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A Tale of Two Teachers: Why You Shouldn't Try to Be the Favorite

 tale of two teachers - favorite teacher cover

Adam Hatch Bored Teachers

This article was written by Adam Hatch - UC Berkeley graduate, son of a teacher, brother of a teacher, and a teacher himself. Adam started a unique English school in Taipei, Taiwan, where kids learn to research and write articles in English. The articles are published on the first ever English newspaper written by kids in Taiwan, called the Taipei Teen Tribune.
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*This article was written by a guest author. It has not been vetted or endorsed by Bored Teachers' editorial staff.*

 

Here is a tale of two teachers: the favorite teacher and the best teacher.

In rare instances they can be the same, but not often. Many students confuse their favorite with the best, but that’s a common misconception. Hear me out: as a teacher, you shouldn’t try to be the favorite.

My favorite teacher was not the best teacher. She was a wonderful person - empathetic, helpful, patient, and she made class a comfortable and fun place to be. However, in her pursuit of having an accommodating classroom and a good relationship with all of her students, she also sacrificed authority and a certain degree of respect.

On the other hand, my best teacher wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t always like her class and sometimes I found the work and her teaching downright boring. And while she was perfectly nice, especially one-on-one, she held firm authority in her classroom and simply didn’t get as close to her students as some other teachers did.

 

But do you know what she did do? She made us work, and work hard. I realized after I graduated that I learned more in her class than any other course I had taken up to that point. And part of the reason was because she resisted trying to be everyone’s favorite and strove instead to be the best.

Why does it have to be this way? The problem is, favorite teachers, at least most of the time, try to be too much of a “friend” to their students, and students are easily tempted into taking advantage of this relationship. Students don’t mean to, but when they are confident a teacher is going to be “cool” with them being late to class, for example, eventually they try to cash in on the supposed friendship.

Even if the favorite teacher is firm and still disciplines the student, both the teacher and the student find themselves in a situation where they rather resent each other. The student feels like a “friend” has been “uncool” and the teacher feels their patience and kindness have been taken advantage of. And even worse, should the favorite teacher actually let poor behavior slide, they also begin to lose authority and consistency, thus planting the seeds for future difficulties.

The favorite teacher is often spoken highly of, especially by students. However, if you listen to what people actually say, praise for this teacher is rarely academic in nature. It’s usually about how nice they are or how cool their class is, never about how much a student has improved or how something they’d taught had deep effect. Furthermore, favorite teachers are often best with students who are going to be fine regardless of who their teacher is - this kind of instructor rarely is able accomplish the herculean task of getting unengaged students to focus and improve.

 

So how do you avoid falling into this trap, but still foster meaningful relationships with students? Teachers need to remember: you aren’t there to be your students’ friend. The point isn’t to be everyone’s buddy, the point is to motivate and galvanize. Your job is to be a role model and to engage your pupils’ intellects. Education is a highly social dynamic, and one that demands a tremendous amount of respect from students and authoritative competence from teachers. Anything less is the first step on a slippery slope to dysfunction.

Good feelings and relationships with students are important, but the best teacher instills competence and skill and realizes education is not about what the teacher can take away from his class, but rather about equipping students with the tools they need to succeed in life. And this usually means forgetting about being popular and focusing the fundamentals of your craft.

In other words, don’t worry about being the favorite - try to be the most respected. Be the teacher that parents want their students to have because they’ve heard how much you can get students to accomplish. Simply put, strive to be the best.

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  • Jackie M Beyer on

    Thanks. Ive been struggling with this so much and this is my 6th year in my district. I don’t know that I care as much as that my students like me is I want them to enjoy learning and coming to school. But they definitely always end up taking advantage of my kindness. I like the way you say strive to be the best. One thing I’ve learned every student and every parent isn’t gonna like you know matter what.

  • Laura on

    I honestly don’t agree with this 100%. I agree that I’m not there to be my kids’ friend, I have my own friends, and I still make executive decisions that not everyone is thrilled with. I do, however, have close relationships with my students and that allows me to discipline without yelling and keep control of my classroom. Especially with some of my more difficult students, the connection we have allows me to both help and correct them because they know I love them and am there for them no matter what.

