Teacher’s Pet—From Classroom to Culture

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

A teacher’s pet is a student who is favored by the teacher and receives special treatment or attention in the classroom.

Idioms such as teacher’s pet convey meanings beyond their literal interpretation. Mastering idioms enhances our understanding of English and conversational abilities. These expressions are widely used in informal contexts, playing a crucial role in language usage. 

In this article, you will learn the deeper meaning of the idiom teacher’s pet, where it originated from, its various uses, and how you can master its use. So keep reading to gain tips on effectively wielding this idiom in your speech and writing.

Teachers Pet—From Classroom to Culture

What Does the Idiom Teacher’s Pet Mean?

The idiom teacher’s pet refers to a student who receives special treatment or attention from the teacher, often being favored in the classroom. Furthermore, it can also refer to anyone who receives preferential treatment from the boss or person in charge of something.

These students, employees, or groups are often allowed to do things that others are not, and they may also receive support and encouragement in a way that others do not.

Merriam-Webster defines the idiom teacher’s pet as “a pupil who has won the teacher’s special favor” as well as “a person who is treated as a favorite by one in authority.” 

As may be expected, the other students in a class are not fond of the teacher’s pet. Calling someone a teacher’s pet is an insult. It implies that the person does not deserve their high status and has an unfair advantage. 

Variations of the Idiom

These variations capture the idea of a student who is favored or receives special attention from a teacher. You can always replace teacher with boss or other similar descriptions of a person in charge. 

  • Teacher’s favorite
  • Teacher’s darling
  • Teacher’s protégé
  • Teacher’s special pupil

How Is the Idiom Teacher’s Pet Commonly Used in Context?

When exploring the idiom teacher’s pet, it’s essential to understand its various contexts and applications. In this section, we’ll delve into its usage across different scenarios and environments. 

What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom Teacher’s Pet Effectively?

Here are some different ways, along with examples, to use the term teacher’s pet effectively:

  • Descriptive writing: In a story or essay, you can use the term teacher’s pet to describe a student who is highly favored by a teacher. For example, “Samantha, the teacher’s pet, always raised her hand eagerly, ready to answer every question thrown her way.”
  • Discussions: During discussions or debates, you can use the term to refer to a person who frequently agrees with authority or supports their viewpoints. For example, “Although Bellamy always presents well-articulated points in the meetings, some believe he’s simply echoing the boss’s views, acting as the teacher’s pet.”
  • Reflecting on bias: It can be used to discuss bias or favoritism in educational and workplace settings. It can help analyze power dynamics and explore how favoritism might impact people and their experiences. For example, “Let’s examine how the perception of being a teacher’s pet affects a student’s relationships with their peers.”
  • Motivation and achievement: Use it to discuss the motivation and achievements of those who are highly regarded by their superiors. It can serve as an example of dedication and hard work. For example, “Indra’s success in the science fair is a result of her tireless efforts and commitment. She’s not just the teacher’s pet; she’s truly earned her recognition.”

Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom Teacher’s Pet?

Here are a few places where you might find examples of the idiom teacher’s pet:

  • Literature
  • Films and TV shows
  • Personal experiences
  • Online discussions and forums

Teacher’s pet is usually used informally and is often seen in personal accounts, dialog, and editorial or opinion pieces. These excerpts from news outlets highlight this use:

“You are a teacher’s pet all right and your only aim is to stay in his/her good books.” (The Hindu)

“Leaders vie with each other to be teacher’s pet.” (The Sydney Morning Herald)

“‘I loved school,’ said Renee, a self-described teacher’s pet.” (The Buffalo News)

What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom Teacher’s Pet Effectively?

When using the idiom teacher’s pet in writing, consider the following tips to ensure effective usage:

  • Contextual clarity: Provide sufficient context to establish the meaning and relevance of the idiom within your writing. 
  • Character development: Show how a character’s behavior or relationship with authority aligns with the notion of being a teacher’s pet. 
  • Vivid descriptions: Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of a teacher’s pet. Describe their actions, demeanor, or interactions with authority to create a clear image in the reader’s mind.
  • Subtle usage: Employ the idiom subtly and sparingly. Avoid overusing it as it can become repetitive and lose its impact. 
  • Dialogue and interactions: Utilize the idiom within dialogue or character interactions to showcase the perceptions and dynamics between characters. 
  • Symbolic representation: It can serve as a commentary on power structures, favoritism, or the challenges of navigating social hierarchies.
  • Tone and voice: Be mindful of the tone and voice of your writing. 

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Teacher’s Pet?

teachers pet Ngram
Teacher’s pet usage trend.

The exact origins of the idiom teacher’s pet are elusive. Oxford English Dictionary claims it has been in use since the early 1900s, as found in the writing of novelist Booth Tarkington. A little searching did turn up a listing under his filmography called Edgar and the Teacher’s Pet.

All this suggests that the expression existed before he used it. It’s likely it was used long before it became a classroom insult, but finding it in publication is a challenge indeed. 

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

The expression teacher’s pet is commonly seen in literature and film throughout the 20th century until the modern day. The only change it may have seen is the extension of the meaning into other areas, such as in a workplace or in reference to a group of people. 

What Are Some Related Terms to Teacher’s Pet?

Consider using terms related to teacher’s pet to help you further understand its use.

Teachers Pet—From Classroom to Culture 1


  • Favorite student
  • Star pupil
  • Model student
  • Top student
  • Class pride
  • Standout student


These antonyms represent students who may have a different relationship with the teacher or exhibit behaviors that contrast with those associated with a teacher’s pet:

  • Troublemaker
  • Rebel
  • Class clown
  • Problem student
  • Nonconformist
  • Independent thinker
  • Outsider
  • Underachiever
  • Disruptive student
  • Black sheep

Teacher’s Pet: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned about the Idiom Teacher’s Pet?

The idiom teacher’s pet denotes the special treatment given to a particular student by their teacher. This dynamic can also be observed in other contexts, such as the relationship between an employee and their boss or among different groups within a community.

It carries both positive and negative connotations, depending on the context and perspective. While some may perceive it as a symbol of success and obedience, others may view it as a product of favoritism or the suppression of independent thinking.

Although its origins are difficult to narrow down, it has been used for over 100 years and is a popular expression in literature, television, and film.