The vice-principal for summer school brought a new student to my class two days ago. Then he asked to talk to me in the hallway. He asked me to let him know if this student ever left the class. Apparently this student has gang connections and the administrative team wants to keep an eye on his activity at the school.
This got me thinking about how much we know (or don't know) about our students. Does this information colour the way I view this child? Am I biased now? Am I less likely to give this kid a break? Am I looking for him to mess up? Will I be more strict and less forgiving?
Or will I go the other way? Will I view him as a child from a broken home with a troubled past? Will I give him second chances? Will I attempt to respond to him in a way that is different than how most adults probably respond?
Overall, I try to treat all my students the same. I have the same high expectations for behaviour, effort and manners. Discipline and consequences are clearly explained and are consistent for all students.
But, I admit I find myself being tougher on this student than the others. I am quicker to apply consequences because I don't want escalating behaviour. I also find myself more lenient towards the girl who showed up the first day with her mother who said, "Just try your best." They both looked like passing the course was already hopeless.
Is it inevitable that I will treat some students differently? Is it inconsistent? Is it unfair? Or is it OK? Is it necessary even? How do I avoid inconsistency while still treating each student as an individual?