People try to find the easy way to success. They try to win the lottery to be on “Easy Street.” They try to rush through some work, even if it means quality suffers. However, as the old adage goes, “Success only comes before work in the dictionary.”
Unfortunately, every year, teachers catch one or two students who try to take the easy way by cheating. One of my colleagues told me about one of his recent incidents, and the manner in which he handled it made my day.
The Assignment: write 10 original sentences correctly using vocabulary words with context clues. I think it would take the average freshman about 20 minutes to accomplish this. (Perhaps longer if he was texting, tweeting, or watching You Tube videos at the same time.)
As Mr. B. was reading the sentences, he noticed that two papers had the same sentence. Not just any sentence. This one was flawless. It was of such high quality that it stood out like a cat at the Westminster Dog Show. So Mr. B. decided to google the sentence. He found a website that produces sentences when you type in the vocabulary word. Looking more closely at the papers, he noticed that out of the 10 were from this website.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen something like this in my 23 years of teaching. What I love, though, was the way he handled it.
Mr. B only counted the two originally written sentences. When he handed the papers back to the students, he told them they could see him at the end of class to discuss their grades. Of course, one of the cheaters came up to Mr. B.’s desk with fury in his eyes, for he knew the sentences on his paper were as superb as anything on the Internet. He demanded of Mr. B., “Why did you mark these sentences wrong?”
Without missing a beat, Mr. B. replied, “Why do you think they are right?”
The student paused, realizing he couldn’t say, “I copied them from a website.” So, he again demanded, “Why are they wrong?”
Mr. B. didn’t bite. Like Jethro Gibbs on NCIS, he asked again, “Why do you think they are right?” He could see the frustration building through the student’s body language. So, Mr. B. told the young man he would get full credit if he could explain why the sentences were correct. As the young man started to reply with his same question and same angry tone, Mr. B. opened up the window on his computer to his bookmark of the website with the sentences. No more words were needed. The student slinked back to his desk like a puppy that got caught digging up the flowers in the garden.
I do not like to be a “gotcha” teacher. And what I mean is someone who takes off points for using an indigo pen instead of a blue pen, or throws away any paper without a name. But, I do like a good story when someone purposely tries to beat the system and gets caught. Do you have a funny anecdote to share? I would love to read it.