Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why It's Fair for Some Kids to Get More Help Than Others

A few days ago I was attending a kid-related activity with Aias and of course, there were a few other moms there.  As the kids played, the moms and I were chatting casually.  We didn't know each other very well, so the conversation didn't seem likely to get very deep, but at some point one of the moms suddenly expressed her discomfort with the idea of her child someday attending public school with kids who had learning or other disabilities. She said she felt for the families of these children, but she didn't think it was "fair" for those kids to be in the same classroom as her child, "taking resources" away from her child and the other "normal" children.  She said  she thought those "other" kids would need extra help and it would mean less one-on-one attention and help for her own child.  She said "I don't think it's fair for some kids to get extra help and for some to just have to get by on their own."

Now, hold on to your pitchforks for a second.  I realize these are some pretty harsh things for this mother to have said. This wasn't a beastly horrible witch of a woman who was saying these things because she is just plain mean; I could hear from the tone of her voice that she felt horrible for saying these things but was literally worried for her own child.

After the mother said these things, she looked at the other mothers for some sort of validation or support.  My response, which actually comforted her, was basically this:

As far as some kids getting extra help and some kids "just getting by on their own," I actually think that's more than fair. Let me explain.

Take a look at these glasses of water:

Let's pretend that each one of those glasses is a child. 

Let's also pretend that the space inside the glass represents full capacity of preparedness for school, life, or knowledge.  In other words, full potential. 

Finally, the water in the glass represents the unit of preparedness: a full glass means a child is meeting their full potential.  An empty glass means the child is in need of a lot of extra "water" to hit full potential. 

Ideally, all children will eventually have a full glass and will hit their maximum potential.  In fact, let's say that's the overall goal of families, educators, etc. 

If your child is the child on the far left, where the glass is nearly full... they don't really need that much more specialized help.  If your child is the middle glass, they have certainly done a lot on their own, but they do need a bit of help.  If your child is the one on the far right, it will take a lot of help to get your child to a completely full glass.

The goal is not to count minutes and seconds that are spent with a child, giving them extra help, in an effort to make things "fair." The goal is to get all children so that their glasses are completely full.  The child on the left will not need anywhere near as much help as the child on the far right.  But in the end, hopefully all of these children end up with a full glass.

If all children end up with full glasses in the end, that's what's fair.  It would make no sense to fill the glass on the left up completely and to keep pouring, watching the water pour out onto the table, when you could pour some of that water into the glass on the far right.

In the end, as long as everyone's glass is full, families and educators have done their jobs.

I know this is oversimplifying. I know not all kids have the same exact level of potential.  I also know that parenting and education are not as simple as filling up glasses of water.   I only hope that this sort of explains why some kids get a little more help than other kids. Basically, it's because they need it more.  If we make sure our educators are there to give that extra help for everyone, no one will be missing out on their fair share.
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