Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Playing Favorites

As a school teacher I often wonder... is it okay to pick favorites?

My answer: Heck yeah.

There are reasons to this answer.

First off... I have to get it out of the way... and since this being Japan and all it is perfectly okay to say this, but I warn you -
it is shocking.

Reason Number One why it's okay to pick favorites: Potential marriage material. Yes indeedy folks. In Japan you can marry your students... well, sort of.

You might have seen it in a Japanese drama, anime, or television news report... but it does happen. When a girl turns 16 (in Japan) she is ripe for the picking. In this country women are constantly being courted by men twice their age (or more). Sayaka actually had a friend who married her high school P.E. teacher. Of course they shared a great connection and hit it off at school... but there is still a sense of professionalism one must adhere to (I guess that's why they waited until she graduated). You DO NOT DATE your students while they are under your tutelage. You merely marry them when the time is right. Yeah, but nobody said Japan had to make sense.

Personally, I myself am not in need of a woman since I have a fine one at home with me right now, but this is my 'perverted teacher' answer as Femie would say.

Another reason to play favorites is that: These kids become your friends. Not all of them mind you, because there are so darn many, but some will undoubtedly become part of your life whether you're expecting them to or not.

Granted I will always be seen as a role model figure... I don't quite qualify as a authority figure, and I'm not frightening enough to scare them into obedient submission either, and I'm not old enough to endure them to me as a father figure type, so basically what that leaves me with is a ploy of bonding and friendship. A ploy of brotherhood. Friendship is the first step into gaining their trust. After that the rest is easy, and I become their friend and confidant. Whether or not that lasts is not as important as giving them the opportunity to become well rounded people.

This may be the reason some of the students talk to me about juicy gossip going on around the school or with their friends. Often times it is trivial fun and games, but occasionally it puts me in the strange spot of having too much knowledge about their lives. Who really 'wants' to know whether or not their middle school students are sexually active and sleeping with so and so? On the other hand, my professional sense of duty takes over, and I remind myself how important my position actually is. In case somebody were to have a real problem, I have the inside track and am capable of interceding... either by directly helping or informing someone of greater authority to deal with the situation than I am capable. What I don't need is when students tell me that they actually caught (saw) their dad masturbating the night before... this is when I feel privy to too much information. But most of this stuff is over most any teachers head. I just happen to fall into an unclassified category. And since nobody quite really knows where to put me, the foreigner, they just sort of treat me like a object of fascination (something temporary) and without consequence.

Yet for me, whether I garner too much attention or slight neglect, when the fascination of the new wares off it always comes down to what's in their best interests. I'm just lucky enough to be seen more as a 'friendly guy who you can talk to' more so than 'that ALT teacher who doesn't do anything or care about us much'. The truth is I do give a fig newton (or two) about these kids. And having favorites allows you to put your energy into motivating a child's mind, and can make all the difference in their lives.

Now here's the tricky part. Having favorites doesn't necessarily mean having kids you dislike. I like all my children. Some of them tend to be more frustrating than others. Some I can talk to easier because they pay attention better. Others are too caught up in school life, while others still have all the time in the world for a good old fashion chit chat. Getting to know each other often tends to make you pick those you have closer bonds with over those you don't. We're all different people, so although I may appreciate the martial art Kendo, I probably won't join the Kendo club at school. This makes it hard for me to be their favorite person, but it doesn't mean they dislike me. Meanwhile the students on the track team are all close to me because that's my interest and I often join them, so I'm treated as a teammate. Which is good because I get to use this association and their sense of sodality in the class room by picking on them more often than they'd like. Although they do put more effort in because they know I'm not going to let them get off so easy just because they're friendly with me. But at the same time I always make it a conscious effort not to neglect anybody.

The bottom line is that it's perfectly alright to have favorites as long as nobodies being hurt or left behind. I realize this doesn't have much to do with teaching, but perhaps the ethics of teaching as a foreigner in an alien nation. But maybe its a deeper social philosophy of how we all get along. All I know is that I do have students whoI am closer with and who I like quite a great deal, and hopefully this lends itself to my influence on their lives. And vice versa.


Dutch Baka said...

An interesting post you got here. I am only teaching every class 7 times, so it's hard to pick favorites. But I will keep working on it ;)

Enjoy your stay.

Tristan Vick said...

I find the better I get to know my students the more I learn about their personalities. In turn, the more I get to know about them personally, the more I like them as people. I think finding some you like more than others is inevitable the more time you spend with them.

I was just rationalizing it as it seems okay, at least to me, to have favorites even on a professional basis.