Becoming the teacher’s pet

Maureen Downey wrote an interesting column Monday about teachers’ pets.

Visit a classroom and it’s often easy to see there are some students that teachers favor. Lots of times these are the kids who are well behaved, follow instructions and seem interested in what the teacher is doing.

Yes, some students complain about a classmate getting preferential treatment. While that may be unfair, it does prepare students for what they will encounter as adults in the workforce.

Parents, how worried are you about teachers’ pets? Are you feelings different if your child happens to be the chosen one?

Teachers, do you give preferential treatment to some students? Which students get this attention?

23 comments Add your comment


May 12th, 2009
9:11 am

I think the article explains very well why there are teacher’s pets. These are the students who do what the teacher wants them to do.


May 12th, 2009
9:25 am

Teachers prefer students who are cooperative and well-mannered? Go figure.

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 12th, 2009
9:36 am

True…well-mannered and cooperative students (and adults) are much more pleasant to be around. It may not be fair…but it is what it is…yes, they will encounter these reactions as adults in the workforce too.

V for Vendetta

May 12th, 2009
9:40 am

Seems like common sense to me. It’s akin to asking a random person on the street “who do you prefer to associate with, nice people or jerks?” Gee, I wonder what they would say . . . .


May 12th, 2009
9:56 am

Obviously cooperative pleasant children have the best chance of being a teacher’s pet. But its not always kids who are well behaved who become favorites. Some kids are funny or particularly charming, some have an obvious talent for the subject matter and that makes thems stand out, sometimes teachers know things from conferences about a child that makes them particularly attentive or sympathetic to that child, and sometimes a kid’s personality just clicks with the teacher’s personality. Even kids have favorite teachers for reasons they can’t really explain. That’s just life–everyone of us has to learn to accept that we will be liked more by some people than by others and that we in turn will like some people more than we do others. Its silly to think that teachers are different from all the other humans on the planet.

jim d

May 12th, 2009
10:10 am


True that!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2009
10:22 am

Hey Laura — I just wanted to let your folks know we’re talking about Teacher’s Appreciation Week over on MOMania — Do we do too much, too little, is it appropriate to do at all?

On the Teacher’s Pet — I don’t think mine will ever be chosen — they tend to be too loud and stubborn. I’m just happy when a teacher appreciates them for being who they are in general. I heard from son’s kindergarten teacher all the time about his behavior – but she was always nice about it — “He’s a boy with a late spring birthday. You need to know it’s going on and it’s not OK, but he’s not a bad child. He’ll get there. He just has to learn”. I appreciated her approach.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 12th, 2009
10:34 am

Hey Laura — Our new system spammed the reply I left you – bummer — I don’t think my kids will ever be Teacher’s Pet — they tend to be loud and stubborn but I do appreciate when teacher’s accept them for who they are and recognize their not bad kids. I talked a lot to my son’s kindergarten teacher this year — She was very patient –”he’s a boy with a late spring birthday, He’s going to understand the rules eventually. he’ll get them” I appreciated that she didn’t think he was bad, just young.

Your folks might be interested that we are talking about Teacher Appreciation week over on MOMania. It didn’t like it when I left the address the last time so guys just click on MOmania under living to discuss how much appreciation Teachers deserve. Thanks, Theresa of MOMania


May 12th, 2009
10:59 am

Teachers will always have favorite students, and students will always have favorite teachers, much like xnxn…responds. There is no real problem with that, as long as every kid makes a connection with an adult in the building some where, at some point.

