Be consistently consistent rather than fairly fair

7th August 2009  |  by Greg


So, in the UK, just 42% of students agreed with the statement that “teachers treat me no better or worse than other pupils”. There is other news about how students view the fairness and consistency of teachers in this country and it’s all bad. Is it ever the case where some students are reprimanded because they are “easier” to reprimand and that their reaction will be more agreeable? Could it be that some students get detentions and are sent out of class simply because they were the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back? (Don’t think, even for a second, that I would claim that this has never happened in my class.)

Now it could be that these things are happening or that many students are just imagining that teachers are not fair (well-spotted, I know) but either way, there are strategies to be more consistent and to be seen as more consistent.

Be consistently consistent rather than fairly fair

1. Clearly define your expectations.

Every instruction you give should be specific. It’s like drawing a chalk line down the middle of your classroom and asking your class to stand on a specified side of it. All instructions should be given in such a way that it is easy to see who is following the instruction and who is not. Most children want to follow instruction’s; they simply need the instructions to be clear enough.

It’s only when we’ve given instructions specifically that we can give consequences consistently.

2. Don’t let other factors influence whether you give a consequence. This means giving consequences:

  • every time specific instructions are not followed.
  • regardless of the time of day, the student involved, the possible reaction or where the student is in the consequence hierarchy.

3. Without emotion.

I’m not pleased to deliver consequences. I’m not disappointed. Angry? Not me. I’m just delivering a system. When I’ve delivered a consequence in class, I’ll tell the rest of the class that I’m going to be consistent in the delivery of consequences- otherwise it won’t be fair. The student who has just received the consequence is reassured that they weren’t picked on and the rest of the class get the message that whether they get a consequence or not is in their hands, not mine.

These are harder to do than they sound but they block most of the holes in the hull of the good ship Consistency where the lack of fairness gets in.

(NB No camel’s backs were injured in the production of this blog post.)

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