Lies I Tell My Students


I’m in the lucky position that I work at a well – managed school with lots of wonderful children and supportive staff. Generally, I like my job, but over the years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of the role that has left me feeling like I am doing a disservice to my students.

While my job title states that I’m a music teacher, I often take on parental duties and in my career as a Learning Mentor and later as a teacher I’ve dealt with issues with different students that have shocked me and made me appreciate how lucky I was in my own childhood. Our children are exposed to graphic things at a younger age than previous generations and are often more ‘street-wise’ than I certainly ever was. However, despite this, I believe that we don’t truly prepare them for the life ahead of them, and in some cases I feel like I outright lie to my students. While this may seem harsh, we may be setting them up for a fall…


liar1Lie 1: If you work hard and follow the expected route of GCSE’s, A Levels and Degree (or equivalent in other countries) you’ll get a well paid, satisfying job.

Truth: While good qualifications may give students a slightly greater advantage in the pursuit of a job, it’s not guaranteed that they will secure the job that they’re actually qualified for, particularly in the present economic climate. Additionally they are almost certainly likely to start at the bottom and will be expected to work their way up.


tumblr_m3ggbcT1hv1rrdiwlo2_400Lie 2: If you want something and work hard enough, you’ll eventually achieve it.

Truth: A goal or ambition is always a fantastic thing to have, but it is also important to be realistic. As a music teacher I’ve worked with several students who genuinely believe that they could have a professional singing career (programmes like The X Factor and The Voice have a lot to answer for). Admittedly, they can sing in tune, but even after extensive vocal lessons they haven’t shown much improvement in their expression or musicality and simply don’t have the natural talent that is required to be a successful singer. Ambition is wonderful, but sometimes certain careers require levels of talent that often cannot be taught, and the sad fact of ‘making it’ in the entertainment industry is that sometimes it comes down to not what you know, but rather who you know.


tumblr_m8kbsqUdtp1qb9fucLie 3: Once you leave school, you’ll never have to deal with bullying again. (I heard this nonsense spouted a few years ago at a school I was visiting).

Truth: Children that bully often become adults that bully. My current school has a strict anti-bullying policy and responds swiftly to allegations, but this isn’t the case everywhere. It’s likely that students will have to deal with bullies in the workplace, and I feel we need to make aggressive students be responsible for their actions and equip weaker students with the tools to deal with it in the future.


tumblr_m4tf1etWU21qm6oc3o1_500Lie 4: A simple apology will make everything go away and all is forgiven.

Truth: An apology is a good start, but it doesn’t automatically make things better. I always believe that each lesson should be treated as a ‘fresh start’ and if student has had a bad day, I’ll accept their apology and move on. However, in the real world, an apology won’t always resolve issues, and if someone had truly felt aggrieved by the behaviour of another they certainly won’t be able to move on and forgive in the same way.


Will-Ferrell-Elf-You-Sit-on-a-Throne-of-LiesLie 5: Deadlines can be repeatedly extended if you can’t be bothered and it is still possible to get the same grades as those who have handed their work in on time.

Truth: I’ve lost count of the amount of times where I’ve sat individually with students in my lunch times, after school and during the holidays to allow them to catch up on work that they didn’t fully complete in a lesson because they weren’t ‘in the mood’. After extra time, they passed the course and some achieved a grade equal to those that worked considerably harder during lesson time. In the real world, deadlines are there for a reason, and if they aren’t met there are always consequences. A missed deadline may cost somebody their job.

What are your thoughts? You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page

This was originally published on my blog last year – as I approach my year anniversary I thought that I would share it with you again – It has been one of my most popular posts!!

26 thoughts on “Lies I Tell My Students

  1. You speak the truth, but it is the way the world has always been. When I grew up I believed that it was possible to start a job for a company when you’re in your twenties and work there thirty years garnering a nice retirement. That dream doesn’t exist anymore. We aren’t intentionally lying. The world is changing with every generation and as always, the smart kids will figure it out.

  2. Every single one of the lies I was told as a child and teenager and you believe them. I told my son life is hard, depending on how you decide to live your life will depend on how you are treated, life is not a fairy story or violence is not a video game, driving fast will kill you, being so pissed you cannot walk is not a mark of manhood, its the mark of a dick head, it allows others to see what they don’t like about you, treat others how you want to be treated, women are not here for your pleasure or your personal punch bag, if you don’t think before you jump or think the world owes you a life or follow lifes simple rules you will end up with no family or friends and die a lonely old man……..Of course I never told him this all in one go but over the years as problems arise, I seem to have done the right thing as he has turned out ok 🙂
    Lying to children about life is ruining their future and giving them a rule that they can sit back and wait for the world to come to them and it doesn’t.

