Saturday, October 3, 2015

What is FAIR? 

There was a lot in chapter 4 and 5, many citings and quoting of different theorist, it reminded me of the Dodd’s 4th stage of teach.  What really caught my attention was one small part of chapter 5 though.  FAIRNESS.  When I asked the parents of my students to fill out information about their child over 75% of them mentioned that what most upset their child was feeling like something was unfair, or that they were being treated unfairly by a friend, sibling or adult.  On page 89 Nakkula & Toshalis mentioned “adolescent’s overriding concern for fairness.”  The reciting of the common saying life’s not fair, deal with it doesn’t seem to work.  But I think that a candid conversation on fairness with adolescents would greatly impact their perception.  It is hard to go from a point of view that everything must be fair (they should share their toys because that is fair, or they should take turns because that is fair) to a point of view that fairness does not mean everything is equal.  “Questions about fairness can become growth-promoting discussions about relationships, needs, and negotiations” (pg 89).

It is hard for me to find time in my teaching day to host “classroom discussions… to unpack issues of causality, responsibility, and ethics,” but I understand the importance and I will continue to strive to make it part of my instruction.  I often wish that I was teaching literature or history, so that I could tie these conversations into my content, but I don’t, so I have to find ways to tie it into math and science.  Because no matter what content we teach “participating in the co-construction of youth’s relational development can be extremely gratifying…” (pg 90).  

Fair Isn't Equal by Richard Curwin (Edutopia) 


  1. Jenny - I love the way you posted this image twice! Reminds me of some panels from Ayers. I wonder if you have/thought about using this image with your parents, especially the ones who were concerned about differentiation. If students are having conversations and hearing a new message about fairness at both school and home, I wonder how that would affect the perception.

  2. Jenny, I agree that one of the most common sayings I hear from students (mostly in the hallways) is "It's not fair!!" My first instinct is to become annoyed when I hear these words because it's usually followed by some comment about how, "Mrs. So and So just doesn't like me!" But the Nakkula quote you mention above about adolescents being overly concerned with fairness kind of puts a different spin on it for me. Maybe they are always mentioning fairness not to be annoying and to complain about a teacher but because it is an actual part of their adolescent development. Maybe it is because they are trying to make sense of the way the world works and the rules we all play by. So, thank you Jenny, you really highlighted a quote that makes me think about "That's not fair!" from a bit of a different perspective.

  3. I love your graphic, it explains fairness in a simple and straightforward manner which requires few interpretations to grasp. This idea of fairness is really prominent during adolescence, where students are exploring their relationships with others and society in general. I wonder if exposing them to a grading scale might be a way to involve some mathematics discussion and a discussion on fairness at the same time. I always liked the occasional grade scale as a student, but as an adult (especially after Dr. Kraus' class) I'm not so sure it is fair. We talk about fair all the time in my classroom, and I try not to provide answers, only fodder for debate, it is really important that each student develops their own sense of fairness, and like your article reminds us, fair is not the same treatment for everyone.