Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fairness isn't Sameness!

I had a teacher's college professor who told us to teach our students that "fairness isn't sameness".  I have this phrase posted in my classroom, and every year teach my young students what it means.  As an Ontario educator, I am encouraged to differentiate my instructional practices in order to meet the needs of all of my individual students.  I teach my class that everyone learns differently, has different strengths and different areas of need.  I teach my class that, as their teacher by name, I sometimes have to make decisions for them because it will help their learning - even if the decision is to try an activity a different way from their peers.  At times, I even need to differentiate my methods for motivating students, as each child is very different in what makes them WANT to take the initiative to learn.

I have one little guy who is very unfocused, and I would not be surprised if he has true attention issues.  His parents are reluctant to discuss this topic, though, so while I communicate frequently with them about my concerns, I also need to change my practice to meet the child's needs now.  Today, I added this little incentive chart to his desk.

In order to motivate him, I met with him and discussed what "reward" he would like to work towards.  He chose 15 minutes of computer time.  When he earns 10 stickers, which he receives when he completes his work during the allotted class time (since his problem is that he never gets started on his work, and therefore always needs additional time), he will be able to have 15 minutes of computer time in the classroom as a reward.  Today he earned one sticker during literacy time.  We'll see if I can get him to earn more stickers in a day than just one!

This is just one example, but fairness isn't sameness, and he's the only child right now with an incentive chart on his desk.  A couple of students saw it on his desk today, but fortunately I've been preparing them for the fact that we all learn differently and need different tools for our learning.  This was completely a non-issue, there were no "BUT MS.KEY!  I WANT COMPUTER TIME TOO!" arguments.  Phew!

Try it with your kids, whether they are students or even just your own children at home.  Fairness isn't sameness.  We all need what works best for us, as unique individuals.  We are not the same.


  1. We have to talk about this at our house, too. Different kids have different struggles---so some kids get rewards for doing things that other kids are expected to do unrewarded. It's a tough concept for them, but so important.

  2. Yes!

    I also teach my students to have "Feel Good Moments". I give class points for various behaviours that I want the entire class to work on, but what I do is stagger when they get class points and when they take a "feel good moment". I teach them they need to let the warm fuzzy feeling wash over them and bring a smile to their face for doing well. So, sometimes the reward is only intrinsic.

    Even with a points/sticker system like for this child, I hope to move him towards intrinsic and not have an incentive chart for the entire school year. But, we'll see if it starts working as motivation given some time!

  3. We must have had that same prof LOL! It's difficult teaching "Fairness isn't Sameness" to young children - we struggle with that in our house EVERY.SINGLE.DAY!


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