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It's Not Fair! Fostering a Healthy Classroom Climate

written by: Laurie Patsalides • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/20/2012

It is important for teachers to promote fairness and equality for all students in the classroom. The best way to get your students to treat each other with fairness is to lead the way. Find some ways to promote community in your classroom here.

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    Evaluate Classroom Climate

    The teacher is responsible for student perceptions about the classroom, their fellow students and you. When evaluating your classroom climate, you want to know first that students are learning, but also that students feel that you are competent in your craft and fair to all students.

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    Be Consistent

    First, ask yourself, what would my students say about me and their classroom? Am I consistent with punishments and rewards? Students will trust you if, "the punishment fits the crime" so to speak. Also, if one student misbehaves, then he or she must receive the same response that another student would receive.

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    Are You Being Unfair?

    What might perceived unfairness do to a student? If a student feels that you have been unfair, that is in grading, or in positive or negative reinforcement, he or she will experience an emotional response, that is, feelings of isolation, anger, and hostility and will likely be resistant to your requests in the future. I have seen this in the school system. A teacher favors one or more students and no matter how hard another student tries, he or she does not win the teacher's affection or live up to the teacher's expectation. The student becomes hostile and resists the teacher's requests and becomes labeled by the teacher. It happens year after year in the same teacher's classroom. This should not be so.

    Let's be honest, teachers are human and some students are more likable than others. Students that are compliant, smart, involved, and respectful, tend to get more praise and attention than those who are not. As a teacher, I must ask myself, do the students that can do more get more attention than those who can do less? Or, do I ever embarrass a student by openly asking him or her a question, knowing that he or she does not know the answer? All students, no matter the ability level, should receive the same measure of praise from the teacher, according to his or her own unique ability and talent.

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    Steps to Treat Students Fairly

    Follow these additional steps to treat each student equally and evaluate your classroom climate frequently:

    • Know yourself and when you are having a bad day. Correct it right away, or let the students know what is happening, if appropriate.
    • Promote gender (and racial) equality in all subjects. Give equal praise and expectations in math and science for girls and reading and writing for boys.
    • Apologize when you make a mistake or have a misunderstanding. You will be a great role model.
    • Create well-developed lesson plans, an organized classroom and clear expectations for all students. Be prepared every day. Make sure that all of your materials are gathered ahead of time.
    • Collaborate with students on projects and let them help to make classroom decisions.
    • When selecting students to either participate in question and answer or to help out in the classroom, always do it by random draw, and keep track of whom you have called upon. Help a struggling student individually.
    • Keep accurate assessment records. In addition to telling parents, let students know their grades and where they need improvement.