“Not fair” is a cry most teachers and parents hear regularly. What is “fair,” do you even have to be fair–and if so, how can you be? Below are some suggestions on the concept of fairness:
As this poster suggests, the first step to students perceiving that they are being treated fairly is for them to change the way they view fairness. CharacterCounts.org lists the definition for fairness to include being considerate of others. Depending on how young the students or children are, this can be nearly impossible; studies suggest that children aren’t able to see another’s point of view until around age five, but that doesn’t mean that once they turn five, they suddenly can be fair. It still takes coaching and an understanding adult to help teach the concept.
The University of Illinois did a study wherein they determined that children can understand a difference in treatment if given a reason. Simply saying “because I said so” is insufficient for extracting the desired behavior in most cases, and creates resentment. All people, including children, want to be able to choose their actions and have a sense of control. This can be hard to achieve in the classroom, because maintaining order requires that some individuals don’t get to do what they want for the benefit of the whole. So where’s the balance?
According to Dr. Richard Curwin, fair does not mean treating everyone the same. No two people are the same, and treating every student the same is akin to mass producing future citizens in a manner where the disadvantaged students are left to find their own way or fail. Dr. Curwin has a great article listing 7 steps for classroom fairness, read that here.
Being fair doesn’t mean treating everyone the same, but it does mean that teachers must try to avoid favoritism. Some suggestions from the National Education Association are things like calling on students based upon drawing their name.
“It really put a stop to the ‘You never pick me’ comments,” a Las Vegas educator wrote.
As far as the reasons behind being fair, it mostly concerns giving each student the opportunity to succeed in the way that is relatively easy, yet challenging. Anyone who has not been treated fairly knows that fairness is simply the right thing to do.
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