Monday, February 02, 2009


I have a student teacher, Mrs. Jayhawker (she's from Kansas) who is doing fantastic. I met her for the first time last year when she did an observation with Mrs. Eagle, and I was tickled to find out she'd do the first part of her student teaching with me. She's a Mom, has two middle school kids of her own, has subbed and has a lot more maturity and with-it-ness than some of the twenty-sometimes that come through my room during observations.

And she busted some cheaters.

We had our unit test on Friday, so I had Mrs. Jayhawker take them home and grade them over the weekend, while I took home the writing prompts and graded those. I figured the experience would be good for her. I got an email over the weekend telling me she suspected four girls (who all sit at the same table)of cheating as they all had identical answers (word for word) on their essay questions. In addition, two of the girls, who rarely pass a test on a good day, not only passed, but got A's!

This morning she showed me the tests and it was pretty obvious that there was some cheating involved. The same answers, the same misspellings, and my favorite, a couple of "floating" letters on the edge of the test where it looked as if someone asked for an answer, and another one of the girls had written it down for them.

Oh boy.

The worst thing is that these are good kids. Three of them were invited on our camping field trip for this spring (and have paid the nonrefundable deposit). Two of them should be regulars on the A/B honor roll. One is a basketball player whose mother manages the cafeteria.

To say I was disappointed (and let's be honest, a bit pissed off) was an understatement. Mrs. Social Studies and Ms. Language both looked at the tests and were just as upset as I was. So, we pulled the girls into my room before they went off to first period and see if they would come clean.

I started off asking them if they ever noticed the big "Make Good Choices" slide I have on my daily PowerPoint agenda. That's my mantra with these kids. I then asked them if any of them wanted to talk about the fact that they may not have made a good choice on Friday.

Silence. Serious, scared faces.

Mrs. Language gave them her mean face. Mrs. Social Studies shook her head in disgust. Mrs. Jayhawker took notes (I'm sure this was her "critical incident" she had to write about this week). The girls sat there.

We talked about how disappointed we were, how it was obvious something unusual had happened, how we were dismayed that they felt they had to stoop to cheating, how it takes at least two to cheat - one to copy and the other to let the copying happen.

Silence. Tears starting to flow for two of them.

I read the paragraph in the code of conduct that basically said I could write a discipline referral and they'd probably get detention or ISS or something. I opted, however, not to do that. Instead, I gave them lunch detention, they were having their seats changed, and they were taking the test again this afternoon.

And then Mrs. Language casually mentioned that we may not be able to take them camping as they've violated our trust. As a team we'd have to discuss it.

Silence and more tears.

I sent them on to their classes and Mrs. Social Studies said she was sure she could get one of the girls to confess. She did. She informed her that all four of them were engaged in the cheating.

When they showed up for lunch detention, they were a quiet, sober bunch. Part of the lunch detention ritual is that students have to write and sign a statement about why they were in detention and what they could do next time to stay out of detention. All of them admitted to the cheating and said they'd never do it again. They apologized. They groveled. It was obvious that the threat of getting kicked out of the camping trip made an impression.

During detention the basketball coach came in, saw her player's statement, shook her head and walked away in disgust. Player girl put her head down on her desk - in the meantime, her mother had emailed me back and said she'd support anything we wanted to do in terms of punishment, but did want us to know that she's grounded - no tv, cell phone, computer, etc. for an indefinite period of time.

They took their retakes sixth period. The results were as passed (the one the cheated off of) and the others bombed.



Polski3 said...

Sometimes, lifes lessons can be learned cheaply. Sounds like they didn't pay a super heavy price to learn this valuable lesson. It was generous of you to let them take the test again. I wouldn't give them a second take on a test/quiz unless a parent came and personally requested it.

Nicki Mann said...

Hi, I came here from the Bus Driver's blog! I like your blog! It sounds like this cheating incident was handled really well. I remember a lot of cheating went on when I was in junior high, but it was mostly copying homework, not tests. I am glad the girls experienced watching everyone be very disappointed and disgusted with them... hopefully the experience will teach them to never try it again!

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Polski, thanks for dropping by - I think the threat of the loss of the camping trip is having a bigger impact than anything on these kids...they didn't get off as light as it first appears. They're sweating right now and I'm planning on making them sweat for a while.

Nicki, thanks for the drop by!