Polka Dots

Friday, May 14, 2010

May Virtue: Fairness

I find Fairness a hard concept to teach. In the younger grades, Fairness focuses a lot on making sure everything is equal and everyone has the same amount. As children get older, however, the concept of Fairness takes a turn. Everything may not be equal but that doesn't mean that the situation is unfair.

Take privileges for an example. Children may feel that older siblings or students in older grades are offered more privileges. Children may not be offered the same privileges, and feel that the situation is unfair and unequal. But different families and different grades have different responsibilities and privileges. It's ok for Jane to feel disappointed that she does not get to stay up as late as her big brother Jack, but it doesn't mean it's an issue of fairness.

Another difficult fairness concept for students to understand are accommodations for students with learning disabilities. Physical disabilities are easy to spot and children don't have a hard time understanding why a classmate in a wheel chair gets to use the elevator when all of the other classmates take the stairs. But learning disabilities are not as visible and therefore, it can be a harder idea to understand, especially during testing time. "Why does Mary get extra time and Carl gets to write in his test booklet? That's not fair!". For this issue, I try to help the students understand that fairness in some cases has more to do with making sure that someone's needs are met rather than making everything exactly equal.

I had some great discussions with the 5th and 6th grade classes about this issue. It took a while for them to wrap their mind around it, but by the end they started to get it. I also used the example of having a food allergy and giving everyone in the class the same kind of snack (with nuts) but allowing a student with an allergy to have a different snack. They really seemed to understand that example.

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