2011-2012

Is Fairness An Attitude?
So during my morning walk today, my iPod started to fade. That’s when I noticed that the battery icon had just a slim sliver of red left. As I started into, It’s not fair that this battery won’t hold a better charge and now I have to walk without music!, I forced that thought from my mind and replaced it with, Wow, just listen to those birds this morning. That brief interchange in my head got me to wondering if fairness is an attitude. So I did a few more examples in my head, just to be sure. “It’s not fair that I have to wear glasses” can easily be replaced by “What a blessing that eye doctors are able to help me see better!” Then I thought about this one: “It’s not fair that our daughter has a smart phone and I don’t” and I easily reframed it like this: “How fortunate that she’s able to stay connected with family and friends through that medium.” Maybe fairness IS as much an attitude as anything else. I went ahead and put it on my BE-attitudes bulletin board and I’m planning to ask my students what they think about it when we meet for guidance in January. I’m also going to give them a few “It’s not fair!” statements and challenge them to rephrase them in a way that puts a positive spin on something that we could quite easily complain about or feel negative emotions toward. Finally, I’m going to see what their favorite BE-attitude is and ask them to focus on and work really hard at that one for thirty days before reporting their discoveries back to me.
Nuts About Fairness

squirrelIt might be a little nutty to think that Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Sugarland author Pat Miller is a book about fairness, but hear me out. A critical component of the fairness pillar is listening to others. Squirrel is quite a good listener! In fact, this furry little friend doesn’t even really know WHAT a resolution is until he checks in with all of his friends and hears about (and helps with!) theirs. Not having a resolution of his own, however, Squirrel feels “left out” and is pretty sure it’s not fair that all of the animals have one and he doesn’t. What he doesn’t understand is that fair doesn’t always mean equal. Ask your students what they think that means. Then find out before you read the ending if your students can make the leap and figure out what Squirrel’s resolution is going to be. In the end, it’s more about what you actually DO than what you resolve to do. Use this treasured tale as a springboard to help your students reflect on what’s really important in life, then have them write and decorate a one-sentence mini-poster like the one that Squirrel made on the last page: This year I resolve to _________. Post these promises around the room or put them on the front cover of a binder or folder that you use frequently. Encourage students to check back in periodically to see how they’re doing with their New Year’s Resolution.

Problem-Solving 101

josiasFirst-grade teacher Margaret Limmer first introduced me to Josias, Hold The Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren this past March during their farm unit. She said that it reminded her of me since I, too, grew up working on a farm. She also said it was an excellent book to teach problem solving and responsibility. After reading it, however, my first question had to do with fairness: Was it fair the Josias had to work and wasn’t able to “hold the book” (attend school) like his friend Chrislove? That led to my next inquiry: Is education a right or a privilege? These would be interesting writing prompts or discussion points before reading Josias’ story aloud to your class. Set in rural Haiti, this tale finds young Josias having trouble getting the beans in his garden to grow. He adds more water, to no avail. He tries tilling in manure for fertilizer, still no luck. Might the books that his friends are reading at school hold the solution to this problem? Is not being able to hold the book holding Josias back? A teacher helps by explaining about crop rotation, and Josias learns a valuable lesson that could even help modernize his family. An author’s note at the end of the book gives her readers an insider’s look into the plight of the Haitian farmer and the schooling issues that rural children face in that third-world nation. Check out this book and infuse some culture into your next fairness discussion.