Teaching a VIP
Have you ever had to teach the son or daughter of a celebrity?
I’ve had the pleasure and challenge of teaching a few children who some like to see as falling into the ‘VIP’ category. These are the offspring of ‘famous’ people. Remember, you are only famous if someone has heard of you.
I have taught children of a few sports stars, someone ‘off the telly’, an author and a crime boss. Of course, I’m not going to name names.
It would be great to think that these children are treated just like anyone else but in reality they aren’t.
It’s a bit like teaching the Head’s son or daughter – it’s a nightmare.
It’s a nice idea that you are going to be objective but you are on your guard, you tread on eggshells and you are forever worrying.
You probably overthink this pupil more than any other and so inwardly don’t treat them at all like anyone else. You don’t want to think that your reactions, conversations, judgments and assessments are being clouded or twisted but subtly and not so subtly they are.
I’ve noticed colleagues behave differently towards parents based on their social status and this certainly applies to their children too. ‘Celeb’ children can alter teacher behaviour because they can make us nervous and this means we sometimes question our normal decision making: “What if I do this? What will X say about it?”
Those that say they don’t treat the children any differently to any other child do a fine job. But wait until Parents’ evening – you will see them doing quite a bit of bowing and scraping. Poor Mr and Mrs Dawson don’t get the same star treatment and it shows. The display of deference is painful to watch.
A child whose family status has the potential to influence our behaviour isn’t new but throw a celebrity into the mix and you’ll wish that you weren’t teaching them.
Children and their famous parents can be used to getting their own way which manifests itself in classroom dialogue and playground exchanges. Standing your ground isn’t always easy.
Children of the rich and famous may receive the same lessons but they can and do get more attention. Some of my colleagues have found the opposite though and they consciously try not to be in awe and end up under-teaching them so as not to appear to be favouritising. This too creates inequality and tension.
The school has an obligation to protect the interests of every child but sometimes there have to be organisational changes because of media interest. For example, try managing a rogue photographer at lunch time or when it’s time to go home.
Yes, children and parents should be treated the same regardless of who they are but it really isn’t that simple.