Welcome to The Educator's Room advice column for teachers! Today we're helping a teacher who is desperate to quit the club she runs. We're also helping a teacher who's a student is lying pathologically. See what our writers have to say, then share your own advice in the comments! You can read a couple of our previous editions of Ask The Educator's Room here and here.
Dear The Educator’s Room,
Can I stop sponsoring a club I was (sort of) hired to sponsor? It’s a DISASTER. The kids don’t lead, so it’s tons of work for me. The kids are super disrespectful of me and my classroom, and one particularly annoying kid has caused all the decent kids to quit.
Plus, I have other outside-of-contracted-hours responsibilities, which keep me after school regularly.
But this one club seems to matter to people. It was mentioned at each round of interviews when I was hired. I don’t think my principal cares one way or another, but APs keep talking to me about it in the hallway, other teachers ask about it, etc.
Do I have to keep this one club running? (via Reddit)
Ready to Quit
There are a few things to consider. First, despite mentioning the club during your interview process, if the club isn’t explicitly listed as a job duty in your contract, you should be able to end your involvement without impacting your employment.
However, you can view this as an opportunity. Teachers and staff at the school value the idea of the club and its past glory days, and it could be meaningful to students again. Instead of recreating its past, perhaps it’s an opportunity to build something new using the same principles.
The club should be student-led, which needs to be a participation requirement. Start simple, and ask each student to prepare a skills showcase. You can provide parameters, but students will teach one another a skill. It could be how to reach a certain level in a video game, accessorizing the perfect outfit for school, or whatever sparks their interest.
This first step to developing a student-led experience can build on itself, and soon the ideas for future activities will come from the aspiring leaders of the group. It’s an opportunity to showcase your talent as an educator and gain a positive reputation with your peers.
I also have experience leading a club where I did most of the heavy lifting. It seemed like if I didn’t do everything, nothing would get done, and then students would blame me for it!
However, I stuck it out through some awkward years, and now the club is, while not thriving, at least more productive and positive. One thing I did was bring in another colleague to join me and take the pressure off my shoulders. I now have a thought partner and another adult in the room to help me process the work we want to do. We run the Social Equity Club, which is an important part of our school, as yours seems to be, so asking for some help might be a great way to adjust without completely burning out.
You can also have a frank conversation with students and tell them what’s not working and why. You should not have to take disrespect, and, ultimately, clubs are supposed to be student-run – by and for students. If they aren’t going to put in the work or respect you, then the club can’t exist. Period. If they don’t step up, it’s perfectly reasonable to share that with your admin and step aside to protect your sanity.Ask the Educator's Room: What do I do if a student won't stop lying? Click To Tweet
Dear The Educator’s Room,
At what point does a student’s lying become pathological? The student is in high school, no IEP or mental health diagnosis. In their two previous schools (middle school and previous high school), the student had a pattern of repeatedly cheating and lying to their parents, teachers, and admin. When confronted on their lies, even with evidence, the student will double down that their story is correct and that the other person must have misunderstood/lost the student’s work/etc.
The student is new to this school this year. We have tried both the problem-solving approach with teachers and a school counselor, as well as the punitive approach with an administrator. The student’s parents are as much at their wits’ end as we are. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and have never had a student this persistent with sticking to their story and with trying to manipulate literally every situation that they are in. We are all exhausted from it, and I don’t know where to go from here. (via TER's Facebook)
Desperate for Honesty
Pathological lying is different from the occasional lie that benefits the fibber. We’ve all seen students lie to spare themselves embarrassment or avoid a task that feels impossible to complete. These are the occasional lies about missing homework or hurtful comments on the playground.
Pathological liars gain no real advantage through their lies. The lying student sticks to their fabrication even when discredited. Often, pathological lying is a compulsion and a sign of an underlying mental health condition.
This student should be under the care of a therapist. A punitive response is never effective with pathological liars, just as punishing someone with OCD for excessive hand washing can’t change the behavior.
The parents are also looking for an answer and might be receptive to regular therapy. Working with the school district to ensure affordable access to mental health support is the best way to address this child’s pathological lying.
In the meantime, viewing it through the lens of a mental health condition as opposed to a behavioral issue allows his teachers and parents to respond with greater patience, compassion, and optimism. This student can overcome their pathological lying. Properly addressing it is the key to a successful outcome.
As educators know, students’ behaviors always have an underlying cause, stressor, or catalyst.
It sounds like the whole team is already involved (parents, teachers, counselors, admin), but I’d first want to ensure the student is physically and psychologically safe.
Based on this student's pattern of lying across environments, it seems clear they need mental health support. Pathological lying can be a sign of many underlying mental health conditions, including anxiety, narcissistic personality disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Even if one of those is not present, it’s clear that they need some tools to learn how to do things differently in order to be successful both in school and the broader world.
There are many school resources, including school psychologists and IEP case managers, to get them connected to what they need, including evaluation and accommodations. Hopefully, the parents are open to exploring the best ways to support their child and can lean into the options schools can provide.
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