Where the real issue rests is with the systemic favoritism which blocks opportunities for kids who are not the “favorite”. Ms. Downey’s column suggests that teachers have a good deal of power for clutch assignments.School principals, counselors, and administration should be proactively aware of that power and foster an inclusive atmosphere where student self selection is the method for student involvement instead of, or in addition to, teacher recommendations. Instead of allowing teachers to dish out their favorite students for things like academic contests, NJHS, Governors Honors, tutoring, Student Council, etc– if they promoted students self selecting into these programs, then there is a greater chance of kids showing an interest, and eventually more will connect with an adult in the building. All too often the teachers who play favorites have too much power in the school and share the “unwritten rules” only with students who are their favorites. That is the real problem once middle and high school roll around.
If schools only knew what talent resided inside each of their students and could motivate each one to connect with an adult…..then the US would not be in such a dismal state when it comes to education.

reality 3

May 12th, 2009
11:04 am

I used to work at a popular store at the mall that offered free gift wrap. If you came in, treated us like crap(talked down to us, rude, complained about needing to leave), and demanded the gift wrap be done in the blink of an eye . . . we suddenly had a lot of gift wrapping to do and yours might take a while. But if you were the nicest person, treated us with respect, we would even go out of our way to either a) offer to wrap your present or b) might even move you up if there was a line.

All that to say, that yeah, teachers really like the kids that act respectfully, do what is expected of them, and don’t make problems in the class. Kind of like your bosses at work. If your kid doesn’t like his or her teacher, fine, but they should be respectful during class. Teachers will often go out of their way to help those kids out. But if you’ve been a pain in our collective butts during the year, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot in return. It’s called karma and it can be a pain.


May 12th, 2009
11:56 am

I agree with xnx that there are several factors that go into who is the teacher’s pet. I grew up in a small town and the teacher’s pets were generally the kids of other teachers at the school. I was teacher’s pet one year because my science teacher lived across the street from me. On the otherhand, the music teacher was also the choir director at my church and I knew she would tell my mother if I even considered doing something in her class.

My son (2nd grade) asked me just last week if I would get a job at his school because “everyone” is nice to teacher’s kids. When I asked for examples, he said teachers kids never have “silent lunch”, they get extra food at lunch and they are always the ones chosen to run errands for the teacher. Apparently that’s really important to him. :)


May 12th, 2009
1:00 pm

Parent, so you think that teachers should recommend students that are unruly and that are going to cause problems for the school play for example or is going to fight with everybody on the school newspaper?

That is absurd. The kids need to meet the teachers half-way. How many times have I told a student to stop yelling at me because I am not yelling at them? How many times do I have to fight with students to get work done or to do the basic things like come prepared, take a pencil, or take out a sheet of paper?

And yes, teachers do have pets. There are some really good kids that you can trust and you know that if you give them an assignment they are going to dazzle you and take it to a whole other level. “Johnny, can you go to the library and get this?” and you know that Johnny will go, and come back. You don’t have to worry about Johnny going in the bathroom and fighting with another student or coming back 20 minutes later.

Old School

May 12th, 2009
1:31 pm

to Parent @ 10:56 a.m.: “Instead of allowing teachers to dish out their favorite students for things like academic contests, NJHS, Governors Honors, tutoring, Student Council, etc. . . . ” Are you aware that there are scholastic standards that must be met to qualify for GHP and other honors programs? I’m sure teachers who have recommended students (as have I) for these programs first accertain that those nominees meet the basic requirements. Students can “self select” themselves by meeting or even exceeding those standards. Certainly the class clown can be the smartest kid on the block but if he or she is not in the top 10% of his/her class, he or she likely won’t make it past the first round. Too many students live in the here and now, never considering the impact of their actions (or inaction) on their futures.

I’ve written many letters for students over the years and each time I tell the student up front that I will be honest in my assessment. I have a reputation to maintain and, while I will decline if I cannot give a favorable one, I will maintain my integrity. Consequently, area employers know they will get the truth from me. It is the only way I know.

It is a challenge to start fresh everyday and give some students daily second chances but it can be done. I don’t know all the answers but I do know what works for me and has for the past 34 years.

Do I have favorites? Probably, I know I spend more time taking a deep breath before working with some but I never ignore or marginalize anyone in my classes.


May 12th, 2009
3:31 pm

Danteach…I’m not sure if I am the parent that you addressed your post to or not but if so, I don’t disagree with you. Teachers are human and like everyone else, they will like some kids more than others. I was just mentioning another reason (based on my lon ago experience as a student)why some kids are teachers pets and others aren’t.