  • Natalia on

    I’m newly qualified teacher and I really needed to read that, cause i tend to make that mistake – try to be friendly with students and as a result they try to take advantage of it… I’ll do my best to change it. But what I wanted to say is that i remember one teacher, I was 13 or 14 when she was teaching me. During lessons – a monster! She was pushing us to the limits, everyone was a champion in physics after her class. She was making quizes almost during every class (to check if we repeated material at home), she was giving tones of homework. And let’s face it – physics is not a favourite subject of 14 years old children. I was very good student, so i didn’t feel so bad after her classes, but some of my collegues were finishing up with tears in eyes. Things were changing completly when it was anything apart from lessons. She was the first one to make fitness battle trachers vs children (who can make it better and longer), she didn’t have problem with wearing any embarassing costume for assembly, she was the most funny and energetic during school trips. She organized once a month scary stories night and then sleepover at school. Whenever weather was good, she was doing campfires for students and constantly telling jokes… She was (and probably still is) the best and the favourite teacher. Of course, there were students that hated her, but there was noone who doesn’t remember anything from her classes.

  • Lee Ann WRight on

    As a high school teacher I tell my students up front that I will require and push them to work harder than they want to, and that we are not friends as I do not need a 14 year old friend and they don’t need a 54 year old friend…… they laugh at that. Then I tell them that I will genuinely care about them and will help them in anyway that I can. I will never lie to or betray them. Once that is addressed, we get down to business and I always hope I never hear a student say “Ms. Wright is cool”. I only hope they can say “Ms. Wright’s English or Speech class has helped me grow as a reader, analytical thinker, critical thinker, writer, listener, researcher, and speaker.”
    They may hate me for making them revise their outline 6 times….. and I am ok with that…. it just means that that 6th time—they demonstrated they “got it right” and mastered the necessary skills.

    They have no flipping idea just how cool I really am. :)

  • Teachmiddle on

    I must comment here.
    A fellow colleague sent this to me due to its relevancy and what some teachers are subject to at our school.

    Some parents rule the roost at our school. They write negative comments on a private Facebook chat, viewed only by invited individuals. They openly discussed their dislike for certain teachers, which tend to be more structured is there classroom activities. They lash out at their personal life, dragging them through the mud with little evidence. fuled merely by gossip. They tend to favor teachers who allow their children to play on their phones, be their friends, and not give any homework, and known for giving nothing but A’s. However, the same group of parents want their children to be in the top of the class with accolades such as “advanced”. They enjoy these bragging rights while expecting very little work and effort. They say things like " Our children should have time with their families after school and not be expected to work outside of the classroom" and " If teachers did their jobs at school they wouldn’t have to send work home".

    Their idea of communicating with the teachers when they are unhappy is calling our administrative staff or our district office threatening to take various
    measures if they do not see immediate results. Administrators are frozen in fear of having any type of turmoil regarding the school or its reputation.

    Having their freedom to speak their mind is not the issue. However, when their children are used as conduit to spread their views openly in the classroom it only breeds discontent for those teachers and exacerbates the situation.

    It is a war of the most popular kind. This has been ongoing for years and most of the seasoned teachers have just learned how to live with it. The younger teachers who come in full of vigor and excitement are subject to the decision of this group of parents as to whether they will be kept at the school or not. It is a shame that parents can voice their opinion about teachers openly, using their names, and teachers are not allowed to discuss parents who are difficult and demanding, while threatening there credibility and livelihood. We are held as emotional hostages. It is carried over to the high school in are area as well.

    I am glad I have found this forum at least to hear from others and offer advice. Does this ring a bell or anyone else out there?

  • Bec on

    I am a teacher and over the last few years I have stopped caring what my students think of me as a person, with my focus on pushing them to achieve. I have a few difficult students in one class and I feel I am forever telling them off, saying know and pushing for work that I hornetly never expect will be done. I recent found out from our welfare teacher that although I felt like these students hate me and my class that they speak highly of me outside of class as I am the only person pushing them to achieve. I am now glad I decided to accept the arguments and the complaints and while their grades are terrible I would like to think that I might fall in that best teacher category despite the fact I’m clap early not their favourite (which is their maths teacher who never makes them do work and allows them to play in their phones and chat each class)

  • Deanna on

    “Good feelings and relationships with students are important, but the best teacher instills competence and skill and realizes education is not about what the teacher can take away from his class, but rather about equipping students with the tools they need to succeed in life”.

    As a teacher I can appreciate your rationale but its a matter of opinion. You see, I’m proof that a teacher can exhibit all the characteristics you listed and still be classified as favourite.

    I find joy in becoming personal with my students. Pool parties, sleepovers, birthday parties, community service is what makes me the best teacher. My students are anxious to learn and determined to be high achievers because of this relationship.

    Twenty years later my 6 year olds are now husbands , wives, college graduates, scholastic achievers in high school and I’m aware of this because they never fail to thank me.

    My love and support for them made them my life’s purpose to be there for them beyond the school walls. Therefore if i had to chose a title it would be the favourably best teacher ever!



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