Thursday, October 04, 2007

Don't cheat off your classmates

Cheat off the teacher instead!

One of my students has invented a clever way to improve her grade. It's not easy to surprise me after a couple of decades of full-time teaching, but “Monica” managed to do it. I often give a short quiz at the beginning of a class period, and I had done so on the morning in question. Monica came up to me with a big frown on her face and her quiz unmarked:

“I'm behind in my homework, Dr. Z, and I don't know how to find a greatest common factor or a least common multiple.”

“I'm sorry to hear that, Monica, but we really can't do much about that now. Think about it and see if you can puzzle anything out in the time that's left.”

Her frown got even bigger and she slunk back to her desk. When I called for the students to hand in the quiz, I noticed that Monica didn't pass anything forward. She slipped the blank quiz into her notebook.

I glanced over the submitted papers and noticed the results were generally quite weak. My students had clearly found something else besides homework to do over the previous weekend. It was time to put careful solutions up on the board, taking advantage of the teachable moment that occurs immediately after such a debacle. Most of the students were paying rapt attention as I once again walked them through the process of constructing the LCM and GCF for a pair of numbers. It looked as if the lesson might be taking. (A follow-up quiz a couple of days later showed much improvement.)

Content for the moment, I took a few questions from the students and moved on to the next topic. At the end of the period, the students filed briskly out of the room. Monica came right up to the front of the class again and dropped off her quiz on the instructor's table, on top of the stack of previously collected quizzes. I was standing right there and there was no mistaking what she was doing or that I saw her doing. It was not a surreptitious act.

I handed the quizzes back at the next class meeting and Monica found my note on her paper: “Monica, you cannot expect to receive any points for copying my answers off the board. Don't do this again.” She was unfazed by my admonition and merely tucked the quiz into her book. Monica may have made a microscopic shrug, but I couldn't be sure. Was she thinking, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”? I don't know. I really, really don't know.


The Ridger, FCD said...

She probably was. A "Fail" is a "Fail", after all.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this what NCLB is bringing us to? Children who can pass tests based on a spoonfed, rote curriculum, but who are otherwise unable to utilize concepts in the real world?