'It's harmless': Teacher defends using lies to connect with students

The woman questioned how ethical her partner's tactic was.
The woman questioned how ethical her partner's tactic was. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Teaching kids is a difficult job, and there's no doubt it is hard to build a rapport with teenage students.

But one woman is unsure whether her teacher husband's technique to connect with kids is acceptable or completely unethical. You see, he likes to tell the odd white lie.

Writing into The Slate's advice column, the woman explained the situation, saying her partner is "known for establishing a rapport with 'difficult' students and advocating for BIPOC and LGBTQ kids."

"When he answered a call from a parent one evening, I overheard him talking about his sister," she said. "I confronted him about this after he got off the phone, because he does not actually have a sister."

Her husband told her that he uses imaginary siblings, cousins, and other family members to connect with his students.

The woman said her partner is known for establishing a rapport with 'difficult' students.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

"I told him this was bizarre, probably unethical, and that I wouldn't participate in these lies if asked a direct question by one of his students or fellow teachers," she said, saying she thinks lying puts his entire career at risk.

"He says they're harmless and unlikely to be discovered," she said hesitantly, admitting that she "finds the whole situation baffling".

Katie Holbrook, a high school teacher responded saying while it's not necessarily unethical, but he is risking losing credibility with his students, who obviously trust him.


"'Difficult' students are often 'difficult' because of trauma induced by the adults in their lives, which makes it harder for them to put their faith in teachers," she explained.

"More generally, middle schoolers entering adolescence naturally become increasingly sceptical of adults. Educators admonish kids to be honest, and so students may view your partner's fibs as evidence of hypocrisy."

Holbrook continued advising the woman to let her partner decide whether he should continue to tell stories about imaginary sisters.

"Of course, you are under no obligation to affirm his stories if you do meet a student or colleague who asks about them," she assured the woman. "They are his fibs, so he alone is responsible for any fallout."