Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cheating - A Teacher's Perspective

It happens every year - I know that going in to a new school year. But it never fails to hit me like a kick to the stomach. I can't even begin to tell you how much it hurts me, how sick it makes me.

This year I am teaching a course called Advanced Topics in Mathematics. I basically developed this course and I love teaching it. The course is intended for high school juniors and seniors who, although they have managed to pass Algebra 2, still haven't had real success with mathematics throughout high school. Most of the students I am seeing just squeaked by in Algebra 2. They don't like math, and honestly, most of them aren't very good at it. This course is designed to give these some success in mathematics and hopefully spark some new interest in a subject they have come to hate. The course covers a survey of higher mathematical topics than those typically studied in high school. It includes units in mathematics in language, fractal geometry, game theory, discreet mathematics, probability and statistics and others. The students get to explore some of the most important historical results of mathematics and they gain exposure to some of the most important branches of mathematics in the modern study of the subject. So as not to overwhelm the kids, the course is humanities based, focusing more on mathematics as a mode of thought rather than on skills and procedures. We do a lot of reading and discussion, rather than page after page of problems.

So recently I assigned my students to read the 19th century novel Flatland by Edwin Abbott. It is a novel about a 2-dimensional world with lots of good geometry in it, and a great treatment of the concept of dimension. We read most of the novel in class together, I assigned some of the chapters for independent reading at home. At the end of our discussion, I asked the students to write a 2-page paper, a book review really, about the story. I really wasn't asking for much. I just wanted the students to give a brief summary of the story, tell me what they thought of the story and why, and explain what they believed the author's purpose was for writing the story and provide evidence from the book for their reasoning.

So far (I've read 35 out of 64 papers), I have already discovered 4 students who simply went on to and copied a user review of the book from that website. I don't think I can put into words how angry, offended and hurt I am by this. To me, this kind of behavior is a slap in the face. A student who does this kind of thing is saying to his teacher, "I have so little respect for you, that I can't bring myself to put a little time into writing my own thoughts and opinions for you. And you are so stupid and foolish, that you wont figure out that I just copied someone elses work and turned it in as my own."

That old adage about cheating that goes, "you're only cheating yourself"? What a crock of shit! Even worse, "you're only hurting yourself"! For a good teacher, a teacher who really puts his or her heart and soul into teaching, cheating hurts! It is the ultimate in disrespect, and we don't deserve it. It really saddens me now that tomorrow (after I've finished grading all the papers, and, being a realist, I know I'm probably going to find a couple more copied papers) I'm going to have to go to the Vice Principal and essentially turn these kids in. But I have no choice. I cannot, and will not stand this kind of disrespect. I won't tolerate it.


At 10:46 PM, Blogger pissoff said...

Little bastards. Did you give them a swat on the side of the head? OR better yet, did you publicly humiliate them in front of the whole class?

At 6:28 AM, Blogger pissoff said...

Finally, I noticed my comment didn't register there for ages.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Faltanus said...

more like public guilt trip in front of the class. i spent most of the period today talking about what happened and how disappointed i was by it, and how hurt i felt that students had shown me such blatant disrespect. i drew some tears and numerous apologies including apologies from students who had nothing to do with it. and for the offending students, their VP gave each of them a 3 day suspension for academic dishonesty.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger garfer said...

Ask them to spell 'plagiarism', then give them a good kicking.
A week of gruel and hard labour is what they need.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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