Do you remember the phrase, “Liar, liar pants on fire….” ? Words chanted using a sing song sounding voice made to warn you and to make one feel the wrath of shame. Well, there will be students who lie. There will be students in your class who are chronic liars, and unfortunately, there may be students who lie in ways that blow your mind. Brainy Quotes list a variety of quotes about lies. Some are funny, such as Lucille Balls,” The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” While other quotes paint the clear message of how lies negatively affect our lives. “ Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Yet, we have all lied about something at some point in time. According to Psychology Today, there are 6 reasons why people lie. As I am not creating a thesis paper, I will precise it to one word. CONTROL. The individual who lies, feels like they have no control and want to gain control, or they feel the need to be recognized and therefore take control of the situation to weave it in their favour. Today, I will share two stories of students who felt the need to gain control through lying.
Master of the Circle
Blue Jay is a student who loves to embellish stories he shares during our Monday sharing circle. This is a small special ed class with 10 male students. Every Monday, we begin the morning sharing information about the weekend. Did we have a good time? Did we do something different? Did we go anywhere interesting? At times, it was interesting to notice how some children spent their entire weekend, according to them, playing video games. Other students enjoyed going to a friend’s house to play, or going to the arena to play hockey. Blue Jay seemed to think that it was his job to surpass his classmates comments and would share interesting tales which became more embellished when his friends realized that he was lying.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. Does anyone have anything to share? I scan the room to see who would like to start sharing first. Stable seems to be very eager, so I pick him first. Stable what would you like to share?
I am so excited because my mom told me that my dad is going to take me to Florida for a week in February. We are going to go to Disney and we are going to go swim with the dolphins and…
Blue Jay interrupts.
I went to Florida on the weekend to see the baseball team playing. We had popcorn and…
Blue Jay, you know you shouldn’t interrupt. It is Stable’s turn right now, you will have your turn in a minute. Stable looks at Blue Jay with a disappointed look. It is very similar to the look that teachers and parents give to children when they have done something they were told they should not do.
Stable looks at Blue Jay and says,
As I was saying, we are going to have a great time, and I plan to bring home a souvenir for everyone.
Blue Jay interrupts once more.
I did buy a souvenir for everyone, but I forgot it at home. I met all of the baseball players and they signed my hat.
Stable is now standing in front of Blue Jay with his arms crossed.
Why do you keep interrupting me? It is very rude. Anyway, we all know that you are lying. I know that you did not go to Florida on the weekend because I saw you at Costco shopping with your mom.
A few of the boys are shaking their head in a agreement. I notice that Blue Jay is looking uncomfortable, but I am more concerned that his discomfort has the potential to change to anger. I ask Blue Jay, “ Do you want to go for a walk and you can finish telling us about your time in Florida when you get back?” Blue Jay nods his head and leaves the room. The second that he leaves the room, three boys are talking about why Blue Jay lies. I encourage them to be understanding and suggest that they leave it to me to talk with Blue Jay. We continue our sharing circle and then Blue Jay returns to the room.
I thought about my time in Florida and now I want to talk about it more.
All of the boys groan and yell, “ Stop lying!”
Blue Jay storms out of the room and I spend a great deal of time calming him down.
Later that same day, I see his brother in the hallway and approach him to talk about the situation.
“ Hi Simon, I heard from Blue Jay that you all went to Florida on the weekend and met the baseball players.” Simon laughs and says, “ We can’t afford to go to Florida. The only thing we did this weekend was go to Costco.” He walks away with his books in his hands and shakes his head about what his brother has said. I smile and walk to my next class.
Blue Jay continued to lie about events in his life and on many occasions his peers would point out his false statements/fake news. Blue Jay would defend his stories and often left the room in anger. Some teachers suggested that I discontinue using the sharing circle. However, I felt that it was an opportunity for all of the students to learn about talking, honesty, social skills and active listening. The sharing continued and I continued to work with Blue Jay to help him realize that his truthful stories were more interesting. I would like to say that it worked, but that would be a lie. He is still telling lies today.
Melting Ice Cream
During my second year of teaching, I booked a trip for my grade one class at the Ontario Science Centre. The children in my class were very excited and fortunately, lots of parents volunteered to help, so the ratio of adults to children was 5: 1. We went on the trip and had a wonderful day. Following the trip, I was sitting in my classroom, feeling exhausted, but satisfied that everything went smoothly and everyone seemed happy. Suddenly, the floor fell out beneath me.
“ Ms. I need to talk with you right now about something that you did during the trip!” This sentence should be typed in CAPS because she was yelling, big time yelling. I look up in shock, to see that Mrs. Petals standing at the doorway. Her nostrils are flaring and she looks like she wants to rip me to pieces. I am honestly confused, so my mind is swirling with what I should say. I then notice that her daughter, Siren, is with her and she is standing at her moms side. She looks like she would love to put her hands on her hips and stick out her tongue at me, but she is not at the present time. I take a deep breath and ask her mom to come sit in the room.
