another cheat

When I was in the 8th grade, I cheated. In English class for extra credit we could write a paper on any book we wanted and present it to the class. I copied. A girl who had often called me names in the hallway and made fun of my clothes, found me out, cornered me, and gloated that she was going to tell the teacher. I spun around, marched over to the teacher and told her myself.

The teacher furrowed her brow and said, “It was only for extra credit and it had to take a lot of time for you to copy that much. You probably learned something, so let’s not worry about it.”

The girl was pissed that I got in no trouble–she threatened to beat me up and I walked away from her again then too. At least I never copied again–after all, who needs that kind of guilt and blackmail?

Okay, so I’m sure this says nothing too flattering about me, but what does that say about the teacher? Shouldn’t I have gotten into trouble? What was she thinking?

What should happen to students who plagiarize?

5 thoughts on “another cheat

  1. What should the teacher have done? She probably knew you were a good student and had a flair for writing. Perhaps she trusted that the experience was enough to teach you. After all, you outed yourself. Maybe you seemed contrite. Maybe she was wise.

  2. I think it’s a serious offense, and it should be nipped in the bud early, if possible. My husband deals with this quite a lot with his college students! It drives him crazy. He usually gives them a zero on the paper, which is pretty lenient. Sometimes he lets them rewrite it. He always gets very mad. He could flunk them from the course, but he hates to do that.

    In the 8th grade – maybe she was considering who you were and that it was for extra credit. I don’t know. I do think some kind of punishment is called for.

  3. I think your teacher did the right thing. She had discretion and saw the situation for what it was – a mistake by a good kid. You learned your lesson and never did it again, so wasn’t she right? Since you were already reformed when you confessed to her, why punish further? The lesson had been learned.

    Lessons can be learned (perhaps better) with kindness. An 8th grader knows right from wrong and is old enough to be held accountable for actions, but is also still a kid who needs to be guided. Sounds like she welcomed you back to the right path.

    As an aside, there is a form of writing instruction that IS copying. I’m sure you know this. You copy the work, by hand, of great writers. You don’t pass it off as your own, of course, but the copying can help you learn the mechanics of good writing.

  4. The teacher was brilliant and wise. Your confession is your own punishment. The plagiarist(s) who lie up to, during and even a little bit after their exposure endure far harder blows. There certainly do seem to be a lot of them, don’t there? I think that is worth wondering about.

  5. There have been incidents in which two students turned in pretty much the same paper. They received a zero for the assignment and a warning from the dean.

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