Classroom Cheating Mirrors Real Life

Student thanks teacher

Thank You card from a student

Recently, a group of students were caught cheating in my classroom. Definitely one of the saddest and most disappointing days of this school year. I couldn’t believe it. I was so upset. I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t look them in the eye. It’s not as if they didn’t know how I felt about lying and cheating. By the end of the week, I was still fuming inside until I got home today and started talking to a few teachers.

Read what I learned. If you’re a parent, tell me what you would do. If you’re a teacher, what would you do or what have you done?

Bobby’s* Punishment

I asked Bobby* if he had told his parents about his cheating. He said he told them and they gave him a lecture. I asked if they punished him with no phone or going out or something. He said no.

That’s all! No punishment, no consequence for his cheating. I was shocked. I thought he should have been punished for cheating. A lecture isn’t a punishment.

My teacher friends weren’t shocked at all. They reminded me how I had been the one urging this student and the others to be better in an environment that measures success based on material wealth not moral values. Integrity, character and honesty were no longer on the top of their priorities. It was more important to play basketball in the morning than to study for a test. These were the same group of kids who I had praised earlier this year. Did I jinx myself? Was I fooled by them?

The scariest part came when I asked Bobby* if this bothered him at all. He said, “Yeah. But what can I do about it?”

Really? What can he do about it? I’m thinking his parents should have been helping him figure this out. Some parental guidance would be great right about now.

According to Bobby* it only bothers him when he thinks about it. His facial expression left me cold inside. He reminded me of a former student who could look you in the eye after doing something horrible and not think twice about it afterward. Time to say bye, bye, Bobby*!

Some of the kids apologized the day after they were caught. But sometimes saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Should I have accepted their apology? Were they sorry they cheated or sorry they got caught? They were given enough time to fix their mistakes but they stayed quiet.

Students appreciate Nathasha Alvarez

Are the words from these students sincere?

Another *Bobby has a bit of a reputation for not leading an honest life. But, I didn’t think I would experience this type of behavior from him. My friends said that was my mistake in trusting him. Past actions dictate future behavior. I should have seen it coming. Shame on me for being optimistic. Shame on me for thinking that these students wouldn’t turn out like today’s adults. Shame on me for putting in extra time in the morning, after school, and during lunch to help them.

Blame Game

But are the kids to blame?

In our society, people look the other way or give excuses for bad behavior. Are the students merely mirroring the actions they  see at home, in the media, or at school?

Students go on vacation and come back with a tan and a note from their parents excusing their little Bobby’s* absence because he was “sick”. The kids know it’s a lie and the parents want us to accept it.

Some parents actually fill out a free and reduced lunch form at the beginning of the year even though they can afford botox, manicures, pedicures, gym membership and fancy cars.

Parents aren’t the only guilty ones. Our school gives out “Certificate of Participation” to every child in the school. Supposedly, we are to celebrate that the student went to school! We wouldn’t want to make a child feel left out for not receiving an award like the ones the other students who did achieve something this school year received. This is a waste of paper and sends the wrong message to the child.

Message: Do nothing and get rewarded.

But it gets better! Supposedly, parents can attend the 15 minute award ceremony and sign the child out of school for the rest of the day as an EXCUSED absence to celebrate that the child went to school. What message are we giving the students here?

Sticking Out Like  Sore Thumb

Solution? I don’t know. My friend asked me to write down what I expected from these cheating Bobbys. I expected them to not cheat.

I was recently told that I should give up because nothing will ever change. But I can’t. As long as I am teaching, I expect students to be in school learning. I expect the parents to foster a learning environment at home. I expect the administration to ensure that the entire school is still functioning as an educational institution until the last day of school. I expect those in higher up positions to send the message to our community that education is important not just passing a ridiculously flawed state test. I expect our community to value integrity, honesty, and character. Am I expecting too much?

What’s your take on this?

*Bobby is a fictional name. Bobby represents several of my students who cheated because after speaking to them, their answers were similar. This saves time  having to make up new names for each cheater.

  • Jo Wood

    BINGO! You said it all. No consequences these days for children. It is a gimme world. Everyone knows the child is going to pass on to the next grade. Our system is set up for “no failure” the county has to look good. You are beating yourself to death. No support at home, no support at school and coworkers tell you to choose your battles. They used to be all my battles…..because I wanted a well rounded, honest, hardworking student. I’m sorry after 35.5 years in this system……I only see it continuing the same and I am retiring.

    Rules not to have cell phones use in classrooms. We are suppose to take the phone, log in the book and parents comes to pick up the phone. Wrong…..the child beats me to the office to get the phone, I am called where is the phone….when I turn it in…the child has the phone before I leave school. Support? Where?

    We need teachers like you who care. But you will wear yourself out! Maybe just one child will get it and make your heart sing.

  • Dee

    I laughed and cried along with the teacher that wrote this as I read it.
    I currently work in Asia as a teacher and the issues with cheating and a ‘no fail’ policy are alive and well here too. In fact cheating actually seems to be encouraged by the local teachers. Its all about passing the exams and getting into the best university, no matter what, and then cheating and plagiarism are ignored there too. Its a huge problem and I cannot see a way to change it on a global scale so I am trying the one student at a time approach. I now run a class at the start of each school year that deals with the issues of cheating and plagiarism in an attempt to make the students see how they are actually cheating themselves by cheating. Have I seen any monumental changes in behavior? No, but there have been changes in a few students and at times I have heard students discussing the topic outside the classroom.
    I think society does set the example for these children and we see daily news reports that hail men of business as great hero’s and when we dig just a little deeper we discover their cheating ways. find out how many have been injured, both physically and financially, all in the name of corporate expansion/development, keeping the shareholder happy etc.
    I know I will never see a global change (too old and not enough years left to teach to see any major change) but I love my job and there are huge rewards in being a teacher and so I’ll just stick by my one child at a time policy in the hopes that I might make a difference to one or two.

    • http://www.audaciouslady.com Nathasha Alvarez

      Dee, I say I’m going to do the one pupil at a time but then take on too many of them. It’s ok. I will give until I can’t give anymore. Two years later and the cheating is more accepted than before. Too sad.