October 25

Teacher’s Pet – The Tyranny of Favoritism


 October 25

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Ben Parker to nephew Peter Parker, also known as Spiderman.

We’ve all been there. We’ve been favored at times and not so much at other times.  Since favoritism is so pervasive, we’ve come to accept it as “real life” . We remain unfazed even when we see parents subtly (and not so subtly) favoring one of their children over others. “This is life”, we tell ourselves. We try to move on. Yet, we face favoritism again and again. Like when the teacher of a class passes your child over. Just because. Or your boss gives the other guy the promotion despite the fact that you’re more qualified. Just because.


I’ve been on both sides of the fence. When I was teacher’s pet, I wished for invisibility because the other kids resented me. When I was not teacher’s pet, I wondered what was so “un-special” about me. Now that my children are subject to it, the whole dynamic of favoritism hits home. Hard. When my child is passed up without being given a chance to demonstrate her talent or hard work, it brings up distaste and puzzlement. There are no answers or justifications on the teacher’s part. The dynamic becomes far more complex when the teacher’s kids are thrown in the mix, creating the perfect recipe for conflict of interest. Most teachers either have no awareness of the power they wield over their students, or blatantly abuse it. They’re either clueless about the damage they cause to fragile self-esteems, or frankly don’t care. “This is life”, they say. When asked why they prefer one child over another, they simply shrug. Just because.


Of course, this disease of favoritism doesn’t restrict itself to the materialistic world. It’s especially rampant in spiritual circles, which are usually made up of all-too-human patrons. Spiritual heads wield exceptional power over members of their organizations; after all, they control these lesser mortals’ salvation! Often, these heads are fraught with the universal human flaw of being driven by likes and dislikes. Like when their own offspring come of age, they skillfully manipulate the organization to position them to pass the baton to. It hardly matters that there may be other, far more advanced members who may be much more capable of handling the responsibility. “This is life”, they say. And there is that less-than-satisfactory explanation again. Just because.
And then there are those rare teachers that are evolved beyond the human tendency to be driven by circular thinking. They are bestowed with the marvelous gift of being able to identify the tiniest of sparks in a student even when it is densely hidden from view. They tease out the best from every student they come in contact with. They understand the power they exert, and use it responsibly. Ben Parker would approve. They don’t settle for flimsy explanations like “This is life.” They transform the circles they live and work in. Just because.
I’m immensely fortunate to have been tutored by some exceptional teachers. They never gave up on me, even when I was ridden with self-doubt. They pulled me up and pushed me ahead, foreseeing a future for me that I couldn’t see myself. And I was not the only one. They shaped the unique destinies of all their students in subtly different ways. For all the teachers that dabbled in pettiness and favoritism, these rare ones stood steady and rock-like. They transformed every student they ever taught, whether they were teaching biology, mathematics or music. They understood the complex dynamic of favoritism – that playing favorites is toxic for group learning. They didn’t fall prey to the “just because”. The whole group benefited as a result of their wisdom and grandness of vision.
What happens with favoritism? You know, the way “life is”? While the favored ones soar from overinflated egos, the others merely resent it all. While the favored ones learn arrogance and acquire superior-than-thou attitudes, the others lose interest in the teaching even when they have talent or passion for the subject. While the favored ones will eventually learn humility (this is life, yes), the others learn to doubt themselves. Due to their own inadequacies, teachers create disharmony in communities and societies, perpetuating the helpless attitude of “This is life” and “Just because”.
What does this mean for me as a parent? I decided to talk to my child after she had been passed up in her activity in favor of the teacher’s pets. I asked her what she thought about it. She was ten years old at the time. To my surprise, she answered, “Well, I know I’m better than what the teacher thinks, Mommy. I’ll just keep working at it.” Bravo, I thought. She demonstrated an attitude that was far more balanced and mature than that of the teacher! Over the years, she has continued with the activity despite growing favoritism in the class. We talk freely about it, knowing fully well that the teacher’s dismissal of her talent means little in the grand scheme of things. She has learned to separate the grain from the chaff, taking in what benefits her growth and ignoring the rest. There will come a time when her unique gift will serve it’s divine purpose. How do I know this? Why, because this is really how life works! Life will take of us whatever it is that we were made for. No petty teacher, community or society can stop it. She (life) is the supreme boss.
And of course, this is such rich grist for the inquiry mill! When I fight it, and think that “it is not supposed to be this way”, I suffer. When I come into alignment with what is, I gain clarity. I see that this is how it is; this is not resigning to the situation, but accepting it. The difference between the two is that resigning to something leaves the residue of resentment; acceptance occurs in peace and love. Clarity is the key ingredient for transformation. In inquiring, I come to see why it bothers me. When scars of my own life surface, they are healed by the power of loving clarity. When I heal, I am able to be totally present for my child. When I am present, she learns to see that she is not who the teacher makes her out to be. She sees that she is beyond the pettiness of lessons, grades and preference. She senses her potential and begins to transform from within. In the increasing light of loving clarity, we both come to see the superfluousness of “me vs. the other”, “us vs. them”. In this light, we gain compassion for these teachers and wish wisdom upon them.  In this light, we learn to see the beauty of human nature despite all its flaws. In this light, we begin to see that we are complementing infinite facets of the vast universe.
This is life. Just because.
Image Source: Where Learning Clicks.

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