I thought it was funny that my son wanted me to be a teacher at his school (I’m not a teacher at all) just so that he could get what her perceived to be special privileges. I believe him when he says that teacher’s kids get away with things that other kids don’t but I think that goes with the territory. My answer to that is to tell him not to misbehave and hopefully he won’t be punished either.


May 12th, 2009
4:07 pm

Dear Old School,
Of course the minimal academic/behavioral requirements have to be met – those are objective and fair – it is the issue of teachers selecting favorites out of that pool that I have a concern with. Students should self select where ever possible in addition to teacher recommendations.

And you may think you are not marginalizing students in your class..but you will never know unless you allow them to make choices for these types of activities and stop self selecting and taking everything so seriously. These are students and they are in high school – where they are supposed to be risk takers in a safe environment. Give kids that don’t fit the perfect mold a chance — you may be very surprised.

Old School

May 12th, 2009
5:54 pm

“Give kids that don’t fit the perfect mold a chance — you may be very surprised.” I give every kid new chances everyday. I’m rarely surprised because I know they can all achieve amazing things. Too many don’t know that themselves or don’t want to bother finding out. I don’t want perfect students. Perfect students don’t always make interesting observations or huge mistakes. Perfect students don’t challenge me to find something they can do. I’m imperfect and learning stuff every single day (and have been throughout my 34 years as a Vocational instructor.) It’s WAY more interesting that having a lab full of teacher-pleasers!


May 12th, 2009
6:24 pm

Why shouldn’t they have favorites? They’re human, they have a right to enjoy their students and their work. Those kids that make teaching a joy ARE going to be the favorites — the ones that make their life a living hell aren’t. This seems pretty obvious to the rest of the world, but hey, I guess not to Maureen.

As far as “self-selecting” for things like Governor’s Honors, etc., I’m constantly amazed at how many downright lazy students there are. The kids who end up at All-State band, Governor’s Honors, etc., are the ones that have a passion for their field of interest. Most kids have a passion for their boyfriend du jour or their Friday nights at the movies with their buddies. If it smacks of more work, most will avoid it like the plague. Some students DO need encouragement by their teachers, and the teachers that identify those kids with talent who need a little nudge are just doing their job. Also, why would a teacher encourage a PITA to join an organization they may be sponsoring? Gee, you spend a class period wanting to conk the kid in the head — what sane teacher would want them to show up after school for an hour-and-a-half of MORE attitude?

I was a teacher’s kid, and frankly, I found it to be more of a burden than a privilege, because I got it from my mom “not to embarrass her” (I never did), and I’d get it from the teachers that more was expected. I knew that the slightest infraction — i.e., a late homework — would be mentioned in the teacher’s lounge, and I’d hear about it that evening over dinner. I was SO glad when my mom moved to a different school!!

Mom to 4

May 12th, 2009
8:21 pm

My youngest two girls attend private school. They are both smart, straight A’s, with occasional B’s. They receive S+ for discipline. The oldest achieved by receiving the Duke TIP. My husband and I give a lot of additional money to help the school, paying for science equipment, costumes for Drama, etc. I makes copies for both teachers and I am room mom for both classes. We have never requested any special treatment yet our children are never chosen for any special treatment. In fact, I feel like a drip because I bought a costume for the kid who gets chosen for every award. This kid has several infractions for bullying, yet other kids who are more deserving get overlooked. I am tempted to send his mother the bill. I brought in a cake for the grade last week and had a couple parents offer to help with the expense, only one parent actually helped. Yet it was the kids whose parents never pay for anything who were first in line to get cake, who are typically first in line for anything. As a parent, I am tempted to stop paying for all these deadbeats. I don’t expect special treatment from teachers and administration but we (my family) shouldn’t get p*ssed on either. We don’t get special treatment. According to the comments on this blog, maybe we are in the wrong school. It has been a bad day. I heard yet again this little dweeb has been chosen by the teachers for honor council (really, honor council? ) He has like 15 infractions this year alone. My child has received 1 infraction over the past 3 years. Her infraction was for wearing a sweatshirt that was not uniform.


