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Why I Want to Teach My Daughter That Fairness and Equity Don't Mean Everyone Gets the Same Thing

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My daughter and I have been reading the book, “Miss Nelson Is Missing,” which features an infamously mischievous class. We read about students throwing paper planes in the air and how they were “the worst behaved class in the school.” My daughter noted that they behaved “like Lizzie,” who’s a child in one of her toddler classes.

“Oh,” I responded. “Does Lizzie sometimes have a hard time listening and following the rules?”

My daughter concurred.

“Yeah,” I continued. “Sometimes it’s hard to listen and follow the rules. That’s hard for you sometimes, too, right? Like the other day when you threw a block?”

My daughter agreed that following the rules could be hard for her, too.

“And you know what? “Some children need different things than others so they can learn and be happy and successful — do your teachers help Lizzie when she’s having a hard time following the rules so she can be happy and successful?”

“Sí!” she responded.

“What do they do?” I asked.

“Sit in the teacher’s lap.”

“Oh,” I replied. “Does that help her listen so she can learn and be successful in your class?”

“Sí!” my daughter acquiesced.

“Good. I’m glad she is getting what she needs so she can learn.”

At Community Roots, an incredible, diverse charter school where I had the privilege of working at over a four-year period, an inclusion model exists in every classroom. Each class has two teachers — one with certification in general education and the other with certification in special education — and at least 20 percent of the students in every classroom have IEPs (Individualized Education Program). The school’s philosophy is that every student will get what they need to learn. This philosophy serves not only to meet the learning needs of students with IEPs but also to build a classroom culture where every student in the class understands this maxim. In this way, giving students “what they need to be successful” is in no way seen as a deficit. Ultimately, this culture benefits all students.

I want my daughter to understand that everyone learns in different ways and has different learning needs —and I want her to know that structures can and should support the learning needs of all students. I don’t want her to ever consider any individual student through the lens of “less than.”

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Originally published: March 11, 2015
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