I understand that most teenagers believe teachers (hell, adults) behaved differently when they were teenagers. We went to sock-hops. We loved school. If we felt like rebelling, we wore racy clothes and drove our cars too fast. Maybe smoked a cigarette; maybe took a couple sips from a beer occasionally. Honestly, I don't blame them. I thought the same thing too.
What strikes me is that they think we are not akin to their subterfuges.
The high school I teach at starts a half-hour later on Fridays; combined with the fact that this occurs at the end of their week makes hitting Starbucks a must for adolescents. I sympathize and have no problem with that as long as students arrive to class on time and don’t spill that Venti, blended goodness all over my floor.
But this morning, a little lady told me a bold-face lie so that she could retrieve her beverage after class had started. One thing I have no patience with or tolerance for is lying. She asked me is she could go to the restroom. I gave her permission. She came back with a Venti passion tea.
I hauled her tush outside and said, “Samantha, don’t ever lie to me. You ask to go to the bathroom and you come back with Starbucks. Did you really think I wouldn’t catch that?”
Her eyes get real big. “I didn’t lie. I just happen to run into my friend, and she had an iced tea for me. I swear.”
My response: “Do you really think I’m that stupid?”
“I swear that’s what happened.”
Yes, she thinks I'm that stupid.
Yes, she thinks I'm that stupid.
“So, you expect me to believe that the exact same moment you had to ‘go to the bathroom’ your friend happened to be walking the halls with an ice tea for you? You really think I am going to believe that?”
“I don’t believe you.”
She stands there blinking at me.
“Don’t ever lie to me again.”
She huffs and storms into the classroom.
(Little does she know that next time --or the next dozen times-- she asks to go to the restroom, the answer will be “no.”)
I tell my students from the beginning of the year that they will always win with honesty and never win with lying. Honestly doesn’t mean no consequences, but they will come down soooo much easier. All Samantha had to do was say, “Hey Ms. Vance, my friend just brought me an iced-tea. Can I go grab it?”
It’s Friday. We are just doing some leisurely reading. She’s playing it straight. I would have said, “Sure, but this is an exception. Don’t make this a habit.” The end.
Instead, she lies. Instead, she assumes that I’m not going to catch on. She assumes that I am stupid. I’m a lot of things, but stupid ain’t one of ‘em.
Trust me, I was not a straight-laced kid. I rebelled. I rebelled hard. And I used the same tricks they try to use on me. When I set my watch back 20 minutes so that when I arrived home after curfew I could raise my little doe-eyes to my parents and show them how my watch says I’m on time? When I forged my own notes to get out of school early (I had an “injured knee” my junior year and had many, many doctor’s appointments) did the attendance workers know I was lying and just didn’t have a way to call my bluff? (They never called my mom, which is good, because then I’d be well . . . dead). My parents never have been push-overs. If I got caught doing wrong, punishment was severe and swift. Yet I still ditched; I still snuck out; I still lied. I wonder how much they actually knew and just didn’t address because I was still bringing home good grades and treating them with respect? Were they just worn by the demands of their daily lives so they would allow a few transgressions?
The message I’d like to send to all teens is this: we know a lot more than you think we know.