Is being FAIR and EQUAL the same? There is actually a misunderstanding between fair and equal. An example of these would be, no one would go to a doctor who gives the same medicine to patients with a headache since the cause for one may be allergies and the other migraine in the other. Giving identical treatment for two students who do not do homework for different reasons — one has to help the family business after school, the other plays computer games — is no different than that doctor with the single cure for all headaches.

Here is how to put the concept “fairness” into practice.

1. Have the same rules for everyone. Exceptions may be made for uncommon situations, but positive social relations is pretty much the same for everyone.

2. There should be flexible penalties or consequences. When a rule is violated, the teacher can choose from a large set of possible consequences. These consequences work best when it was discussed with the students, parents, and administrators during the first day of class. Choose the one you think that will work best or the one you think will be effective based on how you know your student. Usually, it is very effective if we will allow our student to choose from the list of consequences along with a promise to improve.

3. Teaching the concept of fair vs. equal to before its enactment. Integrate the concept of fair vs. equal in our lessons through homework, class discussion or in-class activity. Let the students give their own examples from the home, school or society where it is very fair and good to treat people differently. In return, you, as a teacher, would also give an example of how you can be fair but not equal.

4. Following the basic doctrines of great discipline.  Whenever you speak with the student who violated the rule, do it privately unless it is impossible to do so.

5. Be willing to discuss your strategy with students. When a student whines that “it’s not fair” if their consequence is different from another student, remind them that fair is not equal. Talking about others’ life is gossip and you won’t do it.  Ask them what would be fair, when they answer follow with words like, “If your idea works, that will be great, but if it doesn’t, then we’ll do it my way.” This will give students the responsibility to change as they try to understand what is at stake.

6. Be willing to discuss your strategy with parents. There are parents who always complain about unfairness, discrimination or that you dislike their child. Try a conversation that includes the following arguments: “I’m really glad you are here. It’s great to work with caring parents who have the same goal as mine, and that is your child’s improvement;” “I’d like to hear your ideas about this situation. You know your child better than I do, so tell me what works at home”.

Fairness would mean being fair to all as “yes is yes” and “no is no”. Teachers, being the driving force in the classroom, at first experience difficulty in being fair since it requires more hard work in the beginning but in the long run, it saves time and is more effective.  As for treating everyone the same or equal, everyone deserves a lot better than that.




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