“ Mrs Petals, please come have a seat at the table, let’s talk about what has upset you.” She paces back and forth, as I walk to sit at the conference table. She continues to rant.
Siren came home from the trip and the moment she walked into the house, she started crying. I tried to get her to tell me what was upsetting her and she just kept screaming. Finally, I got her to calm down and then she told me that you bought ice cream for everyone in the class, but you did not buy any ice cream for her.
I put my hand up and say,
What in the world are you talking about? WOW!
While I do not recall the exact words I said to Mrs. Petal, I do know that I was really taken aback and surprised that a child could be so vindictive. I had experienced one challenging event with Siren, at the beginning of the school year, which I will share at another time. However, I personally thought she was a great kid. I also think that I surprised Mrs. Petal with my response.
Hold on a second,Mrs. Petal. You are telling me that Siren came home and told you that I bought ice cream for everyone, but I did not buy ice cream for her? Mrs. Petal, I cannot believe that you would think that I would ever consider doing something so mean to a student in my class. I love the children I teach and I want their experience in grade one to be positive. I did not buy ice cream today. I did not have Siren in my group with me today. I did not spend two minutes of my time talking directly to Siren today. She was in a group with Mrs. Founder and I know that Mrs. Founder did not buy ice cream either. There was a private school in the cafeteria and their teacher bought ice cream for 10 students. I am disappointed that you came here was the assumption that I could ever do something like that. Siren has obviously lied to you.
Mrs. Petal’s face gradually changes as I share my information about the situation and Siren’s composure changes to fear. She realizes that her mother is now angry with her for lying.
Mrs. Petal then turns her anger towards her daughter.
Siren, how could you do such a thing? I believed you and you lied to me. Why did you say that about your teacher? You are going to be grounded for a week and we are not going to go to the park tonight. What you did is unforgivable!
At this point in time, I feel sorry for Siren, because it becomes apparent to me that she is looking for attention. Be it negative or positive, she wants attention. Mrs. Petal looks at me and shakes her head with disbelief. I consider how to resolve the situation in a positive manner.
Mrs. Petal, I do not think that Siren wanted to harm anyone. I think she probably wanted an ice cream and was disappointed when she saw it in the cafeteria, but could not have any. I also think that Siren has a knack for stretching the truth, so I would suggest that in the future, you research the situation further before taking action. I think you should talk with Siren further when you get home and decide how to solve the problem. I do not think that grounding her for the week is necessary. I’m just glad that everything is okay. I would like Siren to apologize when she is ready to find the words.
Mrs. Petal then starts to push Siren towards me and forcefully tells her to apologize.
You heard your teacher, Siren, APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW ! You heard me Siren, APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW ! But, Siren is not ready to apologize so Siren shakes her head to say no.
I can see that this is going to take a negative turn, so I suggest it would be best if we left the apology for a time when Siren is ready to say it on her own. Mrs. Petal seems flustered and looks like she is lost for words. They gradually move toward the classroom door and into the hallway. I wish them a goodnight and go back to my desk. As they walk down the hallway, Mrs. Petal continues to shout, “ I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU DID THAT!I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU DID THAT! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”
After they left, I sat at my desk and was perplexed with the whole situation. If anything, it taught me to “Cover my ass” and make sure that I documented events. For future trips, I would always have a trusting parent teamed with me for support. Today, I would probably look up lying on Youtube to see if there was information to clarify Siren’s intentions. I would also check Google to reference Behaviour Modification Strategies. In 1989, the source of information I used was talking and sharing with my colleagues. These were the comments and suggestions they gave me:
1. Siren wanted ice cream.
2. Siren wanted attention and got attention.
3. Siren needs support in the school to help her understand the impact of her actions.
4. Mrs. Petal loves her daughter.
5. Mrs. Petal is embarrassed with her daughter.
6. Mrs. Petal should be invited to join the class on the next trip.
7. Siren has an active imagination.
8. Do not buy ice cream for your class on a trip. It causes problems for other schools.
9. Siren needs a friend at school and at home.
10. Mrs. Petal seems to get angry very quickly, but there may be a reason for this.
11. Don’t put Siren in my grade 2 class.
12. Don’t take Siren on the next trip.
13. Why didn’t you buy all the kids ice cream?
14. Mrs. Petal needs help.
15. I’m glad I’m not you.
What is the main message?
Lying is going to happen. Sometimes it is not for personal reasons. Sometimes it is a cry for help.
Just like lying, some advice is not beneficial.