Very often a second or third year student has come up to me and told me earnestly that they are no longer cheating in my class.Then they beam at me,  waiting for praise. I can imagine this behavior in the workplace. “Boss, I’ve decided not to short the register anymore.”    When I recall their grades from their cheating days they are almost always  C grades. My recommendation: If you aren’t smart enough to study, at least be smart enough to cheat off someone who knows more than you do.

Discovering someone cheating is sometimes so entertaining  that it’s a shame to call them on it. Particularly when it is rather clear that none of the cheaters actually read or were cognizant of what they wrote.  Sample translation:  ” then on the third sailor the road to the island was great and brave and many.”   I have had up to six identical translations of this sort, but the best was when someone  had scrawled some unintelligible letters.

Illegible scrawl

Like this, but more illegible

and then I had a second one :

illegible scrawl 2

yep, identical to illegible scrawl 1

and then a little later I found:

illegible scrawl identical to first twoI found a total of four. Not only were they not words, they weren’t even letters.

I put the papers in a file, marked it “CHEATERS FILE”  and put it on the overhead projector. “If you cheated, come down and talk to me about it. If you don’t, then I’ll hand it my own way.”

Eighteen students came to my desk.

Two boys came to my desk and said, ” Can we see what you have there? We aren’t sure whether we cheated.”

“Either you did all the work, and handed it to someone else to copy, or someone else did all the work, and you copied it verbatim. That’s how you tell.”

The boys conferred with one another.  ” Okay, we’ll be right back.”   They talked for awhile in whispers. ” Well, we just aren’t sure if we cheated on this one.”

I once wrote in fine print on a test that the answers were posted on the ceiling.  Lots of students never read the instructions, much less in fine print. Then I did tape the answers on the ceiling, but in print too fine to be read from the ground. I also wrote that the answers were taped under the desk.  When they looked under the desk they found a paper that said we have to stop meeting like this. The best part was noticing that at least two thirds of the class had not read the fine print.

mad craziness in the classroom

My first class in public high school had been sitting out in the hallway for two months, unsupervised, until I was hired.  They  gave me a mentor. She collected four hundred and fifty dollars for this task, which was automatically withdrawn from my paycheck.  An eighty something year old former first grade teacher was assigned to a high school Latin teacher to offer advice on teaching skills.  She made sure that I told the students to keep their book bags out of the aisles.

One day I asked my Latin I class if they knew the story of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.  A very shy boy tentatively raised his hand.  My mentor, at the back of the room, shot up her hand.

“Oh, oh, I know this!”

“Um, that’s nice, but I was checking to see what the students remembered”.

I pointed to the boy. As he was on his third or fourth word, she shouted,

“Romulus and Remus were twins and were set adrift in the river and the she wolf saved them!”

I looked at my student. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders with a “ what the hell?”  expression on his face.

In an upper level class I was discussing the possibility of offering an advanced placement poetry class. There were six students in the class. Suddenly my mentor piped up from the back of the room,

“Yep, that Bill Gates, he started Microsoft from a garage and now he’s the richest man in the world.”

I looked down at my students. They were all sitting bolt upright, hands on desks, eyes wide open fixed on me and carefully averted away from my mentor. Lips tightly, tightly compressed.  I started up again on Latin epic poetry.

“Yep, that Bill Gates, he started out in a garage and now he’s the richest man in the world. He sure showed those Harvard boys a thing or two.”

She beamed at me. Non sequitur. Latin for it does not follow. Although non compos mentis fit also. I started to laugh.

Biting my tongue  until I tasted blood, I switched to digging my nails into my palm. Why did my students have so much more facial control than I had? It was almost like they planned this.

Eventually her tenure of supervision was over and I was left to muddle through on my own.  She graciously offered to come in anytime to help me out because she had enjoyed herself so much.