ART BY ESTELLE ZHOU
By CHRISTINA QUACH
Everybody either knows a teacher’s pet, is one or has been one at some point in their lives.
For the most part, it’s great: you get the teacher’s attention along with some added benefits, such as the ability to connect with the subject more. But there are also some downfalls that go along with kissing up to the teacher.
One of the major faults of being a teacher’s pet is that it contributes toward a complex social system loathed by many other students and commonly referred to as favoritism.
Once a teacher categorizes their “favorites”the classroom rapidly becomes a battlefield with everyone vying for the teacher’s attention, which oftentimes leads to unfair grading. Sometimes, when the teacher sees a certain student in a good light, they potentially gloss over some inaccuracies the student may have made and become more lenient.
This results in other students that are of the same level to fall behind only because they did not ask the teacher what they did over the weekend. Those that fall behind feel discouraged to try harder when their teacher’s definition of effort varies from their own.
Playing favorites then leads to public acknowledgements. Because students are so impressionable, they overanalyze casual remarks from the teachers.
From “Why yes Susan, you can sharpen your pencil,” to “Well, Jonathan, I told you countless times, we have to raise our hands in this classroom,” other students quickly get a sense of who the teacher likes versus who the teacher dislikes because of how evident the teachers make it; while Susan can babble on and on about her puppy, Jonathan is just wasting class time trying to bring up his cat. See how toxic this is?
By allowing certain students to do certain things and picking on others, it further creates a drift between the two that will permeate outside the classroom as well.
Moreover, it makes the teacher’s pet lack certain skills, because the teacher looks over their mistakes but they may not push them hard enough to improve themselves. “Susan, it’s fine that you added it incorrectly, I gave you points for trying,” the teacher says. Well, trying does not equate to knowing, so because the teacher rewarded Susan for trying, Susan is behind on math. This scenario has been played out many times, and while it is nice to get points for trying, in the long haul, the student will lag behind and not be motivated to improve themselves.
However, there are many benefits as well. One of the upsides of being a teacher’s pet is that it develops your skill for the real world. Warming up to authoritative figures is considered the norm in the workplace. In certain situations, a person must gain the favor of someone and to do so, they must “kiss up” to them by showering the person with endless praise and the ever so often “How was your day?”
All in all, being a teacher’s pet creates tensions in the classroom and makes the pets themselves lack certain skills needed, but there are also aspects that make the idea seem inviting.