Friday, January 06, 2006

Gum, Lies, & Middle School

I am standing on one side of my classroom, discussing work and power with the kids. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that a girl near me is playing with candy in her pocket. I tell her quietly to put it away and make sure I didn't see candy during class. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "I don't have candy."

Thinking maybe I'd seen wrong, I said, "Well, whatever the purple thing is, keep it in your pocket."

"I didn't have anything in my hand."

"I saw it in your hand. Now that you lied, I'm going to have to take it."

She just stares at me, refusing to hand over the candy.

"Give it to me." I put out my hand.

She turns over a piece of candy in a purple wrapper.


I tell this story at lunch. Another teacher says, "Oh, let me tell you what happened this morning."

She saw a girl take something out of her pocket with a very guilty look on her face. This girl's facial expressions always give her away, so the teacher walked over to investigate.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing." Big wad of something in her cheek.

"What are you chewing?"

"Nothing! I don't have anything in my mouth!"

"Go spit it out."

"I don't have anything in my mouth! Why are you always accusing me?!"

"Okay, open your mouth, then."

(Most kids would have swallowed by now).


"Open your mouth."

The girl backed down and opened her mouth. She had taken candy out of her pocket, and then realized she was going to get in trouble and probably would lose the candy, so she did what any quick-thinking twelve-year-old would do: stuffed all the candy, wrapper and all, into her mouth.


And then there was the girl who turned in to her English teacher, in January '06, work from a summer prep program. She crossed out the date (July '05) and claimed that the comments, in grown-up handwriting and red ink, were her mother's comments on her homework. Her back-up lie was that she'd brought this one in by mistake, had done the real assignment, but had accidently left it at home.


Blogger TMAO said...

I keep this mini Gatorade bottles and kids are required to "make a deposit" if they've been chewing gum by spitting their gum into the bottle. When the bottle fills up, the entire class loses rings -- reward system. The stench that emerges from those things is a little bonus incentive to keep the gum out.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one particular student who always says, "I didn't do anything!"

It doesn't matter that he does it in front of me or other teachers.
In fact, those words have been his mantra since 2nd grade.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Muriel said...

Yesterday one of my students actually used the age old excuse : my dog ate my homework...

I couldn't stop laughing...

2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame to have to focus on the minor issues and take precious time from instruction. I know food is not allowed in classrooms and I know no one likes scraping gum off of a desk, but...

Monday, who will be the next student to delay teaching occuring in the classroom.

There must be a better way.

7:27 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Back when I was at my first school, a kid came up with this one:

"I was in the bodega and there was a stick up. And the guy was going to take all our money, and I said 'thank god you are not taking my homework, since learning is so much more valuable than money' so he took my homework too."

So I repeat it early each year, with the proviso, if they can top that, I will listen to their excuse. Otherwise, we all know that they forgot, got overloaded, or just ignored, that they will get it in the next day, and as long as it doesn't happen again I won't make a fuss.

I hate listening to excuses.


9:38 AM  
Blogger graycie said...

What alarms me is that this kind of lying, which should be the province of 4-year-olds who can't quite tell lies from reality, is being done by much older kids -- even in high school. I cannot imagine what is going through their minds when they lie this way. Do they think we will believe them? That we can't tell? Can they tell the difference between lies and reality? I am downright frightened by the drastic lowering of maturity levels in so much of our population. What kinds of adults will these kids grow into?

10:23 AM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

I won't give kids a hard time about eating or chewing gum anymore, unless they make noise, litter, or otherwise disrupt my class.

If a kid makes a snapping sound with gum, I'll continue doing whatever I'm doing while strolling over to the kid with the trash can in one hand. I'll stand next to the kid, talking only about the lesson, and asking questions of other students, until the gum is spit out.

In our school, many kids have lunch at 8:58 AM. Many more don't have it at all. I let kids bring sandwiches and eat in my class if they like, and if they show up on time.

I suppose if conditions were different, I might behave differently.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The gum is not the overall issue.

It's the lack of respect from students and for the rules in general.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Ms. Chalky Talk said...

Are the kids punished for lying? Would punishment even work?

