Favoritism – Teachers’ Role Redefined: Playing Favorites Be Constructive or Destructive?

Favoritism – Teachers’ Role Redefined: Playing Favorites Be Constructive or Destructive?


Favoritism is amongst the most sensitive topics in educational institutions. Indeed, is a fact of life.

Teachers as well as students tend to be biased in countless aspects. Oh yes, we are!

Remember, those student evaluation forms when you as a student were required to fill out those evaluation forms with regard to the teacher’s performance. How honest were you about it? Turns out, it’s a common issue we all are exposed to in some form or the other, without even knowing.

As a student, do you think of a teacher being devoid of impartiality for showing favoritism to a student who outshines in class? Right in the feels!

Even though, teaching is undoubtedly, a very noble profession, but there are critiques for them too.

Despite this being a sensitive topic, it is finely tuned. Not many bother to raise their voice, instead they gossip. In case they do, it is later wiped away as the discussion never goes beyond newspaper articles. Sigh!

However, certain studies have been conducted over the years and survey reveals the following:

Students whose parents were friends or relatives with the teacher, occupied powerful positions or were economically privileged.

Moreover, those students who were physically attractive and shared mutual interests were favored over the rest by their teachers.

The ethical principles of the teaching profession confine to professionalism, responsible service, fairness, parity, loyalty, maintaining a healthy and safe environment, honesty and integrity, trust, objectivity, professional loyalty and continuous development, respect, effective use of resources, respect for human freedom, and compassion.
Despite these ethical principles and the existence of the Convention, allegations of discrimination or favoritism sometimes surface in education.

To avoid students’ career from being suffered, it is important to adopt non-discrimination principle fro all citizens alike, regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other affiliations, national or ethnic background, economic power or birth rights.

Favoritism is the inclination to favor an individual or a group of people not based on their abilities, rather, for some irrelevant factor such as a characteristic they possess, or their personal contacts, or merely out of personal preferences.

Aristotle says, “Equals should be treated equally and unequals’ unequally.” Favoritism interferes with fairness because it gives undue advantage to someone who does not necessarily merit this treatment.

I personally believe that the biggest dilemma presented by favoritism is that not many people see it as a problem. However, these issues are worth highlighting because kids today are going to be the future of this nation tomorrow.

Favoritism in classroom is one of the amongst the prime reasons that have an immediate impact on a student’s progress.

Some of the known factors leading to favoritism among teachers are as follows:

  • student success
  • student’s social or economic status
  • gender
  • physical appearance
  • familiarity between student and teacher or student’s family and teacher (blood relations or friendship)
  • Parallelism between the ideology (political or religious) of students or their family and the teacher

Whereas, building a positive student-teacher relationship can cater towards a student’s growth personally as well as academically. It would uplift a student’s morale and be a push toward all the motivation.

Apparently, there are some teachers who like you, and some who definitely don’t, or maybe very few who are totally indifferent as they couldn’t care less?

Parents’ guide: How to deal with favoritism in the classroom?

  1. Seek the signs – Does your child give up easily and walk away from school projects? Have they developed a sense of hopelessness? Is a particular subject seemingly the source of their problem?
  2. Speak to your child – Are they upset because of a particular incident in class? Or does it sound like they are the victim of a teacher’s personal dislike? Try to establish concrete examples of favoritism.
  3. Ask around – It can be worth mentioning your suspicions to other, trusted, parents – have their children noticed any favoritism by a specific teacher?
  4. Be honest – Are you bringing any of your own issues into play – perhaps a previous disagreement with a certain staff member at the school, or even your own past experiences of favoritism?
  5. Tackle teacher – If you are sure that your child’s teacher is expressing a preference for certain students, approach them – but gently. Be tactful and go in with the assumption that they are only human and trying to do their best. They may not have realized that they have ‘pets’ or surprised.

Next steps If the situation becomes serious – i.e. with students expressing that they don’t want to attend school – it might be advisable to call a meeting between parents and the head teacher.