May 13th, 2009
9:01 am

Mom to 4: You say you don’t expect special treatment, but something in your post reads like you really do (and that’s just human–I’m not being critical). When it comes to volunteering and donating to any organization, expecially your child’s school, you have to be honest with yourself about why you are doing it and what you honestly expect in return. Otherwise, you will often be disappointed.

You are working hard and donating your own money but you feel disappointed because children you deem unworthy (possibly righteously so) are receiving awards that you believe should go to other more worthy children (possibly your own.) The school takes your time and money and then makes decisions that you disapprove of. This will happen again and again. My advice to you is to search your heart for your true motivations; be honest with yourself.

If your motivation is that you want your daughters’ educational experience to be the best you can make it, then maybe you should restrict your donations of time and money to things that will make your girls happy and show them that mom is involved and cares about their school, and that directly has a direct impact on them every time.

So before you write that check for extra costumes, maybe ask yourself how you will feel if a costume goes to a kid who has tormented one of your girls. Then if you would not be okay with that, use your money for something your girls will definitely enjoy along with the bad kid–donate the cupcakes, agree to buy the materials for the decorations, be the face painter and have your girls be the helper, etc.

Another thing to remember is that sometimes when teachers see that a child has a happy homelife and invovled parents, they don’t worry so much about those children because they know they are getting what they need at home. So if there is a special part or reward to be given out, they might think it would be better used to help a kid who doesn’t have so much happiness to spare. Also, sometimes teachers worry that giving rewards and special parts to kids whose parents are very involved will make it seem like the teacher is giving favoritism to the kid because of the parent–something that would draw a lot of critism.

Lastly, children are a product of their homelife. Its hard for a kid to be a deadbeat. Try to remember that the bad manners you are seeing in kids who “get in line first for the cake,” is not really their fault. Its their parents’ fault. Its good parents like you who raise good kids who model good behavior for these children. You won’t see how it turns out, but you can be sure there is a little girl somewhere in that school who sees you there and is grateful for the cake and your presence. And one day she will volunteer in her kids’ school because as a child she wanted to be like your daughters, she wanted a mom like you, and she will want to be that mom for her little girl.

high school teacher

May 13th, 2009
1:14 pm

Mom to 4, thanks for pointing out that private school can be like public school:)


May 13th, 2009
2:22 pm

xnxn…Thanks for you last post. Even though I agree with you 100%, your words were so eloquent and well put that they made me pause and think.

Mom to 4

May 15th, 2009
6:57 pm

xnxn… Thanks for the post. It was a rough day and you reminded me why I volunteer – not for my benefit but to enhance the educational experience for my children and to help their teachers who can then spend time with the students. I think sometimes it would be easier to be one of the parents who do little or nothing in the schools but that is not my personality.

Thanks again for your kind words.


June 3rd, 2009
2:01 pm

I agree with a lot that has been said but there is something to soem teachers having too much power or are on an ego trip. Whenever my boy was in 8th grade, he pushed himself to the limit and was able to get into the advanced math class. He did this on his own and we wer eproud of him–even though he didn’t make the gifted program because he was 2 points shy of the recommended IQ the school said he needed. (BS but that is a subject for another day.) Anyways, there were 2 or 3 other kids who managed to get into advanced math that year that were not in the gifted program. The other 18 or so were all gifted students. The teacher would do things like buy all the gifted kids a soda pop to drink during class but the kids who were not in gifted were not allowed to have any. And he would embarrass the non-gifted kids in class, especially if they raised their hand and, *gasp*, gave a wrong answer.

There is another example of a teacher my daughter had whenever she was a senior in HS. This teacher was the band director. He would pick a student to be student band director and another for another office every year. That year, he made the band director position be shared between two kids. Only four kids expressed interest, and she was one of them. She had wanted that position since she her eighth grade summer. She worked hard and was (is) a natural born leader. Kids just seem to do whetever she tells them and they all look to her for guidance. She did not get it because the other three kids had parents who were playing politics and we wnated her to stand on her own. She lost, of course.

I call those instances as being teacher’s pet or worse….