21 answers

Teacher Playing Favorites

We are struggling with a teacher who is blatantly playing favorites in class. My son is in the 7th grade music program at a new school. It is the band director at the school that we are having difficulty with. At first I wanted to believe that there was more to the story and that maybe my son was taking it too personally. He had had a great relationship with his previous band teacher. However, the favoritism has continued and seems to be getting more and more obvious. Has anyone been through this before? Quiting the music program is not really an option. I'm encouraging my son to keep doing his best and try not to be discouraged. I've signed up to do more volunteer work. The parents of the other player are very involved in fundraising. I've requested a parent-teacher conference, but I've not heard back yet. I know that in the long term it can be a good life lesson that sometimes life isn't fair, but I'd rather he not have to learn that now. Any advice is appreciated. He has get through the rest of 7th grade and all of 8th grade with this teacher. He told me yesterday that it's hard to deal with, but at least this teacher is only the middle school band teacher. He loves music and is hoping to continue playing throughout all of his schooling. I'm not sure how direct I should be with the teacher. I'm a little worried about making things worse than they already are.

PS I guess I should have mentioned that there have been 3 instances so far of class rules being modified or ignored to the advantage of the other student. This is in direct conflict with the parent-student book that we signed and turned in at the start of the school year. And yes the school is a 6-8 and all the other students in band had this teacher last year as well.

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More Answers

Although it's not pleasant, he's old enough to find out that life isn't fair. It will be a lesson that stays with him. Favoritism will rear its ugly head EVERYWHERE, in school, sports, groups of friends, at his first job, etc. Better get used to it now.

Going to the teacher on behalf of your son might create more problems than it will solve. It might be time for your son to stand up for himself --- stay after class to ask why 'X' was allowed to break a rule without consequences. He might start by saying something like "I'm not sure I understand all the rules. X did such-an-such yet was not punished. Did I misunderstand the rule?"

However, the fact that the teacher appears to be playing favorites may not stop him from telling other students that your son's mom came in to stand up for him --- that wouldn't go well for your son.

In any case, you can take satisfaction knowing that this teacher will never be able to maintain discipline in his classroom if not everyone is made to follow the rules. Kids will start rebelling at the unfairness sooner or later.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

Hi J.,

Like several other people have mentioned...it is a little hard to answer this question without knowing exactly what it is the teacher is doing to play favorites.

Just based on the little bit that you said...you mentioned that all the other students had the teacher last year, and this is your son's first year with this teacher. Maybe what you and your son see as favoritism is actually just a rapport with the students that has built over the last year. Your son had a great relationship with his previous band teacher, and I'm sure he wants that with the new teacher...but that takes time. As the comfort level grows between the teacher and your son, the rapport will grow as well. It's very natural for a teacher, or any person for that matter, to be more comfortable with students they already know than with a new student that they are just getting to know. That's human nature. Give it some time....and remember that people can sense vibes...if your son shows resentment towards the teacher because he feels the teacher is playing "favorites"....then it will be harder for the teacher to get to know him and build that rapport...it can be a vicious cycle.

Talking to the teacher should always be an option...but I think accusing the teacher of "playing favorites" will cause some bad vibes off the bat. Maybe just mention to the teacher that your son may need help adjusting to the new class? I was in band in middle school, and I know that band is very much like any sports team....there needs to be a sense of comfort and confidence and unity from your "team mates" and "coach"....naturally when a new team mate enters the picture, there is an adjustment period. Ask the teacher to help along with this adjustment.

Hope this helps...good luck to your son. I hope things improve!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J., Sorry to say that this actually an all too common practice even more so in sports. You could have a meeting with teacher and let him no where you stand but try to do it in a calm way so as to not rock the boat. Your son should be there as well so he can say how it makes him feel. He will be able to get through and move to high school.

1 mom found this helpful

Is the band teacher's name Julie? Haaaa! Yes, we've all been through it. Having been in music all through Jr High and High School, and having experienced the same thing, it does seem that music and drama teachers do have favorites and the same kids get the solos all the time, even if they don't deserve it. As an adult, I still come across the same thing in my church choir!!!!! It is not right, but there may be little you can do about it.

