Injustice: "That's not fair" syndrome - parents & teachers

"That's not fair!"  How many times have you heard that expression?  Maybe it's your own personal children, your students, or it's a topic of discussion at your team meeting.  Anyway you look at it, children and adults would like our world to be fair and just.  But, life does not always work out that way.  

Sometimes we don't have all the information about why a decision is made.  From the outside looking in, it might not see equitable.  Mrs. Jones has received the last two new students on her grade level.  She doesn't think this seems fair.  If she and the other two teachers on the grade level have the same number of students, why is she getting both new students?  Her teammate, Mrs. Smith, was recently diagnosed with a chronic health problem and confided this information to the principal because she is going to need to take some time off for treatment.  She asked the principal not to say anything until she has had time to adjust to it herself.  Her teammates do not know.  There is a parent in her other teammmate's class that has complained to the Superintendent three times this year.  This parent is causing other parents to lose confidence in Mrs. Brown.  The principal realizes that on paper, Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Brown should have gotten one of the new students, but she felt like both of them have extra stresses this year.  While in a legalistic sense, this might not be fair to Mrs. Jones, but when you look at the big picture, Mrs. Jones is the best place for both students.  

Have you heard the expression "take one for the team"?  Sometimes when you are on a team, you have to take one for your team.  Now, it's a different matter if you find that you are the one who is always the one doing the taking for your team.   Then that really is a case of injustice.  

This lack of information  can also affect the relationship between teacher and parents. One day a parent expresses a concern about another student.  You realize that you are currently documenting all of these issues but you cannot disclose this.  You thank the parent for the information, add it to the file, and assure the parent that you will take steps to monitor the situation.  But, because the parent does not have all of the facts and you cannot give the parent all of the facts, the parent may feel like this student is "getting by" with something that another student wouldn't.  From the outside looking in, it wouldn't seem fair.

Parents and teachers are not always privy to all of the facts in these scenarios, or scenarios like them.  The person in the leadership position has the big picture with all of the facts, but also has the responsibility of maintaining confidentiality.  What is a leader to do?

Trust is the key!  If teachers build trust with their parents and administrators build trust with their teachers the benefit of the doubt will usually be given.  It will be assumed that the group's best interest was considered when the decision was made.  But, if a pattern of favoritism or illogical decisions emerges, you will hear cries of "that's not fair"!

How do you handle "that's not fair" scenarios?


Jessica Lawler said...

What a great post! I've been dealing with this question a lot this year - from my students. I have repeated to them a lot of what you said - that you may not know all of the facts, that you don't know what is going on outside the classroom that will affect behavior/homework/procedures with certain students in the classroom. I tell them "It may not be equal, but it is fair."

Joy in the Journey

Unknown said...

Just curious on your take on this situation. It's pajama day in Kindergaten. 3 students forget. One parent goes home and gets 2 pairs. The boy decides he wants to share and let the other boy wear his extra pair. The third child is upset that she does not have pajamas and is upset saying that it's not fair.
There is no "unknown" information.
What would your response be to the little girl with no pajamas to wear?