Family therapist Miriam Chachamu says that it is very important for adults to guard their words when referring to a student, as negative vibes can have a life-long profound effect.

“Children typically believe what adults say to them and take labels to heart,” she says. “They are in the process of constructing their identity. Children constantly ask themselves: ‘Am I clever? Funny? Cool? So, when grown-ups label them, we give them the answers they are looking for.”

Teachers are only human. Like anyone, they naturally tend to be warm to certain pupils – but if they make no attempt to hide those feelings they could be making things worse for students around. Pupils who feel side-lined may lose motivation, making them even less liked and uncomfortable. It can set up a spiteful circle of antagonism, which can be difficult to break.

So, what do you if your child is a victim of favoritism?

Experts recommend, first, asking whether an isolated incident has upset them – or if there are concrete examples of regular favoritism. Is your child upset by a particular subject? Do they express hopelessness or give up easily? Have other children noticed it? Check, too, that you are not bringing your own unfinished business – such as cruel PE teachers past – into the present.

If you do think there is an issue, approach it tactfully. Former head teacher and parenting author, Noel Janis-Norton, says: Start with the assumption that the teacher is trying their best, just so that teachers do not take it as a personal attack. Say, ‘I’m sure you mean to motivate the lower achievers, but in my child’s case it seems to be doing the opposite”

Finding Answers?

Why students skip school

“I would say, first off, that teachers do their best to treat all kids fairly,” said Dryw Freed, who has taught for 16 years in public schools in North Carolina and Virginia. “With that said, we are only human and do respond differently to different children.”

But it’s not as simple as having one favorite. In a class of 27 students, Freed says, the majority of the children would all rotate and have “moments of being one of (her) favorites.”

“With very few exceptions, each kid has something that endears her to a teacher, so there don’t tend to be dramatic, clear-cut favorites,” says Freed. “It’s not a case of a few favorites and a bunch of goats. It’s more like a collection of beautiful, funny, endearing little people, a couple of whom happen to stand out slightly at one end of the spectrum or another.”

Parents may not readily admit this, but there may be a small part of them that wants their child to be a teacher favorite or, at least, not “that kid” who always seems to be in trouble.

What if your child is not a favorite?

Marie Hartwell-Walker is a licensed therapist, parenting expert says if your child finds himself on the outs with a teacher, here are some points to consider:

  • Think of the larger picture. Is this an isolated incident or part of a pattern?
  • Don’t automatically be reactive. Take into account the teacher’s perspective as well. There are more mandates being placed on teachers, larger class sizes and fewer resources. Teachers are human, too.
  • Try to get a complete picture of what is going on. Your 8-year-old child may have a different take on a situation than a 42-year-old teacher.

One-on-one education

But that said, if your child is chronically upset, Hartwell-Walker says, you should absolutely talk to the teacher.

“Your child is in school 180 days out of the year. You wouldn’t want to work for a boss that didn’t like you for 180 days.”

Do it in a nonaggressive way – “Parent-teacher cooperation is important. … Get on the same page against whatever is the problem,” says Hartwell-Walker.

Arca agrees that the parent-teacher relationship is a partnership that can only work with open and honest communication and with the child’s best interest at heart.

She says teachers will interact with each individual child based on the student’s temperament and unique personality.

“Not every child will need extra time or help with reading. Not every child will need that extra coaxing or gentleness when being asked to join a group. So perhaps it may seem at one time or another that a particular child is being favored in some way. … Well, perhaps that child needs those extras,” says Arca.

Many teachers are very much addicted to the students those who study well and score good marks because they feel that he is the only person who is attentive in the entire class.
Teachers show favoritism to the students those who are well versed in studies and all the co-curricular activities and they mostly like the student who helps them during school/college affairs.

Students who are a bit dull or those who are comparatively average in studies are never cared by the teachers, instead they ask the brilliant students to teach them considering they know everything.
A teacher should treat each and every student alike, so that there remains no room for misunderstanding between the student and the teacher.

Favoritism is widespread – It’s to be found in schools, colleges, universities and all other educational institutions.

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