Fair Is Not Always Equal–The "Tigers" in the Classroom

By Joan Moser

March 13, 2009

After a lengthy rehabilitation following knee surgery, Tiger Woods made his big return to professional golf a couple of weeks ago at the Accenture Golf Tournament in Tucson, Arizona. The event was highly anticipated by golf enthusiasts all over the world, all of whom wondered, "Would he be able to perform at the same level as the pre-surgery Tiger?"

Since we're married to golfers and enjoy dabbling a bit in the game ourselves, we tuned into the tournament with the rest of the world to see how Tiger would do.

Did Tiger win the tournament? No. Did he do as well as the pre-surgery Tiger? That answer is still under debate. Regardless, Tiger Woods is still one of the best golfers in the world.

So what does Tiger Woods have to do with our lives as classroom teachers? We all have "Tiger Woods" type students; those high flying children who excel academically, functioning above some or many of the others in the room, often times in spite of us!

We believe our "Tigers" deserve wonderful instruction, and endeavor to divide our time fairly between all our students. This lofty ideal can lead to a sense of guilt when our more needy students consume a greater portion of our time. What we've come to realize is that "Fair is not always equal."

Every student needs and deserves a great "coach" in the classroom. Even Tiger Woods has a golf coach who works with him periodically to fine tune his swing, offer advice on club selection, or refine techniques. Periodic support is sufficient for Tiger. Someone of his caliber doesn't need daily coaching and instruction. He spends hundreds of hours practicing on the golf course, driving range and putting green, and having a coach check in with him once in awhile adequately meets his individual needs.

Alas, The 2 Sisters require a more frequent regime of coaching. We are beginning golfers. We need someone to check in often during our practice sessions. We need more explicit instruction, more correct modeling, and more scaffolding to ensure success. We need someone to monitor us frequently, to make sure we are not developing bad habits that will hurt our game. Is it unfair to Tiger if we get more support than he does? No. He doesn't need it. We sure do!

So, once we accept that fair doesn't mean equitability of time, we can let that old unsubstantiated guilt go. We'll periodically swoop in and coach those little Tigers in our classrooms, then send them off to practice, rejoicing in the time they free up to meet the needs of our other students. Now that's fair!

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