January 18, 2008

Another Cheater Story

The longest quarter EVER is finally over. I've been drowning in student writing since last Friday, and I swear I've read about 600 pieces of writing in the last week. I'm thinking the last 200 pieces or so were more like glances.

If only my students truly understood the power of a good lead...Those good leads keep me going!

I did catch an instance of plagiarism yesterday, though. It was a strange situation that had me irritated and befuddle. One of my little darlings turned in a wonderful project (see 3rd paragraph for the project description) where he met the requirements of the assignments--no, not just met--he produced a very insightful book of writing. Students were required to submit the 10 pieces of writing, and 4 of those pieces were evaluated critically with a rubric. He had all the required writing, plus he included some poetry he'd written. I had just written on the rubric how much I enjoyed his voice when I thumbed to the end of the book where I found 6 pages of obviously plagiarized material from a website. Cut and paste, baby!

It was so odd because he met the requirements of the assignment and even added his own touch by including some person poetry. Why tack on extra pages of crap? Was it a mistake? No, it was listed in his table of contents. The student is a renegade who enjoys pushing the limits. Was this a test for me to see if I was really going to read the whole book or just the pieces he indicated that he wanted evaluated? It had to be the latter. He's the kind of kid who likes to take me for a fool as often as he can. I'm over 30; it's what he does.

So, what the heck do I do? How often do you have a student who cheats and meets criteria outside of the cheating bit? It's a new one for me. I consulted my supervisor, who lucky for the kid, is new to our school and didn't know him, and she suggested that I accept the work but notify his parents.

When I called the student over today, he first claimed that he wrote it, but he backed down quite quickly when I asked him if he wrote for the website from where I found his writing. Come to find out, he thought he didn't have enough pieces of writing, so in desperation he plagiarized. (And don't tell me he didn't think I wouldn't notice since it was tucked away in the back.)

Of course, when this happens, I am so angry and exasperated with the student I'd just as soon feed them to a dragon than talk to them. I bit the bullet and had a pretty good heart-to-heart with this kid about how he actually had a great project but he ruined it by tacking on the other stuff.

I didn't think he would take my words to heart, but I suggested that, although he is a rebel, he might consider that other people's opinions about him do matter. There might be a time in his life when it's important for him to know that people trust him and can take him at his word.

The dagger to the heart--spoken honestly--is when I say, "I can forgive you, but won't forget. I'll have a hard time trusting you after this."

If they flinch when I deliver the coup de grace, I know there's a mature human underneath that teenager. There's hope.

If only my students knew the power of integrity...and starting their writing with a good lead...

Wouldn't my life be easy?

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