“But mom, there’s this kid in the classroom and he gets all this extra help and attention. It’s not fair.”

How many kids feel this way? As they sit in the classroom concentrating on their work, they see some students receive extra help, extra time, limited choices, and even the option to work with another teacher. Sometimes these other students even get to take a different test, move to another part of the classroom, or wear headphones. There are so many things happening that are different for some kids than for others. It’s confusing and it’s a completely legitimate concern and feeling for many students, especially when the situation isn’t explained.

But there’s another side. As teachers, we can’t explain specifics regarding why some students get more attention than others. The individual reasons are confidential. So we have to get creative.

I was a special education teacher in the public school system for seven years. Now preparing future teachers at the university level, I have a trick I’d like to pass on to you for use in the home or the classroom. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came up with it. But it is, by far, the most effective way I’ve ever found to explain accommodations and extra help for students with disabilities to the entire classroom or to your own children without singling anybody out. It’s a method I feel should be used in every classroom at the beginning of the year because it promotes acceptance and understanding. Kids act out or become upset often out of fear of the unknown. So explain it to them. Teach them. Help them understand why some get more help. And feel free to use my method. Let me paint you a picture…

The Dollar Bill Hanging From the Ceiling

As my students walk into the classroom and take their seats, they notice two crisp dollar bills hanging next to each other from the ceiling. As they filter in, I slyly choose two students (one much taller than the other) and ask them to join me in the hall for a moment. I explain to them what I will be demonstrating and ask their permission to help me. If their intended role makes them uncomfortable, I choose other students and ask the same. I’ve never had anyone not okay with helping, but being respectful is of the utmost importance to me for this demonstration.

As all students take their seats, the two students helping me come to the front of the class and stand directly underneath the dollar bills hanging above their heads. I announce to the class that the first student to reach his or her dollar bill will get to keep BOTH of them. Our class counts down together, “1, 2, 3, GO!” Immediately, the taller student grabs the dollar bill and wins the contest. We all clap as I hand both dollar bills to the taller student. Both students take their seats and I pretend that’s the end of the demonstration and continue on with class.

But inevitably, I overhear some whispers. “That wasn’t fair.” And so I use the whispers to my teaching advantage. I announce, “You know what, guys? I’m hearing some whispers that my contest wasn’t fair. What do you think?” We then begin a conversation about the fact that it’s nobody’s fault that one student was taller and the other wasn’t able to reach. So what can we do?

I call the same two students up and hang the dollar bills from the ceiling again. This time, I allow the shorter student to stand on a chair underneath one dollar bill. Same rules. “1, 2, 3, GO!” Inevitably, both students reach for their own dollar bill and get to it at the same time. Nobody gets two this time because it was a tie. Both students get to keep their own dollar bill. So what just happened? It’s now time to explain this to the classroom.

We leveled the playing field. You see, a chair is an accommodation not unlike extended time, fewer choices, headphones, or leaving the classroom. Both of these students, regardless of their height, deserved to reach the same goal in the end. They both equally deserved that dollar bill and it wasn’t the fault of the shorter student that he or she hasn’t grown as tall as the other. The rules just weren’t fair.

Education is no different. Some students have difficulties or even disabilities we can’t see. The material we study can’t be identical for every student. Sometimes they just need a chair. Sometimes we have to make adjustments for students in order to allow them to get to the same goal as everyone else. We all deserve the best education. We all deserve to reach our goals, but some of us just need a little more help because of the way we were born.

So we give those students a chair. We give them what they need in order to be successful.

***

I truly hope you all have an amazing school year, and please feel free to use my demonstration for your own classroom or children. I will consider it an honor.

Respectfully,

Mrs. Bailey Koch, M.A.Ed. – Special Education

You may also like:

When God is in the Classroom

Special Education Teachers and Staff, I See You

To the Paraprofessional Who Will Spend the School Year With My Child

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Bailey Koch

Bailey Koch is an advocate for those who can't easily advocate for themselves in every way. Married to her hottie hubby, whom has survived 5+ suicide attempts, and mom to two teenage boys, the oldest with High Functioning Autism and youngest with Epilepsy, Bailey is passionate about mental health and parenting through the messy realities. Additionally, Bailey is a Doctor of Special Education and works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney preparing future special educators to be advocates for the learning of all. Bailey and her husband, Jeremy, have written and published two books. "Never Alone: A Husband and Wife's Journey with Depression and Faith" details their struggles with severe depression and the journey toward understanding their purpose, accepting help, and finding faith. "When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression" is written for families, at a child's level, to open up a conversation about the reality of Depression. Follow their journey, the triumphs and the challenges, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anchoringhopeformentalhealth and Instagram at @anchoringhopeformentalhealth.

