The best thing about working with kids is that they’ll believe anything you say. To children, anybody over 5 years older than them is an adult. Somebody to be trusted. Somebody who tells no lies.
I love a good lie. Something I can really sink my teeth into. Literally. The first time I lied to the children, I said I’d eaten another child.
One student had left the school to go to America. I explained that he wasn’t in America, he was in my belly. I’d eaten him.
At this point in the lie, the reaction is different based on the child. Some automatically believe it to be true. Some want more details (“What part of him did you eat first?”) Some shout out loud that I’m a liar. Then they say that they’re going to call the police and I’m going to go to prison for lying. Everybody laughs aloud.
(Tip: Don’t ever tell children that they’re going to prison if they’re bad. This inevitably ends in you explaining prison to them and them not understanding it’s a punishment. When you explain prison to a child it doesn’t seem all that bad. “You get your own bedroom, free food and you don’t have to do any work…but it’s really bad! Honest!” Some of my children are so excited by the thought of prison that they start to chant “PRISON MOVIE! PRISON MOVIE!” whenever I go on YouTube in class.)
Lying to children seems to very rarely end in heartbreak. The children know you’re lying really, but they allow themselves the fun of believing. It opens up their imagination and let’s them believe that fun and amazing things are real.
My greatest lie was that I had a house on the moon. It came to me one day when I was teaching the kids about space. As I drew a diagram on the whiteboard the thought came to me, I smiled mischievously to myself and called over my shoulder. “Oh by the way…did you know I have a house on the moon?”
The children are astonished. Immediately the smarty pants in the class jumps in. “If you have a house on the moon, how come I can’t see it?”
Not smart enough you little poop. I slice back instantly with my reply, “Because the moon is so far away that it’s impossible to see my house from here.”
“I think you’re lying, how do you get to the moon?” “I have a rocket, duh!” “Where’s your rocket? I see you every day walking into school.” “My rocket is nearby, behind the supermarket. I walk from there.”
On and on the questions come, but with each question I have an answer. The smarty pants and her classmates fall into my trap. They only help to reinforce my lie by adding to its reality. Soon enough half of the class believe me. I do have a house on the moon.
One child is so astonished that he simply thinks it’s too good to be true. Little Tim raises his hand. “Daniel teacher, do you really have a house on the moon?” He doesn’t seem to realise that if I’ve lied about the moon, I can just lie again. Which is what I do.
“Of course I have a house on the moon, Tim!”
Over a period of months the lie grew like a snowball rolling downhill. There’s a slight kick of euphoria when a child believes some terrible lie you’ve told them. It feels like you’ve outwitted somebody, even if it is somebody who has trouble with their three times table.
Soon enough, I had explained that my house had a swimming pool for when I get hot and oxygen tanks to help me breath. Tim – with hope in his eyes – started to ask if he could come with me one day.
“Sorry, Tim. My rocket only has room for one.”
It’s about then that I feared my lie might get away from me. To begin with it was something fun for the kids, something to open their imagination. Now though there was expectation. The more real the lie became, the more the children wanted to believe. I started to realise that some of these kids actually might trust me. Me. Why the heck would anybody trust me?!
Worse, because some of them were so excited by the lie, I thought they might get upset if they found out the reality. I decided to lay off on the moon lies for a while.
Unfortunately, the kids wouldn’t let me. They would keep coming back with more questions.
Smarty pants wanted so badly to beat me into submission. “What about food, how do you get food on the moon?” “I buy it here and take it in my rocket.” “Oh but you said your rocket only has room for one??” “Well…er….there’s only one seat but also room for my shopping.”
Tim turned to me and said, “If I sit in a box can you take me to the moon then? That’s ok? Right?”
My lies started to unravel, I had made them all too elaborate and I’d started to contradict myself. Some of the children started to demand proof from me. Photographs. I agreed and said I’d bring a photo in. Naively, I thought they’d forget about it.
Children never forget though. Each morning I’d come into work and the first thing I’d hear would be “Daniel teacher, moon picture!” Each day I’d come up with a weak excuse until I’d lost all respect from the students. Most no longer believed. There was no more trust. Now they were out for my blood. Almost all of them started to call me a liar. I had somehow become That Kid.
That Kid exists at almost every school, I’m sure. It’s the kid that makes up lots of outlandish lies in order to sound cool or to impress his classmates. Usually That Kid is the first one to realise that you can lie without any real repercussions and that other stupider kids will believe your lies. That Kid also usually gets lost in the power of his own lies until the tide turns and every child in school decides he’s a stinking bullshitter.
That Kid was me. Except I wasn’t a kid. I was the teacher. I didn’t want to be That Kid. That Kid is a sniveling little turd. The only escape, I realised, was to continue with my lie, somehow get them believing again. So I did the only thing a man can do. I turned to Photoshop.
Or rather, I turned to people on the internet to use Photoshop for me. I needed proof that I lived on the moon after all.
A kind gentleman pasted me into a spacesuit and put me onto the moon. I took the photo into school and showed the kids. The reaction, as usual was different for each child. But a child is not easily fooled and soon enough the conclusion was that I’d used a computer to put myself on the moon.
I denied it. Better to leave that little shadow of doubt in their minds. That tiny possibility that it might be true. Then they can keep on dreaming a little. Keep on enjoying it.
After looking at the picture, Tim looked at me, he said “I think you used a computer, teacher!” I expected disappointment, but he instead seemed happy. He still enjoyed the idea of my house on the moon, even if it wasn’t real.
The next week he walked over to me during lunchtime, waved me down so he could whisper in my ear.
“Daniel Teacher, tell me. Do you really have a house on the moon?”