Growing up we are taught that fairness means treating everyone the same way and giving everyone the same thing. I have vivid memories of friends coming over to spend the night and literally counting out pieces of popcorn with them to make sure that we both received the same amount in the name of being "fair". As a teenager I remember getting into heated arguments with my parents about how "unfair" it was that all my friends could stay out until after midnight while I had to be home by 11:30. Were my parents being horribly unfair? At the time I thought so. Do I still think so? Of course not. I realize they had my best interests in mind and that they realized I was not ready for such responsibility. This brings me to what I consider to be a better definition for fairness.
Rick Lavoie says that fairness means giving each person what he/she needs. If you have never heard Rick Lavoie or read any of his articles or books, I highly encourage you to. I remember sitting in a special education class in grad school where we watched a video of his. He claims that students will understand this definition of fairness as long as it is explained well in terms that they can grasp. Once you read his ideas, and you think about this new definition of fairness, it sounds easy. Just give everyone what they need, right?
In the classroom, I frequently struggle with how to make accommodations for both my struggling students and my gifted students. By "teaching to the middle" I am leaving out both groups. This is not to say that I don't make modifications to assignments for those that need it. I'm saying that I'm constantly worrying that I'm not making enough accommodations, while also worrying that the "middle of the road" students will see these accommodations as unfair.
I have tried to bring all of my students together this year through the use of technology. I think if used strategically, technology can help bring students together on different tasks and activities. However, when making all these grand plans this summer, I did not take into account that certain families would not want their children involved in these activities. I have tried to push along with student blogging and posting student pictures to our website, but I am deeply worried that I am being unfair to those students who can't participate.
Is anyone else struggling with being fair in the classroom?