I do encourage you to continue to ask for the conference, but be ware of your speach when you confront him/her. You don't want the teacher to take it out on your son even more, and you don't want your son to be embarrassed. I'm not sure what kind of problem your son is having, but I would ask the teacher to give him a chance to prove himself. If you get no results, you can go to the principle, or just accept that life isn't fair.

I'm so sorry you are going through this. I know it is so frustrating. I don't know if you believe in God, but if you do, the Bible says "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord" and I believe the teacher will at some point be brought to light for his/her unfairness and that your son will get his chance if he doesn't try to fight him/her. I've seen it so many times where prayer is the best solution to the problem.

You sound like an excellent mom. Keep it up. Your kids are very lucky to have a mom that cares so much about them!

I was so happy to see Erinn's response, because I had the same thought.

I am a 7th grade teacher, and without any more details regarding the events, I can think of all sorts of explanations for what your son is experiencing, and only one of those explanations would be playing favorites.

One of my first thoughts was that the other student (or students) involved may have IEP [Individual Educational Plans] that are required by law for students with disabilities who require special accommodations and/or modifications.

For example, if I had a student who had special modifications on homework (perhaps doing a limited set of the homework problems), I could certainly see other students thinking I'm playing favorites by giving him full credit for partially-completed homework assignments.

I'd also say that it's quite common for middle schoolers to be particularly concerned about fairness -- and possibly seeing favoritism in just the relationship a teacher may already have with students that the teacher knows from last year.

But teachers are also human, and I know I do get along better with some students than with others. I try very hard not to let that show, as does every other teacher I know. I've also been in classes with teachers who played favorites (and occasionally maybe even benefited from a bit of favoritism.)

Without any specifics of what is actually happening, however, I would probably give things a few weeks to settle down and then reassess. I would probably try to listen to my child's complaints without encouraging them in any way [Responding like "I can see why you would think that is unfair" as opposed to something that might encourage the belief that the teacher is playing favorites--something like "That teacher's behavior is simply unacceptable. I will not stand for that!"]

As others have suggested, though, if you really feel the matter can't wait, you should approach the teacher with an open mind. He or she may have some insights to share about the situation that will change your perspective.

I don't say all of this because I assume the teacher is right, only that it is far more helpful to go in with the approach that you both want what is best for your child, and a teacher has a different point of view on the situation than either you or your son.

Dear J.,
If your not getting a response from the teacher then you need to follow the chain of command up. Go to the principal and inform him of what you think/observe going on in the class and bring up the 3 instances when rules were modified or ignored. If the principal is not helpful then you can continue up the chain of command to the Superintendent. Make sure that you document any repercussions that happen after your disscussion with the prinicpal and/or superintendent. You have to show your son that he has the right to stand up for his rights as long as the rules are being broken.

You have plenty of great responses, and I wanted to throw out there one more thing for thought. Not knowing exactly the nature of what the complaint makes it hard to know what to advise, but I will say that some students in class may have a hidden (to the class and all the parents) disability or IEP that the teacher is not allowed to speak about, but yet has to modify for. That can be very hard to explain to kids in a group and can look like favoritism. Tread gently and remind your student that he only has to worry about himself and doing his job well to really enjoy it.
Good luck!

Dear J.,
My son has been in the music program since the 3rd grade. And he loves it. We live in a town of less than 3,000 people, so we are very fortunate to have someone so skilled at teaching every single instrument you can think of. He gives all children a role, and a place and a part.
I don't know, but they could be favoring a child who is a stand out and more musically inclined than the rest. I know in our case, the ones who have really struggled get to shine and have solos. It's all about everyone being a part of the ensemble and feeling proud of their hard work and accomplishments. The wonderful thing about our music teacher is that he gives every kid a chance. There are harmonica players, piano players, drum players, violin and clarinette and flute players. Saxophone and guitar. Everything.
Their concerts bring down the house. And every child has a place. Even if they are ringing the sleigh bells or dinging the triangle.
Don't let your son give up on music. Let him watch PBS when they have full concert productions. A lot of the musicians sit and read along until it's their part. It's the sum of the parts and not any one person who can make a band work.
I do agree that everyone should be treated the same, but you have to accept that some students are more advanced than others. In our school, if you don't have a good attitude and you're not keeping up with your other work...you're out. It's a privelege. Not a right.
It may just be that things are different with this new teacher. But I agree that rules shouldn't be modified for one child because they are talented. That sends a very wrong signal.
If I were you, I would talk to the music teacher about how your child is doing and leave the compararison of the other kid out, if you can. You don't want to seem like a donineering mother. He (or she) may have ideas for teaching your son in line with his interests and capabilities that you had never thought of. Just let them know how much your child loves music and wants to fit in. I'm sure they will make sure that happens for him. In my experience, music teachers, because of their creative natures, try to foster that in any truly interested kid.
Don't give up just yet.

