“Fairness isn’t giving everybody the same – it’s giving everybody what they need.”

“Fairness isn’t giving everybody the same – it’s giving everybody what they need.”

For the past six months, I have been adapting my live training sessions to a virtual platform for teachers and for parents. As a result, I have developed 6 new 30 minute recorded Webinar sessions entitled SF3R: How to support children with ADHD at school and at home.

SF3R stands for Structure, Flexibility, Rapport, Relationships and Resilience. This webinar series has been adapted from a whole day live presentation. Here is the link: https://www.fintanoregan.com/product/sf3r-supporting-children-with-adhd-at-school-and-at-home/

During the live sessions, one of the questions I was regularly asked particularly by secondary schools, was about disorganisation and ADHD. Often in the discussion, some staff would feel that punishment is the best method of changing the outcome for specific students. They believed that by making any exceptions, the teacher would be letting a student get away with the behaviour and that they would never learn to take responsibility. Some pointed  out that the other students would deem this to be unfair.

It is at this point that I would  tell the story of Nathan.

Nathan was a bright, but extremely disorganised 14 year old with ADHD who seldom had a pen in his possession when he arrived to my 11:20 Science class. He may have started out the day with one in the morning lessons, but by the time he came to my class after the morning break,  he was penless.

This was extremely annoying. I had tried everything. I had started with discipline by giving him detentions for lack of organisation and as well as positives such as merits when he brought in his equipment. However, there was never any consistency with the issue. It was extremely frustrating that nothing worked.

On one particular day when I must admit I was not in the best mood; I asked the students to start working on a written assignment and up went Nathan’s hand straight away.

“Can I borrow a pen Sir?”

Infuriated, I relied, “Nathan what have a told you before about not bringing a pen to class? You never bring a pen.”

“No that’s not right Sir,’ he said.  ‘I had one on Tuesday- do you remember? You said well done.” He sat there with a huge grin on his face waiting for my reply.

“Well you haven’t got one today and you don’t seem to care.” I snapped back.

“I do care Sir,” he said sheepishly. “I think I lost it in Maths.”  He then added, “maybe it’s at the bottom of my bag.”

With this he tipped his bag upside down and all his files and books fell out. In addition, a whole multitude of other items tumbled onto the desk. After the impact of shaking the bag, his lunch box had opened and out came his tuna sandwich, a collection of little raw carrots  and his yoghurt carton- now damaged and leaking. The chaos made all of the students around him laugh.

I was furious and shouted at him, “Nathan clear up this mess right now. Why won’t you ever bring a pen to my class?”

Nathan, practically in tears, yelled back at me, “Why don’t you keep one for me?”

I was initially shocked and was taken aback for 2 reasons:

  1. I didn’t want to look as I was giving in on this issue in front of the rest of the class.
  2. It really wasn’t such a bad idea.

From the day forward I kept a pen in my desk for him. He borrowed it at the start of the lesson and gave it back to me at the end.

He was happier, I was happier, and you know who was happiest of all?  The rest of class! When Nathan dragged me into a negative mood and mind-set the other students had to endure this for the rest of the lesson. This was a win-win for everyone.

However, this raises the question , is that is this fair? Particularly to the other students? Will they not take advantage of the situation and expect the same treatment?  Let me answer this by saying, “fairness isn’t giving everybody the same – it’s giving everybody what they need.”

Nathan often came to class with shoes on the wrong feet and looked world weary at the age of 14, despite being a fun and quirky individual.  Although he was intelligent, he was so badly organised that I started to realise that for him, getting to class on time with his bag still intact, was as much as he could do achieve at that time. Remembering his pen was just a bridge too far.

We know that children with ADHD are developmentally different from their peers and actually the other students recognise this, but they don’t always know why.  The result, in the case of Nathan, was that the rest of class completely accepted the strategy I had devised. Furthermore, they still all brought their pens to class and didn’t have a problem with how I managed him. They knew he was different and required an alternative approach.

Having said that, as a thank you to the “pen bringers” we had a raffle ticket draw every week and a chocolate bar was awarded.  Nathan never won that chocolate bar but he didn’t mind because he didn’t get told off and was able to keep his lunch intact. He was happy with the solution, as were his peers.

Fin 18/11/2020

The above article is just one example of Flexibility complementing and not contradicting Structure please see more at: https://www.fintanoregan.com/product/sf3r-supporting-children-with-adhd-at-school-and-at-home/