Caught Cheating

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 NCIShe 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.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Image via Wikipedia

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.


Filed under Education, Humor, Learning

4 responses to “Caught Cheating

  1. becomingjennie

    What a great blog! I had a very unfortunate experience with a classmate cheating, this time last year now that I think of it. In my Biology class, we were required to do these assignments on a site called CPR (calibrated peer review). It was great if you looked at it in terms of studying, or learning, and probably still great for some of those students who cheated.

    We were asked to write a scientific paper, it didn’t have to be more than 500 words, so it wasn’t a large task by any means. Then, once we enter it into to CPR, we had to learn specific material and use it grade three other papers. I was finishing mine in class and the final paper I was given to grade read like something out of PLoS Biology, but on crack. I copied and pasted the first three sentences into my google finder and it took me directly to the exact same article on some google scholar site. So instead of showing the teacher, I showed two of my fellow students, stunned that someone hadn’t even taken the time to pepper the paper with words of his own. At this time, we were working in lab groups of four, and being that I had two of my group mates gathered around my laptop, the professor came over to see what was up.

    I showed him the paper and asked him what to do, because I still couldn’t believe that someone actually cheated like this. He said give them a zero and walked away, right as the third group member came to see what was going on. He looked at my computer and said, “Oh, that’s my paper.”


    I said, “Why in God’s name did you cheat? This isn’t even close to your own work?” – mind you, the guy had said he wanted to be a microbiologist, so this silly thing should have been no issue. He said, “These CPR things, I don’t care about this stuff, only the tests.” Needless to say, after he found out I gave him a zero post-teacher advice asking session, he felt it necessary to pull me out of class and tell me I was going to ruin his college career and that this would cause huge problems for him. I told him to do his own work and he wouldn’t have to worry. Such a bummer.

    And I felt bad about it all too. Like I had done something wrong. I’d like to say, “fuckin’ kids,” but the guy was 40.

  2. Thank you for sharing the story. I am sad to say I have seen it with adults (teachers) also. I like the idea of the Calibrated Peer Review. It can really be beneficial and a great way to help one another. I use peer editing in class, but it only works as well as the editors. I look forward to reading more about your college experiences.

  3. Anonymous

    I am incredibly honored that you compared me to Jethro Gibbs.

    – Mr. B

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