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Help! A Student Lied About Me and Now Their Parents Are Furious

Dear Advisor, One of my second grade students told their mom that I tore up their homework in front of the class. Not only did nothing remotely close to this happen, but I haven’t given them any homework in almost a month. The parent emailed me demanding a conference. What am I supposed to say to this parent if they want to meet about an “issue” that’s a bold-faced lie?  —Professor to a Perjurer

Dear P.T.A.P.,

Gasp! How dare you suggest that children LIE? 😉

First, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Had the parent taken a beat to ask, “Hey, is this true?,” they could have avoided the whole thing.

Make sure you gently communicate to the parents before the meeting that the incident didn’t actually happen. It may make the parents tuck their tails and apologize or it might offend them further, but it’s better for everyone to not have a “surprise reveal” at the conference table that their kid is a con artist.

You can email something like this:

“Thank you for letting me know. I want to first assure you that my students’ experiences in my class matter so much to me. Because of how deeply I value the student-teacher relationship, I would never tear up anything belonging to a student or that they had worked on—that would be devastating to a child. I’m happy to meet with you to talk about why [student] may have said this.”

If they still want to meet after this, make sure you bring along an administrator or team member who can vouch for your teaching. If the parents still insist you did this, then bring in the evidence you’ve pre-approved with your administrator. Showing them testimony from reliable (and anonymous) students that you have not, in fact, ceremoniously shredded any student work should seal the deal.

Dear Advisor, Teachers at my school are using AI-writing websites to create their lesson plans, and the scary part is the bots are really good. I don’t want to write lesson plans either, but I think this is unethical and ultimately affects student learning. Should I report them? —Tentative Tattler

Dear T.T.,

I did my best teaching at a school where we weren’t required to submit lesson plans. My team and I wouldn’t have been able to create breakout boxes, hold university-style writing workshops, or plan mock trials if we had excessive paperwork to complete. Our administration stayed in the loop with a pacing calendar for each semester and we all did our own version of weekly lesson plans. But ultimately, the evidence of our students’ learning spoke for itself.

The question of whether this is ethical is an interesting one. In a school setting, “unethical” could describe the choice to make copies of a copyrighted textbook chapter for a student who’s going to be absent the rest of the week. “Unethical” would also describe a teacher who commits a felony on campus. Neither are excusable, but most of us would see a wide spectrum of severity between the two. Is it ethical to use AI to write your lesson plans? Probably not. But we’re in a system built on the unpaid labor of teachers that continues to expect far more than it can support, so it’s hard for me to get angry about teachers fudging busywork so they can do their actual jobs.

Speaking of doing one’s job, it’s your job to teach your students to the best of your ability. It’s your administration’s job to evaluate the quality of your coworkers’ teaching. If an administrator sees low-quality teaching, they can be the ones to compare the lesson plans to what they see in the classroom and start asking questions.

Dear Advisor, I’m a first-year teacher with a support teacher who has begun overstepping on a daily basis. She’ll interrupt me when I’m talking to the class, adjust due dates after I say them, and once even tried to clarify a concept with the wrong information! I know I have room for improvement, but how do I get my support teacher to stop taking over? —Feeling Like Rookie Roadkill

Dear F.L.R.R.,

As a first-year teacher, you do still have a lot to learn. Observations from an experienced support teacher could be a valuable resource! On the other hand, too much interference would bring your competency into question (and keep you from developing skills yourself). What you want to do is bring this relationship into balance. This way you can use feedback from her, but in a way that’s best for you and your students.

“I’m so grateful to have the experience you bring to the classroom. I know there’s a lot I still have to learn. However, I’m concerned that I’m missing opportunities to learn by experience. I’m hoping that instead of jumping in to help, you could jot down your tips and ideas for improvement and email them to me after class or meet me during my conference period. What are your thoughts?”

Remember that support teachers often (understandably) resent being treated as inferior. Make sure you communicate that her wisdom is valuable and you’re wanting to improve, not pushing her away because you don’t need her help.

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