The semester has almost started again, and I’m preparing for my new students by looking at my roster and systematically judging each and every student based only on their pictures. They’re smiling faces look up at me from my screen, and I cast my evaluative glare upon them, weighing, measuring, and guessing who each of them will be.
All my life, teachers have told me they don’t have favorite students. As a student, I figured that just meant I definitely wasn’t their favorite, and they saved the truth for the students they loved more than me. Now that I’m a teacher, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that not only do teachers have favorites, but they also do a myriad of other less-than-admirable things that no students ever learn about.
For example, I co-taught with a friend last semester, and we looked at our roster before ever meeting our class and took bets on which students fit into which classroom stereotype. The boy with the smug smile would be the class’s resident asshole. The reserved-looking girl would be the quiet type who gets her work done but doesn’t ask enough questions. The other guy with the smug smile would be the other class asshole–apparently, you can have more than one. We looked through the list of students and relentlessly judged them based on zero information other than how they looked for a split second in front of a camera. Of course, these guesses about our students never influenced how we worked with them. That is, it didn’t influence it until we were proven unequivocally correct which just shows that some deplorable acts are also entertaining and quite useful.
Sometimes I’ll be watching a show or reading a book, and I’ll think to myself “golly, these two characters sure do have some chemistry, I wish they’d be together,” but the story never progresses in the way I want, and the characters remain tragically separate. Other obsessive fans found an answer for my frustrations and made fanfiction into a thing. If you’re not familiar with fanfiction, then good for you, and please continue with your life uninhibited by the knowledge that there are people in the world who devote themselves to finding new ways to write stories on such highbrow topics as Sherlock Holmes getting intimate with Sonic the Hedgehog. I mention fanfiction only because the god complex of every fan author fits decently with how I go into the semester. I see potential, and I abuse my power because I want to see if that potential can grow. All this is to say that I can see what all my students are studying, and I put them into their first groups based on combinations of majors I think could be interesting to hear interact. It’s only later in the semester, once I know my students well, that I put them into groups based on who I think they should date.
One thing that alarms me is that now I know just how common it is for teachers to do exactly what I’m doing now: looking down the roster and evaluating their students based on very little information. I don’t photograph well (a side-effect of not looking well either), so that means a lot of teachers have looked at me, judged me, and probably assumed some damming and accurate things about my character.