Third Grade Wisdom – The Difference Between Being Fair and Being Effective

Jesus tells us we must be as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. This short story perfectly illustrates the simple wisdom and common sense of third graders.

There is a world of difference between being fair and being effective. This story showed up on my Facebook timeline and has so many applications in the everyday world, the family of Christ, and in the barn with our horses that I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

When I was student teaching in third grade, there was a major epidemic of claiming that things in the class weren’t “fair”. As any of you who are teachers or have kids of your own know, the kiddos think that it’s just not fair if they don’t get the best of everything! I saw this idea in various posts on Pinterest and decided to try it out!

I had the students sit in a circle on the rug, close their eyes, and imagine that they had an injury somewhere on their body. I received several “but why?”s and curious glances, but they were good sports and went along with it. I then called each student up to the rocking chair one at a time and asked them where their pretend injury was.

After each student answered, I placed a band-aid on the back of their hand without explanation. One student said she had a broken arm…and she got a band-aid on her hand. One boy said he had a “terrible horrible cut” on his leg….he got a band-aid on his hand.

The kiddos all whispered to each other about what was happening, but never asked a question.
After the last student received his band-aid and sat down, a little girl said “Miss Laura, how come I said my knee had a bruise but you didn’t put the band-aid there? I wanted it on my knee! This just isn’t fair!”

DING DING DING! That’s exactly what I was hoping for! I responded, “but why isn’t it fair? Everyone got a band-aid didn’t they?” A boy said, “Well YEAH, but what good is it if it’s not where I needed it:?” This activity worked out so much better than I expected! We then launched into a long discussion about what fair truly means.

One student summed it up best when she said “So maybe fair isn’t when everyone gets the same thing…it’s when everyone gets just what they need!” 

I can’t improve on the simple wisdom of third graders.


  1. Dan Cooksey:

    Just like the book, “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

    • Lynn Lynn:

      Exactly, Dan, and thank you for that reference! I’m afraid I no longer have my copy, but it is the perfect place to do some research on another topic. Kids and horses… we can learn a lot!

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