This is the worst compliment that a teacher can pay attention to. Favorite isn't the goal — greatness is. There can only be one favorite teacher in a child's heart, but there can be dozens of great teachers.
If you're in a position of school culture-building (and all of us are), then you need to give this idea repeated mention: We want schools filled with great teachers, not schools of competitors vying for Favorite, that most fickle of “honors.”
Don't get me wrong: it can be very sweet of a kid to say this kind of thing. (It's not always sweet, though. Sometimes, they've learned that it's a great method for manipulating a teacher.)
So, how do you respond when a kid says, “You're my favorite teacher”? You say, with warm eyes, “Thanks. There are a lot of great teachers in this school.” And then you move on.
The message you've sent, to yourself and to the self-exalting part of your heart, is simple: It's nice that you think that, but I don't teach for those kinds of prizes. I've seen the work beneath the work, and I've given it up. Let's carry on.
I hope this helps.
I agree. Honestly, when there is an announcement about teacher of the year, I am bummed when I don’t get it. Never have.
But I would much rather never get that recognition if it meant that I was an effective teacher who had high impact on his students’ learning and development as good people. That is far more rewarding than winning a popularity contest.
Warren Roth says
The best compliment I ever received was, “You’re NOT my favorite teacher, but you were my best. You were hard on me and I learned the most from your class. But…you’re not my favorite.” My response: “I can live with that. Thank you.”
Lynn Kameny says
I agree with this post so much, although in a job with little recognition, it is hard to remember this every day. At my middle/high school (and I am betting this is true other places) the “favorite teacher” almost always refers to a male teacher and they almost always get this praise because they are “cool” or young or play video games. From my experience, these teachers rarely stay in teaching for the long haul, although I am not sure why — perhaps because you can’t stay young and cool forever? Meanwhile, I work at my craft year in and year out, dedicated to improving every student’s thinking and learning. When a student thanks me personally, or writes me a note or gives me a shoutout on FB (I only friend them after they graduate), that is fantastic recognition. Sure Teacher of the Year would be a great honor, but I would it does seem counter-productive to think that great schools will be created unless the majority of teachers in the school are all “Teachers of the Year.”