Cheating, Stealing

The story that follows keeps running through my mind, disturbing my inner peace.  It occurred several weeks ago while I worked.  As a teacher I take plagiarism seriously.  Repeatedly, I explain that it is cheating and ultimately a form of stealing.  Yes, stealing.  When students cheat, copy another’s work whether from some famous author or from the student by them, they are stealing from that person, and in reality cheating themselves, cheating themselves from learning what may have proven to be valuable information or a needed skill later in life.

Several weeks ago, a former, talented student asked to observe my classes as part of his assignment from a college class.  He sat in on a couple of classes, many of the students already knew him, and I explained his purpose in being there.  At the end of the day, while we chatted about the past and his excellent grades when he attended my English class, he informed me that he frequently writes not only his own papers but also the papers for another student, who was also a former student and perfectly able to write decent papers himself.  He told me that the student for whom he writes these papers pays him either with money or beer.  Too astonished to adequately respond, I kept silent.   However, this continues to haunt me, not only because my opinion of the student plummeted but also because he plans to be a coach and teacher himself.  Will he later realize the unacceptability of his behavior, how unethical and immoral?  Will he change when he becomes a teacher himself?

I also remain unhappy with myself for not saying something to him immediately.  My shock really is not an excuse.  I now promise myself that if I do see him again soon, I will definitely explain my dismay and sadness with his story.  I also wonder why he told me?  Regardless, I worry for the future if this is the type of person who will replace current teachers.  I also wonder how many current teachers find this sort of behavior normal, acceptable.

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.”