Tuesday, March 30, 2010


How many teachers have ever heard one of the following questions after you’ve given an in class or homework assignment:

1. Is this right?
2. Is this what you want?
3. Will you read over this to make sure I’m doing it right?
4. Am I doing this right?
5. I couldn’t find this one, can you “help” me?

     And the list goes on and on…. Personally, I hate these questions! I hate the fact my students are more concerned with being right then trying and being wrong. Early in my career I loved it when students asked me these questions because I felt I had something to prove. When I got a question like this I was quick to give them the answer and showcase just how much I knew about my content (that’s right I’m the man!) Early on I felt like I would be doing a disservice to them by not answering these questions because I’m the teacher, right? This is what I do, right? In recent times, I’ve come to despise this practice but I still find myself telling them right or wrong, yes or no because I still fear I would be a great disservice by not assisting them in this way. Could lying be my savior from this practice? This brings me to my story.

     I gave the class an assignment from their textbook. It was a reading assignment and they had questions to answer concerning the reading. I went over the directions and questions for the class assignment. After finishing the reading assignment, students broke up into pairs and some opted to do it by themselves. I started walking around the room and I noticed the class breezed through the first couple questions, they were simple recall questions. Now comes some of the higher order thinking questions and true to form I get my first hand. I moved across the room to see what she wanted, “Mr. H. is this right?” pointing to her paper. Obviously, the old feeling of wanting to showcase myself started to rear its ugly head and so did my feelings of dismay at the thought of answering this kind of question, again! At that point it hit me, I’m a liar now… So, I reached down picked up the paper, looked over the answer and said, “You want to know if this is the right answer? (I paused for dramatic effect) You are asking me, a compulsive liar if you have the right answer?” At this point she looked up at me and said, “Really?” I said, “Really! I can give you an answer but can you really trust what I’m telling you is right?” With that statement, she sighed, took her paper, and opened her book. I noticed her discussing this question with others later in the period. I did this for every kid who asked me a question that period. When all was said and done we discussed the questions in class and the class did a really nice job with the material and they seemed to have learned something about the content (without my help). For her, she had to discover the answer which reinforced the idea of reading and research. For me, I had exercised the demon!


Content Experts. This lesson is for me as well as the students. I learned I don’t have to be the expert and my hope as I do this more often with the students is they start to realize they not only can be but they are the experts, even if they aren’t the teacher!

Next entry: Stewing..

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lie of the Day

    With the end of the week, it was time to let the students know what was in store for them the remainder of the school year; I proceeded to tell them “the lying and deceptions I have subjected you to over the last 4 days will continue the rest of the semester starting Monday”. The students seemed relieved it wasn’t happening today. So, I introduced the students to the “lie of the day” much like the article (My Favorite Liar, ZenMoments.org); I figured if I don’t do lie every day it won’t have the impact and students would stop looking for it. I, also, adopted some other practices from the article and decided to make the lie an assignment if not found by the end of the period and used a few of the professors ideas to get started as well (as you will read below). Where I want go to further is I want the students to point out the lie and, later on, require them to find the correct answer and cite it from the material to prove me wrong. Additionally, the lie could be from the reading in the book, paperwork, quizzes, something online etc.. but I explained “ I will not lie to you on a test or if you ask about criteria on a rubric.” I continued, “If you don’t find my lie during the class period it will become your homework to identify the lie. Also, since it is homework it might be graded!”

     Over the course of the next week I did as I said I would do and lie to them once a day. The class would identify the lie and I would point out why it was a lie and we would move on. So, Friday had come at this point they are getting good at finding my lies, so it was time to up the ante and really disguise this one. They came into class and we started with a reading quiz, did a map, discussed the reading, did some group work, but at no time did a student stop me and point out my lie (wow I’m really getting good at this). With the end of the period my students asked, “Did you lie today?” and I responded, “Yes I did and no one caught it! So as part of your homework this weekend find my lie.”

     The weekend had come and gone and judgment day had arrived. Did the class find my lie? I had a couple of students think they knew, but their theories were quickly shot down. After the first couple of students, fewer and fewer raised their hand to answer, until the entire discussion had shut down completely, which is what I had hoped for ultimately (Perfect!). So, I posed the question again, “What did I lie about on Friday? After a long pause I announced, “Nothing! Everything we discussed on Friday was true and no one figured it out! I lied about lying.. You’re welcome!” Since I lied about something from the content the previous 4 days they assumed it would be a content lie every day, and with a magicians sleight of hand they had been duped again!


All is not what it seems. If you are not sure read a store flier during the holiday shopping season, if you ever want to see a sleight of hand buy one of the advertised items that is "on sale".

Next Entry: Really?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Next Day

     The next class, following my deception, I wanted to teach a different lesson to my students. I thought I would focus on reading for a purpose and following the directions as adults we know the importance of doing both. Let me clarify reading for a purpose and what it means to me. By reading for a purpose I mean reading to know what the passage is truly about and not skimming because you think you know it already. I’ve seen it happen many times when people don’t read over material and ignore the fine print, they end up missing the content of the article, complicating a matter, wasting their own, or making their life more difficult. So, when my class came in on day 4, I had a little surprise for them. I had prepared a 2 question short answer quiz about the reading assignment from the previous evening. After handing out the quiz, I told the class they had 10 minutes to complete the quiz. Make sure their name is at the top and begin. The class dove into the quiz with a fury not seen before in any class I’ve ever taught. The previous class, I had given them a “quiz” that wound up being a lesson on research, lies, and fact checking the experts. This class was determined to get off on the right academic foot and anyone observing would had seen an intensity and determination to do well. Well, this was the mood for most of them except a handful of students who decided to take their time and read the directions. In the directions it stated the following:

“Directions: Answer the questions in complete sentences. Each question is worth 5 points. Look at the bottom of the paper and read what to do.”

