more risk and increased opportunity to fail, yet the Grouchy guy continued to return.  He had many opportunities to exit, but the fun, adventuring and risk pulled him along every chapter!  Additionally, innocent bystanders became active and willing participants.  Everyone on the train, from the boat, along with the goat and other characters were prodding and prompting expectantly for the Grouchy guy to take this risk of taste.  They knew the risk minimal and the reward great, with future benefits far greater yet!  But then, they ALL splashed into the water.  Everything came crashing down yet Sam persisted with his questioning!

Finally, after that epic fail, where the two characters, along with the multitude of supporting cast members all ended in the water, the grouchy guy relented and took the culinary risk.  The grouchy guy developed trust, confidence and the self assurance needed to take the risk!  They had grown into friends.  Not unlike a teacher working all the contents in their bad of tricks to get some students to try harder.

I continued with my discussion about favorites with another story about an incident in my own classroom, where I ashamedly treated a student with unnecessary sarcasm, in front of all of the other students.  It was from this position of weakness I realized I needed to try and reconcile or erase this verbal jab.  I wrote that young man a letter of affirmation at the end of the school year.  

Ten years later, after that young man finished installing new ceramic tile floors in my new house, he pulled that same letter out of his wallet!  A few years after that, he sent me a text message with a picture of his new born little girl attached! 

Who would be my favorite?  This young man would be one that shares the most experiences!  This young man would likely be called a favorite, but only because we are still connected, still in fellowship, still in contact.  Do I have favorites?  No, just those that I know more then others!
This little girl is a daughter of a former student. That same student and I shared many adventures, many failures, many successes and many victories.  We overcame obstacles together and fought to stay connected. These events are the glue that cements our relationship.  These shared activities draw us together.  This makes him one of the students I've known the longest.  
Would that make him my favorite?
Similarly, as we get to know others more, we become better aware of their characteristics, we trust them better and are more inclined to follow their suggestions. 

Maybe each of us is on our path to becoming a favorite and developing favorites?

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