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The behaviour question

My students have a serious problem with lying. They claim they have handed in their books and pretend that I have lost them, then the books magically appear a few days later - this has happened about half a dozen times. They plagiarise their homework and lie about it, saying that it is all their own work even after I tell them the website they copied it from. Today my class got their tests back, and they were so desperate to improve their grades (which were fine, but they are perfectionists) that they erased their incorrect answers, wrote the correct ones and said my marking was wrong. It is getting ridiculous. I have no trust in these children any more. Is this normal or do I just have particularly dishonest students? My school is private and partially boarding with a house system and a strong emphasis on pastoral support. Relationships in general between students and staff are good. The line of the school (from the senior management team) is that students are honest. From what I have seen so far, that seems to be untrue.

What you said


With my current class, I have worked quite hard to get it into their heads that lying to me is detrimental to their happiness. If I find out that they have lied, the initial punishment doubles automatically. If they own up to having done something stupid straight away and don't make me play detective and ask millions of questions, I am much, much more lenient.

The expert view

Sanctions. Every time someone lies to you, express your displeasure with some kind of punishment, especially if you have evidence to back up your claim. Lying to a teacher is a terrible thing to do, because of the trust issues you mention and also because we have a duty to model good character for students. That said, also make sure they know it's OK to make a mistake sometimes, in case they're so panicky about producing great homework that they resort to plagiarism. I've had students who did this because they wanted approval, so erase that small possibility. That said, it's usually laziness, not fear of dishonour that motivates lying. If they realise dishonesty will earn them an instant sanction then they will be deterred in future. And always praise them for doing the right thing.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru. Read more from Tom on his TES Connect blog or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. Watch his behaviour videos at www.tesconnect.combehaviourvideos

Post your questions at www.tesconnect.combehaviour

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