This Teacher Made a Huge Mistake

By Dr. Robert Wallace

December 21, 2019 4 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm 13, and I never want to go to school again. Yesterday we were playing quiz games in social science, and the teacher asked me who was buried in Grant's tomb. All of a sudden, my mind went blank, and I told her I don't know.

My teacher said, "With a little more brains, you'd be a half-wit." The class started laughing at me, and I was so embarrassed I almost cried. After class, the kids were calling me names such as "stupid" and "half-wit." I'm afraid to tell my parents what happened, but I don't want to see that teacher again. What can I do? — Embarrassed Student, via email

EMBARRASSED STUDENT: This proves that teachers are human and sometimes make mistakes, even bad mistakes like this one. In my opinion, your teacher made a huge mistake and was quite insensitive and cruel in her remarks. This teacher owes you an apology, and this apology should be presented to you in front of the class. A teacher should never seek to embarrass or humiliate a student in private, or worse, in front of an entire classroom.

Do tell your parents what happened, and have them talk with the teacher and the school principal to ensure that this unacceptable behavior does not occur again. To me, this mistake was further heightened by the fact that her out-of-bounds comment came after a discussion about something that was not even subject matter that your class was studying. The old "Grant's tomb" line has been around for decades and almost always used as a joke.

Teachers are paid to inspire, not to intentionally inflict emotional pain. I hope your teacher can see this and that she and the school's administration correct this situation immediately so that it does not happen again.


DR. WALLACE: I'm a 13-year-old girl and have a 17-year-old sister who has done things that caused my parents to distrust her. She is currently trying to regain their trust she lost.

My parents go on many business trips together. While they are gone, my sister disobeys them and tells me to "cover for her" when my parents come home. Last night, my sister went to a party that she wasn't supposed to go to. It bothers me when I have to lie to my parents, but my sister really trusts me and expects me to do this for her. What you suggest I do? I really don't like getting caught in the middle of a situation that has nothing to do with me. Oh, and for the record, I behave pretty well myself and have never asked either my brother or my sister to lie for me. — Uncomfortable Sibling, via email

UNCOMFORTABLE SIBLING: You should absolutely not lie to your parents to cover for your sister. Doing so makes you untrustworthy and harms your character. Only you can protect your character and your reputation via your actions. Do not lie. Tell your sister that you've thought about it and are ashamed you have deceived your parents.

Tell her that starting right now, you will no longer be put in a position where you lie to your parents just because she wants you to! Make sure your sister knows you are 100% serious. From there, it's on your sister to behave. If she continues the behavior your parents disapprove of, she will be on her own to explain herself.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Wokandapix at Pixabay

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