When it comes to self-preservation, 99.9% of children will tell an outright lie or tell only the part of the truth that is in their best interest, especially when it comes to school. Many parents find this hard to accept, and although it is a flaw inherent in all who walk erect, they are offended by anyone who would dare suggest their children will not always tell the truth. Yet, telling a lie, shading the truth, or bending the truth to sway favor, to hide involvement, or to shun responsibility is a human trait that cannot be denied. Good parenting, the best mentors, Sunday school, membership in the choir, or good deeds in the community will not completely absolve this human flaw. This is not a condemnation of children but rather a confirmation of their less than perfect humanity.
Children understand their parents need to believe they are perfect and not capable of falsehoods, and they play that card to their fullest advantage. They are experts at presenting themselves as the innocent victim when sometimes nothing could be further from the truth. They understand that their parents are devoutly protective and will take their side of any story, especially if their story is contradictory to the story of a stranger such as a teacher. Children recognize that it is in their best interest to maintain a certain amount of distance between their parents and teachers at all times; they know that familiarity between the two breeds problems for them. In their minds, life works best when they can keep their parents in the dark about school and at odds with their teachers. Children do not want their parents digging deeper into their story before reacting – gut or knee jerk reactions are much more likely to go in their favor. Therefore, the last thing they want is a prudent parent who seeks the truth by listening to both sides of the story before reacting, and the best way to prevent that from happening is to convince their parents that they are innocent victims of a conniving ill spirited teacher. This does not mean children are evil, but that they are committed to the human pursuit of happiness and the joys of liberty, both of which in their minds are often compromised by school in general and teachers in particular.
As a result, there are certain things that children would rather their parents not know about their teachers. For example, they are happy for their parents to believe their teachers are mean and uncaring, do not like them, pick on them, and that nothing of any educational value ever takes place in their classroom. As long as parents believe everything their children say about their teachers with little or no consideration that there may be some deception at hand, children are in total control. The only threat to their control occurs when parents and teachers get too close, or the parents catch the “sensible bug” and start questioning and digging for the whole story. Children understand their goose is cooked if their parents discover they are not above manipulating the truth. Consequently, maintaining a degree of separation between parents and teachers is crucial to preserve their pursuit of happiness and liberty.
So, how do children keep parents and teachers from becoming too chummy? That is quite simple; they use the old battle worn tactic of divide and conquer. Children know if they keep their parents believing their teacher is treating them unfairly, or their teacher is incompetent that they can be reasonably assured their parents will stand firmly entrenched in their corner with little inclination to listen to anything negative an inept teacher who is mistreating their baby has to say. In effect, children portray themselves as innocents awaiting rescue by knights in shining armor (parents) from the evil villains (teachers). This estranged relationship between parents and teachers ensures the separation of powers (parents from teachers), and effectively camouflages all that children do not want their parents to know about their teachers, such as . .
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher is actually pretty nice. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- My teacher greets me with a smile every morning though she knows she will rarely get one in return;
- My teacher patiently answers my questions even when I ask the same question for the sixth or seventh time;
- My teacher does not pick on me or single me out. My teacher has the same expectations for me as she does for all her students;
- My teacher remembers my birthday even when no one else does; and
- My teacher encourages me and makes me feel important even when no one else believes in me.
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher did not really say or do that. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- My teacher did not say I was a dummy; she said I needed to study more;
- My teacher did not say I was going to fail; she said I had several assignments I needed to complete before report card grades were assigned;
- My teacher did not yell at me to “shut up;” she begged, “I love you, so please shut up;”
- My teacher did not embarrass me by yelling at me; she became excited when she saw the paperclip I stuck in the electrical outlet; and
- My teacher did not say she was not here to teach me; she said she was not here to give me the answers.
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher sent the information home twice. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- I did not bring it home because it was not cool;
- I did not bring it home because I do not want you meddling in my life at school;
- I did not bring it home because I do not want you to have a conference with my teacher;
- I did not bring it home because the less you know, the better life is for me; and
- I did not bring it home because you might find out I am the problem and not the teacher.
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher posted rules and consequences. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- My teacher made sure students were aware of classroom rules and expectations;
- My teacher made sure students were aware of consequences for bad behavior;
- My teacher did not break the rules; I did;
- My teacher did not choose the consequences for my bad behavior; I did; and
- My teacher has high expectations for good behavior in her classroom; she does not warn repeatedly but follows rules and administers consequences consistently and fairly.
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher gives adequate time to complete assignments. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- My teacher gave me eight weeks to research, write, and turn in my project. It is not my teacher’s fault I waited until the night before it was due to begin working on it;
- My teacher gave me adequate time plus additional time to complete my test. It is not my teacher’s fault that I waited until the morning of the test to start thinking that maybe I should have studied for the test;
- My teacher gave me adequate time to complete or at least partially complete my homework assignment in class. It is not my teacher’s fault that I chose to use that time to daydream or socialize with my friends;
- My teacher gave me adequate time plus extra time to finish my classwork. It is not my teacher’s fault that I did not pay attention in class and had to stay in during recess or break to complete my assigned classwork; and
- My teacher gave me opportunities to redo assignments as well as retake some tests. It is not my teacher’s fault that I am failing. She is doing everything humanly possible to ensure I learn and pass despite very little effort on my part.
- Children do not want their parents to know their teacher comes to class prepared to teach. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
- Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher is always prepared to teach; however, I am not always prepared to learn;
- Contrary to what I tell you, when I pay attention and apply myself to the lesson I do learn something every day;
- Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher is very knowledgeable; however, I am more concerned with socializing, sports, planning my trip to the mall after school, and who went out with who this past weekend to pay attention;
- Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher makes learning interesting and relevant; however, I am too tired to keep my eyes open from staying out late or talking on my cell phone into the early hours of the morning to keep up and adequately participate in class; and
- Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher treats me with respect, has high expectations of me, cares about me, and does everything within her power to ensure I learn; however, it is easier for me to make you believe she does not like me and treats me unfairly. Once you accept that, it is easy to get you to blame all my self-inflicted problems on my teacher, which effectively vanquishes all my responsibility as a student. Thank you mom and dad!
These are just a few of the things children do not want their parents to know about their teachers. For them school is often seen as little more than an infringement on their happiness and liberty, and that will most likely only change with time and maturity. Happiness for a child has nothing to do with their future; it is cemented in the present. School for them is a fog shrouded social networked tunnel where the future is now. They live day to day with little thought outside their friends, the mall, dating, and liberty from the oppressive constraints of school and parents. If they can create or manipulate a divide between the two, so much the better since in their minds they can at least for a short time free themselves of any responsibility that threatens their idea of happiness and liberty.
©Jack Linton, October 30, 2014