Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When kids cheat

Cheating.

This has become a touchy subject. It's nothing new the action of cheating has been around for a long time. Just look at any university's code of conduct and you'll see paragraphs addressing the issue. But what about in children? Cheating is not as regulated and tends to be brushed away like an annoying fly. Like an annoying fly cheating does not go away for good. It still buzzes around reminding you of its presence.

Teachers encounter cheating on all levels. As students grow in age it becomes more complex. When I worked with college students I remember seeing so much blatant plagiarism in papers that is was almost a rarity to see a student turn in a written essay with original work. What it did was make me feel sad. I was disappointed to be surrounded by young people who had no concern for stealing another person's work. I just could not convey how terrible it was using someone else's work. None of them cared. I was baffled how for a generation so obsessed with being recognized that the one thing that could make them shine was the first place they sought to copy from others. These students would go on and on about how much they wanted to be know as being special but clearly taking the time to write a paper with an original thought was not good enough for being special.

With the younger children I teach I see the ugly temptation of cheating during testing. No matter how much we discuss the importance of being responsible good citizens, doing your own work, thinking for yourself, it ALWAYS happens. Is it laziness? Is is lack of confidence? Is it apathy? I don't have an answer. I doubt I ever will find an answer. Maybe it's best I not seek an answer whatever it may be I'm certain I won't like to know. What cheating does is make it more complicated to test children. I work very hard to prepare the children for the test so that they can feel ready on test day. Despite my efforts I have to keep eagle eyes open for those sneaky eyes. Inevitably I have to separate children, spread out desks, and put finished tests in a folder to prevent last minute changes by the test taker.

Unfortunately the pressure to score perfect test results seems to interfere with the children's ability to confidently test. The need to be the best clouds their judgement. It's a tragic result of the over testing in our schools. So much emphasis is placed on these little children to BE the best that we are forgetting to focus on being a good human. My heart breaks every time I catch my students cheating. I see in their eyes the knowledge that they did a wrong but I also see the fear of not being good enough. The children are being taught by school systems and adults that doing and being themselves is never good enough. We are teaching them that being the best at any cost is what matters. Scores matter you don't. Is it a wonder why so many children loathe school more? Is it a wonder why so many children try hard to feel special?  To get the teacher's attention?

The struggle is there and I have to constantly ask myself what is it I can do to make the students feel confident on test day. An unnecessary burden on me but if that means I can encourage my students to come in on test day willing to do their very best without a thought of cheating then I have succeeded. It's a long road to that point but I'm willing to fight hard to make these children feel proud of their achievements and to allow integrity to guide them along.

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