Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire…

When you know their lying, what is the appropriate response?  And what about the fact that they’re so good at it, they believe their lies?  I bet many could pass a lie detector test.  If they honestly believe their lies, how would you detect it?

Yeah, sure… Your dad is calling you right now from Liberia.

What?  You were at your Grandma’s funeral?  So why was your brother in school all day? Later the story changed to being gone because she has liver cancer (what she told a sub).

I always want to say, “Do I look stupid?” But of course, with kids these days, they’d probably say “yes.”  What happens when you call them on their lie and it’s actually true?  Because that would truly be horrible, we dance around the lies.  Sometimes I have a chance to follow-up and check out the facts.  Most of the time, I really don’t care.  But when you don’t catch them in the lie, they think that it’s ok.  I really don’t have time to be the lie police.

When you think about the implications of this culture of lying, it’s rather scary.  I have already dealt with kids that don’t think that copying is cheating.  They don’t think that there’s anything wrong with cheating copying.  Why do you care?, they ask me. If it doesn’t affect you, what does it matter?

Excuse me if I think right and wrong are important concepts.



This post was originally written in June of 2008.

I had a student once. Her nick name was Tiny. She was small in stature. She was sort of a tomboy. I started getting to know her when she was a freshman. She was in a class of mine. But it wasn’t math.

The very first year I taught, I had to teach this class for freshman called “Connections.” It was a class for every freshman, but the sections were spread out among all departments. Since I was low on the proverbial totem pole, I got stuck teaching it. I taught it the last hour of the day. I don’t think there’s anything worse than having freshman at the end of the day. When people saw the kids walk into my classroom, they’d shake their heads and say a prayer of thanks that it wasn’t their classroom. I had every “thug” kid you could think of in the freshman class. There were only a handful of them that made it all the way to graduation.

Tiny was special. She started out the day with Algebra 1. She had my dad. She ended the day with me. So her day was book marked with the same family. She’s the kind of kid that you would think would never amount to anything. She had a smart mouth. She was not afraid to stick up for herself (read that as fight). Just by looking at her and knowing her, you’d lump her into the category with the rest of the thugs. Probably won’t amount to anything…

Over the course of her high school career, she was in my class several more times. She was in my class as a Geometry student and an Algebra 2 student. Math wasn’t really her thing. But she’d try and put in the effort. I’d make her stay after school and take her time on tests. As a result she did fine.

Tiny taught me too. She the one that taught me about “Ebonics.”

If someone says, “She’s a duck” it’s not good. That refers to an ugly duckling. “Gotta Bounce” means I gots to go. “Finna” comes from “I’m fixin’ to” as in “I’m finna bounce to da crib.” And so went my education of teenage speak. She’d often joke around and respond to some of my questions with, “It’s cuz I’m Black.” She was completely joking. So I joked back… Yeah, because your Black.

While I was changing combinations on Friday I saw some graffiti in a locker. It said, “Tiny and Dejah BFF.” So I kept changing the hundreds of combos with thoughts of Tiny.

Each year there is a teacher that speaks at graduation. The teacher that speaks is nominated by the students. I’m actually the one that counts the ballots now. But at the time I didn’t. The “winner” is usually someone who has seniors. I get some nominations every once in awhile. My first one was from Tiny. I keep them in a file labeled “read when you have second thoughts about teaching.”

Ms B is a very good person. She’s been my teacher since my freshman year. She really enjoys her job and the subject she teaches. Ms B always stayed after me to push myself. She showed me she really cared. She always knew when something was wrong or she’d notice when I was having a hard time on a certain assignment. She’s a good teacher. She takes time to help you. She explains things. She’ doesn’t just give you an assignment and expect you to do it. Some of the teachers act as if they don’t care if you’re having a trouble with their classwork or not. Ms B does and I appreciate everything she’s ever done for me. She never gave up on me or did she allow me to give up on myself.