  3. I focused in on Lie #2, since I watch the reality singing shows and have seen the young kids who have no clue that they are not the best of the best as a singer. Out of the many shows, very few of the contestants really make it to stardom. The rest have to work very hard at being a musician or singer to make a living. I really believe that life’s reality comes from mom and dad while they are growing up and going to school – encouraging them to be inquisitive, to embrace every opportunity, to respect deadlines, and to focus in on their special qualities and abilities. Having regular talks with your kids about their own realities in adulthood wouldn’t hurt either.

  4. It truly is a different world from our childhood. The standard formula of good grades + good college degree =good life does not work as well as it once did.

    And yet, I don’t think I can qualify what we tell students as “lies” I think of it more as “hopeful truths” because if we don’t instill hope into our students it will be a bleak world indeed.

  5. Teachers of young people are in a precarious position, balancing motivation and reality, hopes and pipe dreams, myths and truths. I do not envy you these critical decisions, Suzie.

  6. I remember being told that you need to work with people that you don’t get along with; then I got a job and watched how often that happened (never)! I wish you the best of luck with these things, because I know that sometimes what you teach them does come true.

  7. I think the lies about bullying and getting extra time are the most damaging, and are the most dangerous ideas to go into the real world with.

  8. Hey Suzie,
    For a couple of those issues, I cannot say that you are actually lying.

    For point one, it is a reality that people who have a college degree are more likely to get a higher paying job, even if it is not the “dream job”. Not many people with a high school diploma can get a great paying job unless they have a particular talent.

    Point two is not actually a lie either…because you do have to take the appropriate steps to reach any dream. For my husband and I, we actually did achieve what we were told was an “impossible dream” by being completely stubborn, persistent and never giving up…but, we did face some pretty awful circumstances and situations for nearly four or five years before the dream became a reality…and most people wouldn’t have that patience.

    Of course, dreams that require a natural talent (i.e. being a singing sensation, actor or any other job of a similar nature) might be better to instill a bit of caution as well. I think it’s better to hear the reality that show biz is hard to get into and be successful from a teacher rather than hear “Wow, you’re awful!” from those reality judges.

    I’ll agree…points three through five are pretty much lies. I can only hope that parents are doing their part to explain the realities of life. Certainly, I intend to tell my future children that life can be hard or even outright awful at times…it just makes the good times that much sweeter. 😉

  9. All through my school years, we were told that your school records would follow you to every job. I have to believe this was told to students in an effort to get the kids to work harder on their behavior and grades. It certainly worked on me, as I imagined what that report would look like and how it would affect my future!

  10. My parents never told us children that we could do anything that we wanted when we grew up. Many kids seem to think that. Sadly, I learned that I was not a talented dancer because of balance problems. I can do ok but never could be a professional dancer. It might seem a bit harsh. But I am glad that my parents were honest.

  11. As a student, I have heard these affirmations for several years.. I mean “all” of them… A very well written, witty and provoking post. Best regards, Aquileana 😛

  12. What an illuminating post. Life is complex as are the things we teach it seems. I think you touched on something not everyone sees: that the common wisdom of the day isn’t always true or wise. E.g. If you work hard enough, you’ll get what you want. I think there are good principles in these pieces of common wisdom, but you can’t cling to them.

  13. If you want to understand why these lies exist – and why the education system perpetuates them, read Affluenza by Oliver James.

  14. An apt dilemma. The real challenge is passing on the right values to them, especially in the face of internet and TVs’ inane (so-called) kid stuff which glorifies violence.

  15. Interesting blog of you. This well-paid-job-thing puzzled me. It is true that with good grades at school and university you have got increased chances in the labour market. In Germany we increasingly see that even alumni with A degrees to part time work; Randstad-like time work and / or have got labour contracts limited to one year “without stated reason”: And it is not unusual that not only during studies but even after, alumni do internships only which are not paid at all or the paypacket is quite measly.

    This is in no way a reason not to try to achieve – of course not! But labour markets are perverting inside and outside our country.

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