Who would have thought that a blog I wrote in excitement, in all innocence and enthusiasm turned out to be a little bit controversial?
Imagine my surprise when, on checking my phone one lunchtime, I found a string of Twitter notifications discussing whether my actions during our work on aliens were ethical. Sadly, by the time I read them, the brief debate was over, but the conversation can be found here.
I didn’t have the opportunity to defend my actions, so I am going to do so here. For those who haven’t seen the tweet from Andrew Old, he was asking why I felt it necessary to lie to my children about aliens being seen on the school playground. A fair point, and I completely respect his views on this. And, if it’s any consolation, I did weigh up the pros and cons of whether I should tell my children that aliens have invaded or not. But, I know my children well. I know that they were mature enough (being Year 4) to deal with the excitement, for the vast majority of them to work out during the course of the day that this was a hoax, and to accept the reasons why I lied when I came clean and told them the truth. For me, the benefits of the day far outweighed the naughtiness of bending the truth:
- Every child, every single child, was engaged, enthused and excited throughout the whole day;
- They were motivated and wrote brilliant letters to their parents, warning them of imminent invasions (some of the parents came to see me to say how impressed they were with the letters when they were sent home);
- It was an amazing launchpad for our week of animation work;
- The children produced animations which they were incredibly proud of;
- It was clearly an experience that the children will never forget.
We made sure to tell the children not to discuss what we had been talking about on the playground with other children – no, we didn’t tell them to lie to anyone, but they don’t normally go out at break time and discuss their literacy with their brothers and sisters, so we just said to make sure they did the same with our alien work. Any children who were a little unsure (and there were only 2 in a year group of 60) were brought “in on the act” from the beginning, and so helped to engage their peers. They were all told at the end of the day that aliens hadn’t been seen, and they were fascinated to know how the invasion footage was made. Many even went home and filmed their own.
So was I wrong to lie to them? Maybe I was. But how many other teachers have done the same? When I was on my teaching practise many years ago, we were fortunate enough to have a small wood at the end of the field where we would take the children on a bear hunt – they had been led to believe that bears had been sighted there. My 6 year old son comes home from school having received letters and phone calls from various fairy tale characters. Apparently his teachers’ mobile phones have contact details for Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Jack (minus his beanstalk) and various wolves and bears. MNQTH often used to dress up in random fairy tale character costumes and hide in the woods for his children to track him down (admittedly, in black and white, that really doesn’t sound good, but it was all legal and above board, I promise). All of these are examples where teachers deliberately mislead their children. We do it all the time. My children, being that bit older, would have laughed at Little Red Riding Hood being sighted in the school, so I opted for something a little more grown up. Does that make it wrong? I don’t know, I guess that depends on your moral viewpoint. But from my point of view, I think it was worthwhile. I think children need opportunities to explore and to be creative, and that’s not always possible when things are based in reality. The feedback I got from parents has been fantastic, and what’s more, I received no complaints from either children or parents.
Would I do it again? Without a shadow of a doubt. Provided, or course, the children were right for it.