Once Upon a Time You Got All of Me

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife on wedding day, color photo

First there was us, and now it’s them. We have four little hands that need us, and it’s so hard to get lost in parenthood and forget that at once upon a time it was me and you. I promise you, it won’t always be like this. It won’t always be this hard. I remember when we would go for leisurely walks and long Sunday brunches. Now it takes us an hour to leave the house for a 15-minute walk. I want so badly to spend hours lying in bed, talking like we used to, but now I’m so tired...

Keep Reading

I Was Raised by an Easter-Only Mom and I Want More for My Kids

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter read Bible

Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one. The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?  These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough...

Keep Reading

We’ll Get Through Daddy’s Deployment Together

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother, father, daughter selfie, color photo

“I didn’t think we did that anymore.” I wish I could attribute that to one person, but I’ve heard it from multiple people when I’ve mentioned that my pilot-soldier National Guard husband is deploying overseas. Yes, we still do that. Men and women still suit up every day to carry out various missions, both valuable and confusing, around the country and the world. And for the whole of 2023 that includes my husband. My partner, my co-adventurer. The one who will use our flight and hotel benefits from his day job to visit Hawaii for three days on a pre-deployment...

Keep Reading

Our College Visit Disaster: What You Should Learn from My Mistakes

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen daughter selfie, color photo

With a song in my heart, I got in the car to drive my daughter to our first college visit.  We drove two hours to a school nestled in the mountains. It was a state school, not too big, not too small.  She knew plenty of alumni from her high school who attended there, and I was convinced it was going to be the perfect fit. We pulled up to the student center, and I jumped out of the car. I glanced around for her and realized she was still sitting in the car.  “Mom, I’m not getting out. I ...

Keep Reading

I Was Never Good Enough for My Mother, So I’m Done Trying

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman walking away

I’m on a path in life that is so different from what I ever imagined growing up. It’s a path I’m not even sure I consciously choose. And it’s a path that exhausts me. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and I was the scapegoat. No matter how I tried, I could never gain my mother’s love. It was love that was tainted with conditions and taken away at any time—and that was often. And thus, I tried harder. Best grades, best behavior, cleanest room. It never worked. I was too fat. My thighs were huge—make sure they were...

Keep Reading

Even When it Feels Like I Can’t, I Keep Going

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom holding toddler

When I feel like I can’t do one more thing. When I am overwhelmed and touched out and lost in the logistics of it all. When my physical and mental energy are depleted. When the length of my to-do list needs more hours than I have. When I am so bone tired that I’m sure I just can’t go on. And there is still more to do. And the only choice is to keep going– I keep going. I dig a little deeper and find strength I didn’t know I had. RELATED: Check on Your “Strong” Friend, She’s Faking it...

Keep Reading

I Am an Immigrant Mom

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and toddler in sunshine

I have many moments of What did I get myself into? during the day, especially when one of my kids is screaming at the top of his lungs and the other is having a make-believe experiment in the kitchen. We’ve heard countless times that raising kids is hard, but raising kids as a first-generation immigrant is harder. Obviously, there is no competition for who has more struggles or whose life is harder because child rearing is hard. Period. But this piece is specifically aimed at shedding some light on the unsung heroes, our so-called, first-gen immigrants raising kids in a...

Keep Reading

What Happens When She Wants Another Baby and He Does Not?

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife, pregnancy photo, color photo

I am on my knees, folded over, with my head resting on the carpet. I am in my closet, which doesn’t see much of the vacuum, and it is the only place I can find to sob out of sight. I feel hollowed out and defeated as if I have run a marathon and was cut short at the finish line. I cry out in prayer, pleading with God to soften the heart of my husband. I desperately want another child, and he desperately does not. I take a deep breath and dry my eyes because my 4-year-old outside the...

Keep Reading

Everything I Know About Motherhood, I Learned from My Mom

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother and daughter walking down snowy path, color photo

I lay in a hospital bed, and the doctor placed my brand-new son into my arms. As I held him close and stared in wonder at this tiny new life, the gravity of being totally responsible for another person settled in with an enormous weight. I could hear my mom’s voice in my mind, “Support the head, hold him close, let him feel you breathe.” Words from my youth when she taught me how to comfort my crying baby cousin. The first lesson I had in taking care of a baby. When I brought my son home from the hospital,...

Keep Reading

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading