17 Biggest Lies Teachers Always Tell Parents
This is what teachers really think about their students.
Most teachers will do whatever it takes to ensure that each of their students excels academically. However, no matter how hard they try, there are still some failing or misbehaving pupils in the bunch. And when it comes to breaking the news to parents, even educators have been known to gloss over the more troubling issues. Yes, teachers lie—not maliciously, but to avoid conflict, hurting children’s feelings, or disappointing parents. So, if your child is currently in school, then be on the look out for the biggest lies teachers tell parents.
“Your child is so smart.”
Teachers don’t actually believe that every single student in their class is destined for Yale or Harvard—and yet, they are more likely to lie about a pupil’s intelligence than they are to admit the truth, according to one retired kindergarten teacher from New York City, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Parents only want to hear positive comments about their children,” the teacher notes. So, to avoid conflict, educators will often tell parents that their kids are “so smart” and let them figure out the truth when report cards come out.
“Your child has so much potential. They just need to apply themselves.”
According to the former kindergarten teacher, educators often attempt to find the silver lining in a bad situation. And if they can’t, they pretend that there is one. For those children who can only seem to pull low grades, for example, a teacher will sometimes lie to parents by telling them that their child has so much potential—even when, in the teacher’s eyes, they might not.
“All that matters is that they gave it their all.”
If you ever see a note about how hard your child is working despite their C’s and D’s, just know that their teacher is attempting to sugarcoat the bad news in the best way that they can.
“When you write comments on report cards complimenting the students on their hard work, you aren’t highlighting the real troubles that they are encountering in their studies,” says the former kindergarten teacher. “Instead, you are lying to their parents, telling them that, despite their child’s bad grades that semester, that the student at least tried really hard. And that isn’t always the truth.”
“There is still time for your child to get a better grade.”
Sometimes, when your child isn’t performing well, they still have a chance to improve their grade by the end of the semester. Other times, though, a grade is all but set in stone—and in these situations, teachers will typically lie to parents to put a more positive spin on a bad situation.
“The reality is this: If I’m telling you your kid can still get a D, it means they have a hard F, and most kids that have a hard F aren’t going to pull it up to D,” Dave Consiglio, a chemistry and physics teacher in Michigan, wrote on Quora. “In fact, the best predictor of next term’s grades are last term’s grades.”
“Your child is all caught up with their homework.”
Yes, teachers will say anything to avoid conflict with their students’ parents—even if it means lying right to their face, according to Emily Morrison, a high school English teacher in Bucksport, Maine.
“When you’re new to teaching, every conversation you have with a parent is nerve-racking. Even veteran teachers can get raddled by parents who seem especially aggressive, protective, or crazy on their child’s behalf,” she says. “Taking the path of least resistance, teachers tend to placate these parents. When asked, ‘Is Bobby all caught up now?’ they respond, ‘Oh, yes. Pretty much.’ In truth, Bobby’s three tests behind, and you’ve forgotten what his handwriting looks like.”
“Yes, your child is doing great!”
“Teachers believe the best way to handle a bad situation is to become a spin doctor,” says Morrison. “After all, if you tell the parent something positive about their kid, won’t students thank you by doing X, Y, and Z inside the classroom? The short answer is: No.”
Morrison says this kind of fib can end up backfiring in the classroom. “Pretending like everything is going great doesn’t make kids feel indebted—it makes them feel entitled,” she explains. “What’s worse, their parents are under the impression that you have everything under control, which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“This will go on their permanent record.”
Teachers and school officials might threaten to put your child’s bad behavior on official school records—but as the former New York kindergarten teacher admits, there is no “permanent record.” Typically teachers will only say this to parents to better ensure that a child’s behavior does not get any worse in the classroom.
“Your child had a great day today.”
Many teachers feel obligated to tell this lie when it comes to their problem children in the classroom. According to Allie Shawe, a teacher and writer, that’s because these parent already have to deal with the stress of their child’s tantrums and outbursts on the daily, and the last thing they need to worry about is their kid wreaking havoc at school.
“They are both so tired of having this conversation and nothing ever changing,” writes Shawe, referring to both parents and teachers, on the website Education. “So sometimes, just to change it up, the teacher says, ‘She had a great day today'”—no matter how false that is.
“No, they never do that in class.”
Sometimes students do especially embarrassing things in class, like pick at their “swimsuit area” and explore the gooey contents of their nose with alarming vigor. And, occasionally, to shield parents from the more awkward habits of their children, teachers will feign ignorance when parents ask if their child engages in a number of nasty habits in the classroom. After all, who really wants to discuss the complexities of butt scratching with a parent?
“I don’t have a favorite student.”
Of course, every teacher has a unique personality that meshes better with some students than with others. It’s only natural. However, if a parent were ever to ask their child’s teacher whether they played favorites, they would be met with adamant denial.
“Just like you don’t like every single person you work with, it is impossible for every single teacher to like every single student,” Shawe notes. “That said, a good teacher does a good job pretending.”
“Your child is very special.”
Teachers do their best to make sure every student and their parents knows they’re unique—even it means lying to them about just how “special” that student is.
“Your kid is a natural athlete.”
The reality is, your kid might not be able to run a lap without bursting into tears. But no teacher in their right mind would say that to a prideful parent.
“Standardized testing works.”
“There are so many iterations on this lie,” writes Shawe. “In most cases, teachers do not get to choose what to teach. It is chosen by their building or district administration. We are told that we must teach the curriculum, or to the standards, or to the test, etc. And while this gives teachers a guide and a way to create equity from class to class, it can also be very limiting.”
So, in short: Teachers are essentially forced to tell you that standardized testing is the best way to discover your child’s true academic ability—even if they don’t believe that’s true.
“They can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.”
Though students are taught that they can be “whatever they want to be” when they’re older, teachers usually have a pretty good idea of what career paths are actually plausible for most students. Your child might want to be a mathematician—and their teacher might even tell you that they can be one one day. But if your kid is failing algebra and cries every time they have to do math homework, then maybe it’s time to re-think their future career.
“Yes, I remember your child!”
Let’s face it: The average teacher will see hundreds or even thousands of students in their lifetime, so the odds of them remembering every single pupil—let alone their parents!—are slim. However, if you approach one of your child’s old teachers in the grocery store or at the mall, you can bet that they are going to pretend that they remember your Johnny from 10 years ago. It’s easier—and more polite—than admitting that they have no recollection of your son or daughter whatsoever.
“I love my job.”
Sure, there are days when being a teacher is truly rewarding, but as Shawe points out, teachers can still feel the pressures of their job like anyone else. “[T]eachers are human,” she writes. “And nobody has a good day every day. So, while I may love my job sometimes, there are days I want to quit, drink a bottle of wine, cry on the phone to my mom, or go to bed at 5:30 p.m.” However, it should go without saying that a teacher will never truly disclose these intimate feelings to a student’s parent.
“Everything is fine!”
You probably grew up hearing that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Well, teachers lie by omission by doing the same thing.
“Hoping a student who hasn’t done her homework in weeks or spoken respectfully all year will experience a dramatic change in their words, actions, or behavior is like putting all your money on one roll of the die,” says Morrison. “This approach to communicating with parents does not pay off. Why? Because no communication is not communication. Though it’s difficult to call home or meet with parents when we feel ‘a big change’ is needed, failing to inform parents will cause even bigger problems down the road.” And for ways to show teachers just how much they mean to you, check out these 20 Teacher Appreciation Gifts That Are a Total A+.
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