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.

A Teacher Learns from Her Students

Nathasha Alvarez Some teachers are counting down the number of days until summer vacation. I’m counting the number of days I have to continue educating these 7th graders. I don’t usually do that.

But I thought there was something about these kids that I liked. Turns out, I was right for the most part. [Read more…]

5 Ways For A Successful End of the School Year For Teachers, Parents and Students

Nathasha Alvarez Ending the School Year

Advanced Students Exhibit Their Projects

This year Miami-Dade County Public Schools start Spring Break at the end of the third quarter which will be March 22, 2013. Nice! When we return, we have two weeks left until FCAT takes over our lives and the rest of the time to tie up loose ends. [Read more…]

Miami Dade County Public School System Pays The Miami Herald $16,000 Per Month To Report

Think about this quote as you quickly rush to believe what The Miami Herald prints about Miami Dade County Public Schools.

I am really enjoying this challenge to blog a post once a day. I didn’t know I had so much I wanted to share with the world. It’s very therapeutic.

Last night, I couldn’t take reading The Miami Herald online articles anymore. Its one sided reporting on the issues regarding Miami Dade County Public Schools, its school board and its Superintendent Alberto Carvalho were sickening.

The people who were reading these articles probably believed all of these untruths. There was no way that I could reach them with the truth as fast as the newspaper. It was like yelling into an empty room. Very frustrating.

I know I have better things to do with my time than focus on a system that is too corrupt to know the difference between right and wrong. But I do it because I can’t help not to do it. I can’t watch something wrong happen and stay quiet.

But I am thinking that if I share what I know with all of you, I might feel better. Maybe one day someone will stumble upon my blog and say, “Hey! Look! Someone was speaking the truth!”

So here goes. [Read more…]

November Challenges the Spirit of Giving

Leaves in my classroom with the help of my students.

I love fall. I fall in love with fall every year.  Even though I live in Miami, I transform my classroom as much as possible into a leaf falling environment. My students, this year, were fabulous about it. They worked as a team to get the paper leaves up on the ceiling. When the air condition blows, the leaves sway side to side. My students look up and smile. It’s something different.

These kids are special this year. I could tell from the first week of school when I gave them their first challenge. Almost every year my homeroom class wins the school wide can food drive which goes to the local Daily Bread Food Bank.  I say almost but I can’t remember losing any year. I don’t like to lose. It’s just not my thing.

I told them that I would do my best to match whatever they donate. If they bring 20 non-perishable food items, I will bring 20 items as well. They sat there, politely listened, but I didn’t see the spark yet to bring them into action until I told them why I am so passionate about helping in the food drive. [Read more…]

Are You Looking The Other Way?

Not looking the other way makes me a rebel.

A good friend of mine asked me why I bother discussing the corruption in our school system when it’s obvious no one cares. He is right to a degree. Almost no one cares. I care. As long as I care, I will continue to speak about the injustices and financial mismanagement in Miami Dade County Public School System. I can’t look the other way because I know that this will have an impact on our students which in turn will have an impact on our economy and the world around us.

I have a better question: Why do people look the other way? [Read more…]

United Teachers of Dade: More Divided Than United

#222 Approves More Taxes For School Leeches. That’s why you should vote #223 instead. Stop a future financial fiasco.

This is an email that Shirley Person sent to Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers Of Dade, regarding the school bond referendum in this year’s election. Shirley agreed to share it here with all of you. Share it with others who will be voting this year in Miami’s school bond referendum. Vote #223 VOTE AGAINST THE BOND.

Greetings Karen,

I disagree with UTD’s support of this bond referendum.  Read the The Herald article dated Saturday, October 20, 2012 entitled “Broken promises marred last Miami-Dade bond issue for schools.”  I have had a plethora of UTD members and non members tell me they are not voting for this bond referendum because they have not received 5 years of steps and pay raises, and they simply cannot afford to pay another 30 years for this bond.  They are still paying for the 1988 bond until 2017 and, as taxpayers, they have a right to make a decision based on their financial situation. [Read more…]

The Hunger Games: Is It Too Violent For Middle School?

Someone after viewing the movie, The Hunger Games, asked me how I could teach this novel to my 7th grade students with all that violence. This inquisitive person was curious to see my lesson plans. I thought I’d do one better and share my lesson plans here with you. Feel free to share this with other educators as well. So here goes! This one’s for you, Enid.

Are you ready? Paper? Pen? Novel at hand?

Peeta and Katniss in the cave.

[Read more…]

Back To School Reality Check For Parents

Back To School

This post was inspired by Bruce Sallan’s  #dadchat tweets on Thursday evenings. Thank you for allowing me to add my two cents to your tweets.This post is not for every parent. You’ve been warned. This post is meant only for parents who are fed up with the constant fighting they incur with their child during the academic year. It’s also meant for the parent who wants more for their child but doesn’t know if they are asking for too much. I’m going to give it to you straight from the point of view of a teacher who has been teaching in Miami for over 13 years, way over!

[Read more…]