I wish you the very best. I really do.
I always cry my head off out of pride everytime my son performs at school. And, he is the biggest helper of setting up all the instruments and stacking them down and storing them back to the music room. There should be a part for everyone.


It's difficult to understand what you are talking about. How is the teacher playing favorites? Is this a selection of a soloist and your child wasn't chosen? More information is needed, but if the school has a good band and overall music department, chances are the instructor is making the right decisions.


As a former middle school teacher myself... I will say that we ALL have our favorites. I know I certainly did. However, I managed to still involve all of my students to the point at which they wanted to be. Middle school students are a special breed and so are the teachers who work with them. Personally, I don't know what's going on with the teacher. You didn't say specifically. Some of it might be construed as favortism, some of it not. It seems a bit early in the school year to already have places established unless that other student was in his class last year. In that case, there is a "bond" already formed with that student and his family, especially if they are involved in the program beyond showing up and sucking up oxygen. I'd give it some more time before approaching the teacher. If it seems unbearable, then go for it, but watch your wording. Make sure that the emphasis is on you and your son and how excited he is to be in the class and how can his talents best be used. What else can you do to help out in the class too. Try that approach as opposed to "I've noticed you have a favorite in the class." It will only make things worse if you go that route.

Since you do not say what exactly the teacher does with your son because she plays favorites, your question is hard to answer.

So assuming she does not ignore your son and still teaches him the appropriate amount, my opinion is that she is allowed to have favorites, she's human, and while it may not be entirely appropriate for her to display it so blatantly, I think your son will survive her having a favorite student or two.

None of us is everyone's favorite.

p.s. - Middle school is a great time to learn that life isn't fair, actually they should be learning that even earlier. If he doesn't learn that now he might start getting that obnoxious sense of "entitlement" that seems to be so pervasive these days.

p.p.s. - How great that this teacher is not ignoring the rules for your son, like she is for the other child. If anything that is a detriment to the other child - to learn that rules should be broken for him. Be happy your son is learning to play by the rules. When my daughter was complaining to me that one of her friends was cheating, and thus getting A's on tests that she didn't deserve, I told her that her friend's cheating had nothing to do with my daughter, and that cheating would only harm her friend in the long run, so my daughter should mind her own business and just focus on her own work.

And Joanne B., below, is right on.

As a middle school teacher for the past six years, and a teacher for 10 years total, I would ask this.....Is this "favoritism" to the detriment of your child? In other words, is he being punished while the other child is not? If so, you should have no issue at all bringing it up to the teacher, and if there is no follow through, the administrator after that. If you have not said anything, I'm sure a mention of your child's feelings and that he is uncomfortable with the situation should be enough to control the issue. If however, your child is just feeling that HE is not the favorite, and is jealous of the attention paid the other child, I would have to say that you will just have to tell him that this is how life is...Unfortunate but true.

Perhaps you should request a meeting with the teacher and the principal together. Especially if the teacher is not responding to your request for a meeting alone. Also I would think that this teacher's supervisor/principal would be interested to know that this teacher is bending/breaking or down right ignoring school rules for certain students. There is a reason the rules are written and provided in a hand book and both students, parents and teachers are expected to follow them. If your son doesn't...he would be expected to be disciplined and the same should go for this teacher. Therefore the supervisor should be aware of what is going on and also if any "retaliation" should happen, I would go back to the principal and/or the superintendent. I have 3 sisters who are all teachers and they have actually been in situations where they helped other students when something like this occurred and sometimes the offending teacher needs to know that people are watching and the behavior improves...there are lots of teachers out there ready to work and California laid off over 1,000 at the beginning of this school year due to budget cuts....They would be happy to take this guy's job and he probably can't afford to lose his...If he is aware he can't get away with the favoritism stuff and any ideas of retaliation...I suspect he will cut out his childish behavior and act like a teacher should. Good Luck

