A lot of teachers are in the habit of looking the other way when the top performing learners in their class breaks a rule. It’s understandable, and definitely easy to justify. After all, the misbehavior is nearly always an accident, like quietly asking a question but forgetting to raise their hand. It’s such a little things, harmless and hardly noticeable to the rest of the class.
Besides, enforcing a consequence may upset them. It’s something they’re not used to and could cause them to go home and complain to their (very involved) parents.
But the truth is, despite these concerns, failing to hold your best and most well-behaved learners accountable is a huge mistake. It can even be the reason why you’re struggling with your most challenging learners.
It creates resentment.
Enforcing a consequence based on who the learner is—or on the situation, the severity of the misbehavior, or how you happen to be feeling that day—always leads to resentment.
It’s a simple algorithm.
As soon as the class notices that you treat some learners differently than everyone else, it will destroy their trust in you. They will question their teacher’s sense of fairness. The learners most deeply affected are those most often on the other end of your consequences.
While many learners will be privately hurt and disappointed, the most difficult learners will be plotting their revenge.
It creates entitlement.
Every time you let your favourite learner off with a reminder, or ignore their wrongdoing altogether, there is an unnoticeable but predictable shift in attitude toward entitlement. This is very bad for them.
It tells them that they’re somehow better than their peers, which in the long run is far worse for them than for the “ordinary” learners who are quietly building up a healthy resilience to disappointment.
Believing they’re above the law hardens their heart, numbs their sense of empathy, and sets them up for a big, depressive fall that often doesn’t come until years later.
It creates a social grouping system.
This is a system in the classroom where learners are mentally divided into the “Haves and Have-Not’s, The Royal ones and the rest of us”. In time, being treated as special by teachers, rather than being challenged and humbled, puts kids into a social grouping system.
Looks, money, clothes, popularity, and athleticism all have their own way of separating kids into groups, more and more so as they get older. It’s always been this way to a degree, but social media has made it much worse.
Sadly, a lot of teachers feed the beast by flattering and praising and playing favorites with the cute kids, the fun kids, and the top performing learners.
Being viewed as special eventually becomes a burden that can lead to the fear of trying and failing. It can even be a catalyst for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues down the line.
You’re in a unique position to combat it, to make a difference in shaping a healthy view of self and others and the future that awaits them.
The most impactful teachers remind their learners through their consistency, fairness, worthy praise only, high standards, and challenging expectations that none of us is so wonderful.
We all have many areas to work on. We all have to work our tails off to reach our goals. We all need others to lean on.
It’s our job, if we’re to do it well, to instil humility, kindness, and true self-worth. To prepare our learners to stand tall and steady in the face of adversity that will surely come their way.
In this important way, we reach everyone. The life lessons we pay forward makes a difference. They carry on inside the heart of every learner and roll into the future.