This is another one from http://www.teachsecondary.com where they continue to enable my delusions of grandeur by publishing my worryingly random scribblings. There are actually some great reasons to subscribe as it’s a quality publication that has some very useful stuff on the subject of secondary teaching in it. Give it a go by clicking on the link. They can’t be helped for having one lapse of judgement, poor things.
Some of them are special. I know you’re not supposed to say it, but it’s true.
Some of them have a light that burns that bit brighter than their peers for whatever reason. It could be kindness in the face of stupidity and violence. It could be a hilarious turn of phrase whilst doing something exasperating. It could be as simple as a smile, or as complicated as courage in the face of derision. But it is there. Kids are people and there are people in this world who just stand out. This fact is no different just because it happens in a school.
I wouldn’t call it ‘having favourites’. To be fair, some of of them make me want to do unspeakably sharp and pointy things to them with the nearest HB pencil as it’s not always positive traits that they display. A steely determination to cause havoc no-matter what the cost can set a child apart. That amount of willpower in one so young is a rare thing, even if it is put to use by trying to break the record for causing false fire alarms in a week.
I find these kids enter my thoughts more than the others. It’s not really something I can help, they just tend to pop in there more frequently than others, usually because something they did, or said is more memorable or noteable than anything else that had happened that week, whether it was good or bad.
I really believe that you have to accept that there will be those who will be ‘outliers’. When I trained, the idea was something of an anathema. I think that was to do with the worry that teachers would go out of their way to show special preference. We’d be getting kids to lay down in puddles so others could walk over them, stuff like that. A few select kids will have something the others don’t and it’s important to acknowledge that rather than view everyone the same because a conscious decision to do that is a conscious decision to de-humanise those in front of us.
But that does lead to a problem. For every Special, there is an Invisible. These are the kids that are forever on the tip of the tongue rather than in the forefront of the mind. They’re the ones that make you think ‘who?’ for a second when you’re looking down the list at parent’s evening. They’re the ones whose handwriting you don’t instantly recognise when your sat marking a set of assignments.
As much as The Specials stand out The Invisibles fade into the background, robed in an unremarkableness that serves as a cloak making the wearer hard to spot and even harder to remember. They may have average grades, or be quieter, or not as forthcoming. Whatever it is they can go unnoticed, especially if they’re in the same group as a Special.
This is the other reason we have to accept that there will be students who stand out. It’s not playing favourites, its acknowledging it because we are people (normal, fallible people) and if we’re not careful we can allow students to blend into the scenery purely due to the force of personality of others. It’s not a purposeful thing, it just happens.
I try my best minimise this effect (although, in the past, I have been known to scramble for a photo on the admin system so I know who the hell it is I’m supposed to be writing a report on). No matter how bright, or how translucent, each and every one of them deserves a fair shot. I make moves to distribute my time and efforts evenly. If I find myself at a loss for the name of a kid I grab them for a chat as they walk to the next class, whether they want to or not. Especially if they don’t want to. I live for that type of awkward embarrassment. If I find myself naturally gravitating towards a student who has that special something I’ll make sure it’s not to the detriment of the wallflowers. It’s the least I can do.
They’re not all the same. Some will shine and some won’t and that’s ok. What we can do is make sure none of them go unnoticed.
Thanks for reading.