For the handful of students who read the directions soon discovered the following extended directions at the bottom written in very small letters:

“Turn in the quiz, you are done.”

     Now I worte the above message in an 8 font so it wouldn't jump out at students when the gazed over the quiz. At that point my handful of students started to turn in their quizzes. Obviously this was much to the surprise of their classmates who had not finished the first question on the quiz.(How did they get done so quick? was on everyone’s mind). After seeing this group finish so quickly, I observed students going back and reading the directions (what a great idea!). Once students started reading the directions the erasers came out and so did the smiles, because at that moment they knew I got them, again!


Read the directions carefully. You could end up wasting a lot of time and effort; if you don’t believe me try to put an entertainment center together without directions.

Always read the fine print. The fine print is where you will see what something is really about, just look at the fine print next time you sign up for a credit card that offers 0% financing.

Next Post: Lie of the Day

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let the Deception Begin!

     As a liar, I decided, lying should be more than just to reinforce the content, it should be a life lesson or reinforce a skill whenever possible. Early on I wanted to give them an important classroom and life lesson, so I decided to focus on the all important skill of research.
     My class, on the second day, was as anxious as a group of freshmen could be for a history course. To get the ball rolling I created a PPT with nothing but lies, which I ran in class and even elaborated on some of the points to make the material more believable. After the presentation I said to the class, “ when you go home, check out the information from the PPT making sure everything is kosher, then study because there will be a quiz tomorrow on this information.” Deep down, I had a hunch they would go home and not check any of the information (I was right). Think about it, why would they go home and check the information, they got the information from a teacher, right? He wouldn’t lie to us, right? Ultimately, why do more work considering the teacher said the quiz would be on this information? (their first mistake)
     The next day my class came in ready for their first quiz of the new semester, motivated to get off on the right foot academically. The quiz was 10 questions and they had 10 minutes to complete the quiz. At the end, I asked the students to exchange quizzes to grade them for quick feedback. I read the first question and answer, a couple of students immediately said, “But you said…” at which point I abruptly cut them off and asked them, “Please hold all questions until the end.” A look of bewilderment came across their faces and I continued. Question two, just light grumbling. Question three, heads looking back and forth at one another in disbelief. Question 4, the students cracking factious smiles, it is clear the smiles are meant to mask the anger of getting another question wrong. This continued until all 10 answers were read.
     Now it’s time to ask the extremely loaded question, “Any questions about the quiz?” With the hands up I called on one young lady who said, “Yesterday, you told us there would be a quiz on the notes and I answered all the questions based on the notes, but all of them are wrong…” I interjected with, “I told you to go home and check the information to make sure it was kosher and then study up because you will have a quiz on this tomorrow. If you checked the information you would have realized everything from the presentation was a lie with the exception of one point which wasn’t on the quiz. I told you on Monday that I am a liar! Yet despite that emission you believed everything in that PPT was true and didn’t check the information, did you? ” I explained to the students, “Just because I’m the teacher doesn’t mean I’m always right nor is what you read in your textbooks, hear on the news, etc. always right. As students and historians we need to be critical of this information. Historians need to be great researchers and at this moment I can safely say as a class you are great note takers but we have some work to do as historians.” After seeing the light of not doing their own research a student politely asked, “Is this quiz going to count?” and I answered, “of course it does!” (gotcha again!)

Research is important to being a historian and a citizen.(Always challenge what you hear or read, fact check constantly..) We will be bombarded with information in many different forms everyday, as historians and citizens it is our job to research and always seek the truth!

Next Post: The Next Day

Friday, March 12, 2010

Inspiration for Lying

     At the end of January, I was reading an article at ZenMoments.org called “My Favorite Liar”. To quickly summarize the article, a college professor spent 10 weeks lying to his students. He would lie to them once a day about something related to the content the class was learning. After reading this article I was inspired to turn over a new leaf and give up my job as content expert, in History, to become a compulsive liar. Before starting my new professional life as an educational deceiver I felt I had to make some decisions about how to approach lying.

1. What types of things would I lie about? Would the lies be about content, assessments, etc.? Frequency of lying?

2. Is there anything considered so scared to students were lying wouldn’t be appropriate?

3. When do I start?

     First, I decided I would follow the one approach of the professor in the article and have the “lie of the day”. Unlike the professor in the article I don’t want the lie to be just a verbal lie but a trail of lies and even deceptions to keep my students thinking and wondering, “Is this true? He is lying? Is all what it appears to be?” Next would anything be sacred, and to this question I answered “yes!” I decided tests and offering clarification/guidance on projects would be areas where I would not lie to my students. Since, projects and tests cause a great deal of stress/anxiety in some students and I didn’t want to deepen or create test anxiety in my students. Secondly, to purposely steer a student in a wrong direction on a project is unethical, plain and simple. Lastly, I started on day one of the new semester. In my introduction to the class, I told them what I typically tell a class, how long I’ve been teaching, college, kids, favorite music, etc… but this year I decided to add the statement “… and I AM A LIAR!” With this statement, I got some chuckles and laughs of course; I began to live a “life of lies” (educationally speaking)!

Next Post: "Let the Deception Begin"