Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK & Lesson on Fairness

It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and schools across the country are out today to celebrate this important day.  Dr. King was a inspirational leader of our time and civic leader for all time.  We all should heed the lessons in his "I Have A Dream" speech.  

Today, I want to share with you some MLK Jr. graphics that spoke to me and also below the graphics is a lesson on differentiation and fairness.  Enjoy!~

As a special education teacher, I have many students ask me why certain students come to my room to work, why some students use a calculator in math class, or ask about specific technology or tools some of my students use.  I teach mostly students with learning or behavior disabilities, so their differences are not as obvious as some students with disabilities.  I have discovered over the years that children are incredibly perceptive, yet they have little understanding of why things are the way they are and like for everything to be "fair."  Sometimes it can be tough to explain to a students why another student is allowed to work in a certain way or use a certain tool, but some cannot.

There have been instances when my collaborating teachers and I have given everyone the manipulative/tool to use and you will notice that the ones that don't really need eventually will just stop using the tool and carry on about their work in the way they would have in the first place.  Kids just want to be treated fairly, but I also think there is a time when we need to make students aware that fair doesn't always mean equal.

I am sure that you have seen or heard of the band-aid lesson (here is where I first read it) around the blogosphere somewhere, but last year I used this lesson with a group of fourth graders.  It was successful and met the objective I was trying to convey to this class.  I thought I would share that with you today, as we remember to treat others the way we want to be treated.  (Thank you Dr. King!)


At the beginning of the school year, I had a class meeting with my collaborating teacher's class.   I told each student to come up with a pretend injury.  I called one student up to tell me where his injury was and I placed the band-aid exactly where he noted.  (It was on his arm).  I then proceed to call up each student one at a time and have them point out their injury, but I always placed the band-aid where the first student's injury was located.  Quickly students began to respond with, "That's not where I'm hurt." I reply with, "I know, but so and so was hurt there, so it is only fair that you get a band-aid in the same place."  There was grumbling, misunderstanding, and a little arguing, but even with the grumbles I continue to put the band-aid on the same place on each student  Each student tried to get me to put it in the right place, but I kept a straight face and continued with my objective of being fair.

Once all students are bandaged, I took time to discuss that fair doesn't mean the equal.  I explain that there are students in the class that have differences, in fact each person has differences.  That is what makes us unique and because of this each person's needs will be addressed accordingly.  I explain that they may see someone leave the room, or use a calculator or manipulatives, or work in a quiet area of the room.  I gave them the word differentiation to add to their vocabulary. I explained to them that differentiation means to give a student exactly what they need based on their strengths and weakness.  I also explained that this is how teachers actually design lessons.  Teachers look at the needs of their students and plan accordingly so that each person gets what they need to be successful. The students will soon see that some students require more differentiation, but this does not make them "less" of a person, just someone that succeeds in a different way.  I explained the importance of not making fun of people or talking about people that receive help, because at some point everyone will need help and no one wants to made to feel like they are not as good as someone else.  I drove home the metaphor of the band-aid and the injury, by pointing out the fact that if I treated each of them the exact same way that the only person that benefits is the first person and everyone else is made to feel as if their need doesn't matter.  There were quite a few aha moments happening during our little class meeting!

During the school year when someone says, "That isn't fair." I gently remind them of the band-aid lesson.  I think this lesson helped bring awareness to our unique qualities and the idea that not everyone is the same, but everyone deserves to be treated kindly.  The students in this class seemed to understand the students that had differences and helped make these students comfortable.  Often times the students in this class would help the students they knew needed extra attention even when I was not in their rooms.  They also would stop me and tell me when someone was mistreating certain individuals (not in a tattling way, but a caring way).  

I believe that we need to be in tune with our students' needs and give them exactly what they need to be successful! 



  1. This is such a great post! As a fellow special educator in an alternative behavioral school, I get these types of questions all the time. Thank you for this post - it was wonderful to read :)

    Mindful Rambles


Your comments make me smile! :)