Thursday’s Thoughts on Moths and Teaching Teenagers

It started around 4.  I was awakened by the sound of soft, rather indescribable thuds against my bedrooms windows.  Half asleep, at first I thought it was rain, opened my eyes, saw stars staring at me.  Floating in and out of sleep, my mind puzzled as the thuds increased making it impossible to return to comfortable sleep.  Finally, awake, I swung my feet around from under the covers, pushed sandals on, walked to the French doors, and turned on the outside light.  Horrified, I watched thousands of dark brown, one inch moths flying around, hitting the windows, dropping to the patio floor, rising again, over and over.  I shut off the light, went back to bed, drifted into a troubled slumber, and experienced one of those ludicrous dreams only half remembered–people I know and do not know all mixed together in impossible situations.  At 5:19, I gave up on any hopes of sleep, climbed out of bed again, and began the early morning ritual of preparing to go to work.

When I arrived at work, a note lay on my desk from yesterday’s substitute teacher.  It indicated that all classes but one, the last one, behaved ok and completed the assigned work.  However, it specifically stated that a number of the males in the last class took papers from previous classes and copied them, never even opening the book to attempt pretending to read the assigned story. Did they think he would not notice?  Did they think at all? Were they like the moths, flying mindlessly, not caring about the outcome?

When that class arrived, I read them the note.  Some denied it, some said nothing.  The females, absent on a field trip, were blamed for “ratting us out”.  It seemed they did not realize this was a sort of confession.  How any of them think I will not know about their transgressions mystifies me.  Repeatedly this year, I caught them plagiarizing, lying, and various other forms of cheating, not everyone of course but sometimes half.  I find it increasingly disturbing how many students find this sort of behavior acceptable.  What do their parents teach them?  Where do they get that “wrong” behavior is fine as long as you do not get caught?  Do they even think it is wrong?  Most admit it is thankfully, but why keep engaging in wrong behavior?  Somehow I keep hoping they will learn from these experiences, but other times I really wonder.  What can I do to help them realize just how wrong cheating is, how it is a form of stealing?  In the end, perhaps, I can only hope that the life lesson mentioned in the words of one student solves the problem:  “Karma’s a bitch.”

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