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Fair does not mean that every student

receives the same treatment.

Fair means that each student gets

what that individual needs in order to achieve optimal growth and success.

What is fair when working with children? Does fair suggest favoritism? Will fair make the child weak? How can a system be fair to all children while attending to individual needs?

Through the years, I have witnessed children with learning differences that I knew would never be identified on tests and would, therefore, never be considered for accommodations from either 504 or special education. I continue to grieve that, all too often, we fail to search for alternative ways to help a struggling child.

Whether discussing a child in regular or special education the question should be “What can we try that has not previously been considered?” The answer must include a guarantee that no harm will be done to the child or to other children. I am not suggesting ideas that would cost schools tremendous amounts of money. Any ideas advanced must also protect the energy and time required by the teacher. Below are ideas to consider:

Situation or Need Ideas to Try

A child can’t sit in his seat. — Child stands and leans over his desk.

A child forgets materials for homework. — Keeps extra books at home.

A child has trouble completing work. — Shorten assignments.

Reading is a challenge for the child. — Enlarge print.

The child is easily distracted. — Remove clutter from the desk.

The child is overwhelmed by work. — Have frequent, short breaks.

Instead of, “Do you understand?” — “What do you understand?”

The child has difficulty learning. — Use movement.

What is fair? Fair means doing everything possible to help each individual learner. Respond to “That’s not fair. . .” by telling the truth. “______ learns better if he _______. If there is something you need, I will do my best to provide that for you.”

Sometimes, the “fairest” practice is to allow all the children to try an accommodation. Those who do not benefit will soon lose interest. The individuals who find help will continue to use the accommodation. The time has come to stop worrying about fairness and begin to accommodate the needs of each individual.

If children at a given grade or age brought similar needs and circumstances to situations, teaching would be much easier. If this accounting for similarities were the case, classes should be able to maintain a ratio of one teacher for forty students.

Cries for attention, due to individual differences, formulate the real challenge of education.

I enjoy your comments and questions. Suggestions are welcome.

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