The Sibling Rule

Even though I haven’t been teaching for all that long, I’ve already come across siblings in my classroom. I have a simple rule that I usually tell the younger sibling on the first day, and it’s one of the best things I do.

See, I’m the youngest. My sister is older than me. While we’re fine now, growing up, I always felt I was in her shadow. Teachers would compare us, and it constantly felt like I had to be just like her.

So when I became a teacher, having experienced that unfair comparison, I told myself that I would never compare siblings. Just like I am my own person, all of my sibling sets are their own people too. And I tell them this on the first day. I will ask their name and if they look similar and or have the same last name, I’ll ask if my other student is their sibling. And then I’ll tell them that I’ll always hold them to their own standard rather than their sibling’s.

It’s honestly really interesting to see the personalities shine through. I’ve had students who are loud and popular with the next year bringing their sibling who is quieter and only has a small group of friends. All are welcome in my classroom.

I will never say to the younger one any kind of comparison to their sibling. I got so tired of hearing “you’re definitely not your sister” as I was growing up. No, I’m not my sister. I love her dearly, but we are very different people and always have been.

I also feel that comparing siblings is a little bit of laziness on the teacher’s part. Instead of taking the time to get to know the student in front of them, the teacher just assumes that this person is a carbon copy of a previous student.

Now this isn’t to say that I’ll never compare them mentally. I’m only human after all. But I make sure that it’s not something that’s ever voiced within earshot of my students. It’s just not fair to them.

I have over 100 students this year. That number may seem small to others, but i also only teach one grade of a middle school. I know all of their names and most of them have already shown me their personalities. It’s a vibrant and colorful group. They’re all different, and they all bring something to my classroom. And that’s okay. But I would never make them dream of feeling ostracized in any way because of or the lack of their siblings.

Teaching is a hard job. But I’m hopeful that I can bring at least a little light to the world by recognizing each student as their own person and giving them the space to be where they are now.

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