We have favorites. You can deny it, question the definition of "favorites" a la
Bill Clinton, or you can simply admit to it. However, having favorites does not mean that we play
favorites--a necessary distinction we must make to protect ourselves from a liberal media bias. The obvious bias of the East Coast media in sports coverage has long frustrated those on the West Coast, just as Dick Vitale's love affair with Duke Univeristy of any team from the Atlantic Coast Conference irritates everyone.
Here they are, Mr. McNamar's Ten Favorite Students--and yes, I can provide an actual student to fit each of these descriptions, both past and present, but will refrain for the sake of my career.10. The Mother Hen
"Class, I need your attention," you politely request. Your soft teacher voice goes unheard forcing you to run through your Classroom Management notes from college. You move towards the group of students making the most noise, asking again, with hand raised, "Class, I need your attention." Nothing. Maybe a few kids look up, but quickly return to their discussion as if you are the annoying beep from a McDonald's fry vat timer. So you stand, silent and motionless. Your expression is finally caught by the Mother Hen. She barks, "HEY, EVERYONE BE QUIET. MR. MAC IS TRYING TO TALK!"
Silence. Immediate silence. She's in charge, completely in control like the recess lady at your elementary school. Go ahead, raise a toast to the Mother Hen; buy her a Mother's Day Card this year.9. The Secret Agent
This kid knows everything before everyone else. "Mr. Mac, Ron got suspended for two days. He was caught skipping." How does The Secret Agent know this? You won't get an e-mail from the Discipline Secretary until after Ron returns, but The Secret Agent, who isn't even friends with, or in the same period as Ron, does know.
It turns out that The Secret Agent is right, and the next time you need some inside scoop, even though you know you shouldn't ask, out it comes; "Hey Secret Agent man, do you know...?" Whatever it is you want to know, he has it. You can find out which colleagues do a good job, or are more liked than you. The Secret Agent knows all--and you indulge in his knowledge8. The Isolationist
Your second period class is obnoxious and immature. They've been friends for the last four years and can do nothing, include think, without the approval of the others. You've banged your head against the wall trying to figure out how to get something that resembles critical thinking from them when you notice her sitting in the back of the room, an excaberated expression tensing her face. She is the United States before Pearl Harbor--unwanting to get involved in this mess for fear of ruining herself.
But, like the United States pre-WWII, she has so much potential to offer. She's quick, bright, friendly, but most of all, she's not them. When she finally steps out of her Isolationist foreign policy, you glow with appreciation as the class grows jealous and petty. But what she has to offer in way of insight, is worth the listening to.7. The Last Comic Standing
No one likes the Class Clown. He's not really that funny, but it is all he has--so people laugh. It is a form of charity, in an odd and depressing way. But The Last Comic Standing, he's funny. His timing is impeccable, his delivery smooth. He can point out the obvious humor or the subtle humor of daily classroom existence.
I once had a student who fit this mold perfectly. He was mildly Autistic and could absolutely nail a joke. When I asked him what he thought of Saddam Hussein, a once powerful dictator who lived in palaces, being captured in a hole, he responded, "It's better than getting caught in pink panties." So true; so funny.6. Skippi Longstocking
As you scroll through your attendance records, you begin to realize a pattern. Skippi is absent a lot. But, she's often seen later in the day. When she does attend, she's always up to date in her reading, always turns her essays in on time, and always makes the discussion better.
Her regular absences confound you, but her free-spirited nature mixed with astonishing maturity astounds you. It is obvious that, for as irresponsible as she is with her attendance, she will survive just fine, if not better than most, in the crazy world of adulthood. Bravo, Skippi, Bravo!5. The Contender
"Mr. McNamar, I contend that Iago is the main character of Othello
." The Contender doesn't ask questions, he professes truths. Absolute truths. Right or wrong, The Contender believes in himself and is willing to assert those beliefs. It is the sign of confidence, a trait that more students need. But what makes The Contender so great is that he will certainly draw people into a discussion because he never makes a down the middle statement; it is always devisive--a great discussion generator.4. Miss Congeniality
Okay, this is going to come across mean, so I'll warn you now. If you don't want to be offended, skip the next few sentences. At the university I attended, which happens to be a Christian liberal arts school, there was a subtle backhanded way to express that a girl or guy was not all that attractive. It might happen like this: an acquaintance wants to set you up with a friend of theirs. You ask what he or she looks like. They respond with, "She loves Jesus." That is code for "Not real pretty."
Miss Congeniality is similar. She might not be the best student around. In fact, she is mediocre on her best days. But she is the sweetest, kindest, most compassionate student in the school. She talks to the kids who no one will talk to. She will sit next the teenage boy who hasn't learned the value of regular showering. She asks how you are doing, not in the casual, I really don't care way. She wants to know if your husband or wife is doing well and if your children had a fun time at the zoo. She is the good part of humanity.3. The High Wire Performer
The High Wire Performer is a risk taker who must balance all of his commitments outside of academics and his education. He manages to do so with an incredible ease that is worthy of envy. As you struggle to teach to separate subjects, to raise a family, and to survive your own busy life, The High Wire Performer has a job, sports, community service, education, and socializing. He manages to pull it all off at the age of 17, when many students can barely set their own alarm clock.2. The Surrogate Child
Who knows, maybe The Surrogate Child has a mom and a dad that loves her dearly. But, for one reason or another, she views you as a parental figure; in fact, it seems like she needs your praise, your support, and your wisdom. She is open to all of it. It makes you feel good, like you thought teaching would be when you applied to the Education program at your university. She provides you the chance to both and educate and influence. At the end of the day, you feel good about what you've done.1. The Poser
I've never been a skateboarder. The one time I really tried to figure it out, I landed on my funny bone, which turned out to be not so funny. I neither dressed the part, nor wished to. However, all across the campus students who didn't skateboard, donned the appropriate attire because it was popular. We called them posers.
And though I made fun of posers in while in high school, I like The Posers I have in class. Not the ones who dress a certain way just to fit in, but the ones who try to convince their peers that they are tough guys who aren't really smart. They openly challenge you. They are rude to others. And yet, when they do their work, they demonstrate wonderful thinking and creativity. You tell them this, but they blow you off.
In the end, they are often the ones who will remember you forever. They will hollah, "Hey, Mr. Mac," in front of their tough guy friends, surprising you with their open affinity for you. Soon, you are a oddly accepted by a population of students who have never accepted a teacher, ever.
Once you've figure out The Poser, your world changes--and so does theirs.