I suspect if no fuss is made over the lying, then there's no reason for the kids to stop doing it. I much prefer minimum punishment for breaking rules (points off, stay after with me for 10 minutes, etc.) and maximum punishment for the lying (1 hour detention in detention hall). I also show visible disgust when I catch a student lying, whereas if its simply breaking a (minor) rule, mere firmness and matter of fact tone of voice seem to do.

I wish kids really knew how destructive lying is - much more destructive than chewing gum and getting caught, in my opinion.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

How dare you accuse those precious children of lying. The DOE knows that no student lies when they accuse teachers of abusing them! Don't yell at them, you will hurt their self-esteem!

I do what NYC Educator does, when a student snaps their gum I continue teaching and bring the garbage can over to the student and while teaching, wait for the student to throw the gum away. Further, I let all the students know that breaking classroom rules will result in lower class grades.

I totally agree that student disrespect is the prime cause of most of the problems in the classroom.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lying is a more serious offense than breaking rules...

So if I student disrupts the lesson, answers back, refuses to do assignments, starts fights, curses other students... lets give them a 10-minute time out.

Maybe we should all teach in a private-school setting where lying and chewing gum are the worst offenses.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were just given the DOE testing guideline. It states that if a student is usually disruptive, he/she still must take the test in the classroom. However, place that student near the door.If a problem does occur,do NOT notify the princiapl, instead call the hall proctor to have that student removed to a more appropriate setting to complete the test.

If a child refuses to take the test, then you must call the principal.

Makes you wonder just what the priorities are. Safety or Scores.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Anonymouph said...

I have this 'food in class' problem during my 3rd block every day because the kids come to my room directly from lunch. Not only do they try to sneak in candy, but they also attempt to hide entire chicken sandwiches in their pockets. Inevitably, I will catch a child with an unwrapped cookie (or whatever) in hand. Upon reminding the student of the rules and asking him to throw away the food, he will defiantly stuff the remaining piece of food into his mouth because he knows I can't do anything about it at that point.

I almost always deal with this dilemma by giving a lecture on morals: If I have a rule in my class, you follow it out of respect for me, and this means not trying to sneak bites of your cheeseburger when you think I can't see you. While the lectures make me feel better, they clearly have little effect on the kids. I guess ninth graders aren't easily swayed by guilt trips or appeals to morality.

9:41 AM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

"I can't do anything about it at that point."

Well, you can't stop the kid from eating the cookie, but you can get on the phone later on, call the kid's parents, and tell them how worried you are about his or her academic progress. You can tell them every date the kid showed up late or not at all. You can tell them about the cookie, and every other time the kid gave you problems in class. Then you can tell them how you hope this isn't repeated, because you know how inconvenient it wouold be for them to visit you at the school.

I would do that, and do anything else I could think of to make such behavior inconvenient for that kid. Do that enough times, and kids will think twice before defying you.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Obviously we need more Gum Control.

We need to Take Back the Streets and the tables and chairs and desks from the Gum-toting masticators who stick their wads wherever they please.

We've got to stop the Gum menace.

Sticking to our gums is the only way.

Sue the Gum Makers. That's the answer.

10:25 PM  
Blogger IneluctableNorns said...

"Food in class problem"

While some students break the rules merely to be disruptive, I also think that it is important for the larger context to be examined before simply labeling a student as disruptive or punishing them.

While it is impossible to know the situations of every individual student, I think that exceptions to the rules can and should be made when necessary.

For example, if a teacher is employed at a school with predominantly lower income students who often may only eat one meal a day (their lunch that is paid for by the government), I feel it would be morally wrong for the teacher NOT to allow that student(s) to finish their meal.

While I realize that the difficulties of teaching large classes in rooms that are often falling apart and missing furniture and forced to educate without a textbook is a horrible perversion of what education should be (see Cleveland, OH's public schools), I still believe there will always be extenuating circumstances that trump rules.

12:13 AM  
Blogger anthony said...

there was a child who pooped out a chicken wing while farting on a cat dog. with his butt in a trash can horrible poopy diarrhea memory's

10:44 PM  
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9:31 AM  

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