Life Lessons: “It’s Not Fair”

Life Lessons: “It’s Not Fair”

My daughter came home late from her weekly dinner with her grandmother. At nine, she hasn’t succumb to pre-adolescence moodiness and was amicably sharing the details of her day as she pulled out her homework assignments for her grandmother to check.  (On Thursday nights, Grandma checks the homework as this is considered “Mom’s night off.”)  She told us that during class today, her teacher asked the students a question and then called on one child (not Lulu) to answer it.  When the child responded to the inquiry correctly, Lulu’s teacher gave her a “class dollar.”

(Class dollars are rewards for doing something well or for going out of your way to help a fellow classmate.  The students save up these “dollars” and can buy things like having lunch with their teacher or “buying” a homework pass for specified amounts of “class dollars.”  I guess you could call it positive reinforcement/free trade?)

Lulu later approached the teacher later and commented that had the teacher called on her (Lulu), she would have given the same answer.  Lulu told her teacher that she didn’t think “it was fair” that the other student received the dollar when she also knew the answer.  The teacher’s response? “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it, Honey.”

Err..what did she say?  I asked Lulu to repeat it so I could get the words right: “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it, Honey.”  Pretty rude and abrupt if you ask me.  And now I am facing a dilemma starting with how the teacher’s response impacts my daughter?  All school year, Adam and I have tried to teach Lulu some basic concepts about common courtesy based on the following:



What does it say about Lulu’s teacher, and adults in general, when an adult and someone our daughter looks up to does the complete opposite of what we have been so diligently teaching her? (The above sign is prominently posted on our back door as a constant reminder to ALL of us to do and say the right things.)   I wonder how the teacher would have felt if Lulu had said “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it, Honey” to her?  Probably pretty annoyed.  It seems unfair to expect a 9-year-old to respond to an adult’s censuring comments with a mere shrug of the shoulders and a smile.  What was the teacher expecting would be the outcome from her harsh words to my daughter: Lulu would learn a valuable life lesson?  Or maybe my daughter should simply repeat her teacher’s words when confronted by a friend about the unfairness of a situation.  After all, she’ll reason, the teacher said those words to her, right?

I know that everyone is entitled to a bad day or two.  And maybe Lulu whined when she complained about the lack of fairness but I guess I hold teachers to a higher standard than I hold others.  What Lulu’s teacher said to her was hurtful and mean.  Calling her “Honey” almost makes it worse than if she hadn’t used that word.  In our house, if someone, adults and children included, says something hurtful to another member of the family, he or she is expected to apologize.  I can explain to Lulu that what the teacher said was wrong but I am not sure how to rationalize to my daughter why her teacher may not apologize for being a “git.”

So, what do you think?  Should I overlook this interaction and help Lulu to focus on what’s important: learning about minerals and parallel circuits?  Or do I send the teacher a note requesting that we speak so I can discuss what I feel is an unacceptable interaction with my child? I’m not sure that there is a right answer.  I guess I’ll have to file it away in the growing folder entitled “Things I Wish Hadn’t Happened to My Child but Should Be Considered Life Lessons.”


  • That’s a tough one. As a former second grade teacher, I know I would have said something like “Maybe next time.” Our school has a similar reward program, and there are specific ways to earn the class dollars.

    On a different note, I’m looking forward to being a Field Mom with you!

    • Renee Keats

      Ginny– Looking forward to our next adventure. Thanks for adding your thoughts to my post.

  • I find it weird that the teacher gave this response instead of reasonably explaining the situation in more thoughtful words. It’s definitely and example of not thoroughly thinking before speaking. That might be considered a life lesson I guess.