Wow, it sounds like a difficult situation. If it were me I would do what you are doing-tell my son to hang in there and do his best, and volunteer as much as possible. If you do have a conference with the teacher I would just ask the teacher how your son is doing in class and if there are any areas he needs to work on. Share with him how much your son loves music and how he wants to stick with it. I wouldn't bring up the other child or any of the rules that have been broken. Maybe talking about your son will help the teacher get to know him better and will put your son on his mind. It could make it so he pays more attention to your son. Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites but they do. It could be nothing more than that he already knows the other student from last year and likes him. By next year he will know your son that much as well.

As rotten as this is, you're right to encourage him to stick it out. It is a good lesson for life in general. There will be times when your son has to put up with a supervisor or boss who plays favorites with another co-worker. Now, if the teacher is going so far as to be unfair toward your son in the negative (treating him direspectfully, grading him more harshly, leaving him out of performances without reason), then I say you should contact the Assist. Principal or the Principal. And then ask your son if the enjoyment he gets out of playing is worth putting up with this situation for another two years. If so, then he should do it--it will end eventally. When I was your son's age, my twin sister and I were on the swim team. We had an older teenager for our assistant coach. He was extremely rude to my sister, even calling her a "bad word". We both decided that swimming was no longer worth dealing with this coach, so we quit. Our parents allowed us to because we were no longer having a good time. Are private lessons an option for you, until your son starts High School?

I am a high school vice principal and a mother. I would bring this to the attention of one of the vice principals. Talk to the vp, tell her/him what is going on-be specific. Then ask for a meeting with the vp and the teacher. Make the teacher accountable for his actions and the way he treats children. If your son is experiencing this, it is likely, other students are as well. With the vp apprised of the situation, there cannot be retribution that the teacher throws back at your son. If anything, it should scare him into being especially kind to your son. Good luck.

It is very difficult to be a working parent and still be involved in the fundraising/volunteer efforts of the different clubs/organizations in a school. Although I haven't seen blatant favoritism, I have seen some parents go out of their way to be "seen". I am one of those parents that needs to be "heard". You mention a lesson of life isn't always fair---yes, but standing up for yourself and the rights of the others students is fair. I think you should be as open as you can, gauge the teachers response early in the conversation, and then go to the principal if necessary. Even have the principal or another member of the staff in on your meeting. Good Luck to you...

Hi J., I am sorry you are in this situation. My kids are both much older now, but always involved in sports and musical theater. Unfortunately, they ran into that all the time. Have you spoke to the principal or maybe a counselor., or even talk to the teacher? If your son loves music that much, than he needs to stick with it. He needs to know that there may always be a favorite. I know it's kind of hard to say that, but it's true. He is not to young to learn that. It just means he may have to work harder this year. Life is not always fair. I hope it all works out, Good Luck

I'm wondering if it is the same teacher my son had band for his 6th and 7th grade and started to struggle and decided he didn't want to go anymore, and then dropped out last year he's in 8th now but has lost all interest...He was a natural played four instruments....So, Don't give up on him or the teacher...My son just had a hard time fitting in.

Hi J.,
I am a current middle school teacher and realize that this is a tough time for many kids. Teachers are there to help all the students and not to play favorites. Sometimes it is hard to truly read the situation until you have witnessed it yourself. So go in and observe (most school have to let you observe for at least 20 minutes a class) what is going on. I would write down your son's concerns and then try to approach the teacher in a non-threating way. Try a note first, explaining your sons love of music and that he is having a hard time fitting into the band group. (That should be a big hint to the teacher to include your son in whatever he is doing). If things do not improve in a week then request another parent meeting - it is irresponsible of the teacher to ignore your first request!! Try to get the teacher to explain his method of running the class, how and why some kids get privileges and how your son could earn them too. If you don't get an answer that helps you understand what is going on and things don't get better, send a note, or talk to the principal.
I think you should observe first and make sure your son is reading the situation correctly. Let your son know that you are coming, but stand at the back of the room and make no indication that you are his mother... kids are brutal at this age! I hope you can work it out. Good luck!

Make an appointment to talk to the teacher about your concerns, if the teacher still does not answer your appointment request, then get the administrator involved and ask for a three way appointment.

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