I have favorites. Probably all teachers do. Kids we just like a little more…and I know we’re not supposed to, but…well it just happens. I really try to approach each child the same. And I do love them all to death. But some of them are just cuter, or have nicer moms, or smell better, or try harder. I would say that I love my students on a totally illegal scale that looks somewhat like this:

You get imaginary heart-shaped, cookie-smelling points for….

Sweetness score: huggable? high-fivable? cute little face? freckles? dishelveled hair? cute speech impediment? (I’m a huge sucker for a stutter)
Child example: I have one sweet, impish little boy that always invades my personal space and asks too many questions, but he says things like “miss weight I thought about you over the weekend. I hoped you were having a restful time.” and he tries to sneak into my class and sit in my chair when I’m not looking. And he always volunteers to erase my board. And gives me big hugs when we come back from vacation. And told me he was afraid of the dark because he “doesn’t know what lurks there.”

Funny score: do they make me laugh? with them or at them? can they take a joke?
Child example: I have this super pale, stringy blonde hair, Twilight-obsessed student, who talks in a slow, low voice, and turns bright tomato red when she giggles. When I get mad at the class, she says things like “Miss Weight, I can’t make eye contact with you right now!” I had her in my Drama elective, and during improv games she would come up with things out of nowhere, like “Do you make scrambled eggs for the homeless? Do you like pinatas at your house? Are you going green?” Today in study hall she asked what the Latin word for pickle was, because she was writing a skit about them. Then she said “I don’t like pickles…they’re like cucumbers soaked in evil juice.”

Effort score: the actual intelligence of a child doesn’t matter, trying and caring about school and doing their homework does make a difference on the scale.
Not every kid is super smart, and not everyone is into school, and I try to understand that. Nothing bugs more than a really smart kid with no effort. Laziness just kills me. But those kids who don’t naturally get everything right away, but really try to understand the lesson? THAT I always remember. The ones coming to see me after class, trying not to cry on a test because they aren’t sure they’re spelling something right but they want to show me that they really know it…the ones talking quietly under their breath, chanting the little rhymes I teach them to remember the days of the week in Spanish…the ones that watch you in the front of the class, sweet furrowed brow almost quivering in concentration…that warms the heart.

Parent Score: Is your mom cool? Do they send me crazy emails? Do they blindly believe everything their child says over their teacher? (think about when you were 11-14…I think I told the undramatized truth like….10 percent of the time…) Do they give me a 24 hour window in which to answer emails? Do they say nice things to me?

I teach junior highers all day long, and 99% of what they say is a heavy sigh, or complaint, or nonsense about Twilight or Miley Cyrus or Megan Fox or whatever. And unless they’re trying to distract me from teaching a lesson, students rarely ask how my day is, or my weekend, or my family, or my plans for vacation. And certainly no one thanks you for a homework assignment or a test, which is my every day. And so a nice note from a mom…a bit of encouragement, telling me something their kid said about my class, something they learned, that’s priceless. I got lots of giftcards and cookies at Christmas, but the only one I kept was the one where a mom wrote a thank you for teaching her child confidence, and what it could look like to be a young woman of God that still has a great time everyday. It’s still in my drawer at work. A happygram.

Niceness towards others: me, other teachers, other students, the world. I cried one time out of overwhelming happy when i heard a student tell others to stop making fun of this poor kid who always gets picked on. Junior high and the age that they are at, the world we’re living in, certainly encourages us to bring each other down in order to pick ourselves up. When the kids run counterculture and con Cristo to be sweet to each other, that is just the best. The kids that cry when I cry in class, over Haiti, my dogs, my grandma, whatever…the kids that make notes to sneak into their friends’ lockers…sigh with cuteness.

I know I proooobably shouldn’t admit these things. But in my system, you can never lose points, only earn more. I don’t keep an actual tally…and I try to make each kid my favorite “something.” Even if it’s “Favorite excuse for needing to go to the bathroom” or “favorite reason I didn’t do my homework” or “favorite eye roll,” or “favorite cartoon in place of actual work on a test or assignment.” And they’re imaginary points…they just smell good like cookies and make smiles. So really, we’re all winners here.