Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Blatant Discrimination

Sometimes I'm amazed at the things I find when I check homework. Look, this kid got all ten sentences wrong. Wow, here's another kid who made exactly the same ten mistakes. What's the chance of that? And oh my gosh, here's another paper that's exactly the same again.

Boy, I wish I didn't read this stuff. It would certainly help me to become a better teacher by upping my passing rate.

So what to do?

"Say, David, you won't believe this, but Tim had exactly the same answers as you. Isn't that amazing? Also, they're all incorrect and you spelled all the same words wrong. What a coincidence."

"I didn't copy, Mr. Educator."

"Yes, I understand, but maybe Tim copied from you."

"I didn't copy, Mr. Educator."

"Well, I'm not saying you did. But to me, whether you copy from him, or he copies from you, it's all the same."

I usually leave little boxes blank for missing homework, but enter zeros when I catch kids copying. Dave and Tim get zeros.

But now, the bearer of paper no. 3, Linda, is crying. She knows she's caught, and is trying to explain. I restrain myself, gesture her to calm down, and don't discuss it further. But later, another kid says something about cheating, and Linda starts crying again. Linda's usually a good student--she participates, passes tests, and doesn't need to copy.

Two years ago I caught a generally excellent student doing the same thing. Though the evidence was overwhelming, she denied it and didn't speak to me for a year. I decide not to risk this with Linda. I won't tell her I'm mistaken (because I'm not). A few moments later, though, I say this:

"I'm sorry I made you cry, Linda."

She sniffs a few times and says it's alright. I've given both the boys zeros, but not her. She's still with me, at least.

As for the boys, they've learned their lesson--or at least they'll try to cheat more carefully in the future.
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