You don’t necessarily make connections with every kid you teach. But when you do, it’s indescribable. We all say that we go into this profession to “make a difference.” The cynic in my chuckles every time I read a letter written by a prospective student teacher that mentions this. The truth is: you do make a difference. The amount of which, varies from kid to kid. Some kids, you just click with. Some you don’t. It’s a good thing that there are lots of us for them to choose from. The bottom line is that hopefully you click with a handful and your colleagues click with the rest of them. And teaching in the inner city, you are sometimes the most stable adult figure in their lives. That’s pretty powerful.

If you had met Tiny as a 14 year old you’d never expect her to make anything of herself. Over the years I’ve kept in touch with her via email and I’ve sent birthday and Christmas cards to her parents house. The last time I saw her was when I took her out for lunch in December of 2005. She had just graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her plan at the time was to go back to grad school and get her Master’s degree. She was planing on being a probation officer.

Today I got a call from Tiny.  I haven’t been able to find her for a few years because her parents moved.  It was so good to hear from her!  She’s currently living in town and looking for a job as a probation officer.  Even though she’s now 26, she still calls me Ms. B.  🙂

Some People…

Every once in awhile I am struck by how truly stupid some people are. I had a situation happen on Monday and I still have no idea how to write about it. Part of me wonders if I should. I can’t even come up with the proper adjectives to describe just how bone-head this was…

Here goes…

There really is an art to social skills. Knowing how to read people, putting someone at ease, being able to carry on an interesting conversation, politeness, and very importantly, knowing the boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate conversation are skills that many do not possess. Like anything else, people run the gamut of the spectrum of abilities. I had an encounter with a new low.

Monday night I got a phone call. A friend had passed my number off to a single guy that her husband knew from work. I had agreed that it was ok for them to give this guy my number. So I at least knew this was coming.

After the intro, he says, “I hope it’s not too late to call.” What are you supposed to say to that when it’s almost 9pm? Technically, I suppose he just made it under the 9 o’clock wire. But honestly, yes, it is too late to call for a “get to know you” call.

We do the usual conversation about where you are from, family, holiday activities and then move on to the job questions. This guy is a project manager. I asked him about his current contract. He proceeds to tell me… now you should have the voice of the Charlie Brown teacher in your head. I make a mental note to never ask him any details about his job ever again.

Now it’s his turn to ask me about my job. I think the only thing he knew about me is that I’m a teacher. Where do you teach? What do you teach? After I say that I teach math, I get the standard response of whether or not the person listening likes math or not. This case – not. What does he ask me next? Before you go on, make sure you set any liquid down and can’t mess up your computer with your reaction to this one…

So… Have you ever had sex with a student?

I am not making this up.

I wish I were quick-witted and had snappy responses. It usually takes me a couple of days to come up with what I should have said. Have you shut your mouth yet? I know most of you just had your mouth open at that jaw-dropper.

I was so shocked that I didn’t know how to respond. I think I said something like, “Are you seriously asking me that?” To which he digs the hole even deeper and says something to the effect of, “Doesn’t it happen all the time? You see it on the news. Older woman, young guy….” and he keeps going about some news story that was just on, even though it had nothing to do with a teacher and it was an older man. Then he makes some reference to the one well-known case that was news years ago nowhere near here. I know that I said, “The idea of that is so appalling that I don’t even know what to say.” This doofus still didn’t understand that he should just shut the fuck up. I made my exit and said that I had had a long day and still needed to do some lesson planning for the next day and got off the phone.

After making a phone call to a different girlfriend and describing this unbelievably horrifying conversation I had to find something to do so I could calm down and try to go to sleep. So what am I doing to take my mind off of this? Calculating the variance and standard deviation for the homework problems for that day.

What this guy did is wrong on so many different levels. Even if he did think he was making a joke, it’s still inexcusable. It’s not something to ever joke about. And if he thinks it’s ok to make that kind of a joke, there is something very wrong with him.

My friend was extremely sorry that I had to endure that half hour conversation with a guy she had never met. Hey, I was just glad that it was only a phone call and I shouldn’t have to worry about ever meeting the guy. I must say, it has given me the most jaw-dropping story that I’ve told in a long time.

Some people…

Hours of fun

Aunt Wori? Can we play with your puter?

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It’s amazing how easily a 4 and 7 year old navigate a computer. From what I can tell, the mirror effect is their favorite.

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