Like most people in the Community, I could write a number of lists and posts containing my favorite aspects, implementation strategies, and use cases regarding Canvas. Today, however, I want to take some time to talk about other favorites...the types of favorites that teachers aren't typically "allowed" to admit they have. The favorites to which I'm referring are the students - past or current - who encourage and inspire instructors to go to work every day.
Take a look at the definitions of "favorite" that I found after a quick Google search:
The adjective - preferred before all others of the same kind. ← Seems okay, if you ask me. Everyone connects with others, personally or professionally, in different ways based on personality, interests, etc. There are naturally going to be students that teachers connect to with less effort than others.
The noun - a person that is especially popular or particularly well-liked by someone. ← ...and, you can particularly like a student. Again, the value here is in the ease or genuine nature of a relationship that forms during the learning process. Just because you particularily like a student doesn't mean they receive perferential treatment, however.
The verb - record the address to enable quick access in the future. ← I like to consider this definition in the context of students. There have been students in my classroom that I want to "favorite" in the sense that they're amazing resources! These students tend to be the ones which have this tenacity for content or life. I want to stay connected rather than saying goodbye at the conclusion of a semester.
None of these interpretations/definitions seem like these should be forbidden activities. When it comes down to it, my "favorites" have been those students who I have had the privilege to get to know beyond the standard classroom content. The relationships that I have with my favorite students are glimpses into the ideal education experience. It's a mutually benefiting relationship. The following quote sums up my idea perfectly; it's absolutely true!
The three most important words in education are: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. Without them, we have nothing." - George Couros
If you've stumbled upon this blog post, you likely have a few minutes to answer a few questions to yourself (Really. Five minutes...)
- First: give yourself permission to admit that you have a favorite student.
- Why are you thankful for them?
- What have they taught you?
- Why is/was their time in your classroom impactful?
- Here's the biggest question:
- Does this or do these students know how much you value them?
The last point was the giant question that stared back at me this weekend. I had an amazing, impromptu conversation with a former student of mine on Friday. ... I was so thankful that I was able to reconnect with him, learn about his studies and current projects, but, most of all, I was excited to have the opportunity to tell him how his presence in my classroom two years ago literally was the source of my motivation to adjust the way in which I teach my upper-level classes. I wish that there was a way to explain the value of this mutual gratitude. ...and I wish that there was a reason why this particular student had to wait almost two years to know how incredible he was and how he influenced my teaching.
I have a couple of current students who challenge me routinely to rethink my expectations. I feel that I know these students the best of all of my current students, they're invested in their work, and our conversations are genuine. These current favorites feed into my personal desire to advance my teaching practices, and they deserve to know how much I value collaborating and their contribution to my professional journey as an educator. I'm thankful that I still have the four short weeks before graduation to share this with them.
Since it's never too early to start thinking about next year, I'm setting a new goal. Each month, I'm going to set time aside to write to students outside of assessment feedback. While these selected students could be labeled as "favorites" in my mind and heart, the student doesn't necessarily need to know about the classification. However, what they do need to know, and what they deserve to know, is that their presence, attitude, contributions, and insights are not only noted but valued.
Go ahead. Have a favorite or set of favorites. It's good for you and, likely, your teaching.