One of the most taboo subjects in the teaching community is the subject of different treatment for different students. Most people generally consider it bad to treat people differently. But in my opinion, this is the wrong take.
I don’t know a single teacher, good or bad, that treats all of their students the same. I’ve admitted in prior posts that I don’t like all students the same… no teacher does. And that is the reason a bad teacher treats students differently, but a good teacher will treat students differently too.
Different students have different abilities, experiences, and levels of development. This necessitates treating them accordingly.
I expect everyone to progress and be the best version of themselves. I have some students that struggle with extreme behaviors, and I have some students with near-perfect behavior. If one of my students with extreme behavior comes into class completes his work and only has to be redirected two or three times, I’m going to count that as a good day. I have other students that even one redirection will probably trigger a negative phone call home. In reality, there are situations where the worst day behaviorally or academically for one student is equivalent to the best day for another.
I want everyone to end at the same point, but I have to recognize they don’t start at the same point.
What does this look like? Some students receive more chances behaviorally before a severe consequence is given. I have a student that struggles with calling out. If I sent him out after he called out four times like I’m supposed to, he would never be in class. Other students don’t get this treatment. I have another student that I have given a tracker with a reward every week she completes every assignment. Other students don’t receive a reward for doing their work.
How do students respond to this? Surprisingly well. For starters, I don’t pretend that I’m not doing it. We have real conversations at the beginning of the year about how everyone will get what they need and that might be different for every student. In most cases, this gets rid of the “fairness” arguments that come up in the classes of teachers that pretend everyone is treated the same.
But just for the record, treating everyone as an individual doesn’t mean treating them unfairly. My job is to push students to be the best they can be and that requires different motivations and levers for each student. Students aren’t computers. The same line of code is not going to get you the same result for every student. Sometimes you have to try something different. You might as well normalize that.