The Life of Bon: What would you do?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

What would you do?

Papers are returned.
Scores are in.
Grades are final.
And I am not even thinking about my job again until Monday at 7 am, the precise moment when I have to be there. (No work for me tomorrow.  HOLLER!)  That's what end of quarter will do to you.  I plan to spend the weekend catching up on errands and chores that never get done (like replacing my windshield that's been cracked for six months), celebrating my mother in law's birthday, getting ahead on much neglected blog business and  drinking the crap out of hot chocolate.

Oh and sleep.  Sleep. Sleep. And more sleep.

And NOW.  It's time to play a little game called WHAT WOULD YOU DO?!?  The lines in teaching are rarely black and white, rather my life is filled with endless shades of gray.  When I was in school, I felt like I knew the answer to everything, knew exactly how to be the best teacher.  Now that I find myself immersed with teaching, the lines aren't so clear to me.  Here's a couple of situations I've dealt with lately.  It's your turn to be the teacher.

1.  Every last day of the quarter I do an "extra credit day".  Students play word games and earn points in teams.  As part of this day, I allow students to bring food, and I give them a few extra points if they do.  Yesterday I heard a popular, charismatic jock say that every quarter last year he just waited until someone in the class had checked off their food, then he had "borrowed" it and come and check it off with me again, thus earning extra credit every quarter for food he didn't bring.  What would you do?

A.  Call the student out in front of everybody for having lied and give him no extra credit.
B.  Call off extra credit day completely and tell students that if they are going to take advantage of your kindness they can just work on study guides and not receive extra credit.  Ingrates!
C.  Confront the student in private and explain that what he did was wrong and he will receive no more extra credit points.
D.  Let it slide- it's just a few points.
E.  Take all the extra credit points that he earned on extra credit day, but not say anything to the student.
F.  Other__________________________________________________________________________

My Answer:  E.  I didn't have the energy to confront the kid about the situation, but I was still bothered he thought he could trick me like that and get away with it.  And especially bothered that he took advantage of my generosity.  So I just didn't give him the points.

2.  A student is at a 57.8% in my class.  60% is passing.  He's a good kid, in class every day, but struggles to get the homework done.  He works 40 hours a week at a mechanic shop, helping his family financially, and rarely has time with his work schedule to get homework done.  I want to pass him so bad, but he really didn't earn a passing grade.  Even WITH extra credit day, he was only at a 57%.  What would you do?

A.  Give him a few points here and there to put him to passing; it's not going to kill anyone.
B.  Allow him to complete an extra assignment, giving him enough points to pass the class.
C.  Fail the student.  He just didn't complete the work and other students have busted their butts to get to passing grades- it wouldn't be fair to them.
D.  Other__________________________________________________________________________

My Answer:  C.  Before the extra credit he was at a 52% in the class.  I figured that with even 5% extra on his grade he couldn't pass, then I shouldn't pull any more strings.  Also, if he wanted to pass badly enough, he would have come in earlier and seen what he had to do to pass.  But he didn't.  So I failed him-  but it gave me no pleasure to do so.  NO PLEASURE.

3.  Minutes before the bell rang today, while cleaning up the soda cups and empty cookie boxes, I noticed one student a bit apart.  Everyone else was putting their desks back in place, gathering up their books, and throwing away their garbage.  This student was standing awkwardly over by a table with food that had been left from another class.  I watched as he stealthily grabbed a bag of BBQ chips, and slid them into his backpack.  What would you do?

A.  Call him out in front of the class for stealing.
B.  Call him out, but make a joke of it, so that he doesn't feel too uncomfortable, "Haha!  You almost got away with that!  You're good, I'm going to have to hire you to steal pens from the other teachers for me!"
C.  Act like you think he did it by accident, "Oh, bud, I think you might've accidentally grabbed a bag of chips with your notebooks and put it in your backpack without noticing."
D.  Ask him to stay after class and ask him why he took the food.
E.  Nothing.  Let him have a $2 bag of chips.
F.  Talk to the principal about this and see what the student's home life is like- maybe his family needs some kind of assistance?
G. Other_________________________________________________________________________

My answer:  E.  I thought about saying something, but I just couldn't.  I guess i just felt so gosh darn bad for him.

4.  One of my bright,capable students plagiarized his most recent paper.  The school policy is anybody who plagiarizes anything gets a zero on that assignment and is sent down to talk to the assistant principal.  But this student has always been good for me, and if I give him a zero on the big paper he will fail the class.  What would you do?

A.  Pretend like you don't notice he plagiarized and just give him a normal score.
B.  Give him the bare minimum that he needs on the assignment to pass, but don't give him any extra points.
C.  Talk to the student and tell him you will allow him to re-do the assignment for half credit but he better thank the Lord that he has a teacher so nice to let him re-do it.
D.  Stick to the school policy, the student knows plagiarism is wrong.  His failing grade will help him to remember to never do it again.
E.  Other___________________________________________________________________________

My answer:  C.  I just couldn't fail him for being stupid enough to copy and paste from wikipedia.  I know, I'm too soft.

5.  Today I was trying to muddle my way through the crowded hallways after school. Somehow I got stuck behind a group of teenage boys having the most foul conversation I have ever heard.  It was extremely offensive to women and they were cursing like sailors.  I don't have any of these boys for students, nor do I know any of them.  School was technically out and I'm not their teacher, but it still bothered me that they were speaking this way.  What would you do?

A.  Send them right down to the principal's office.  It doesn't matter if school is out, they are on school grounds and need to learn not to say stuff like that.
B.  Say something like, "Hey guys, cut it out.  You're in a public school," and then walk on by.
C.  Get their names and send emails to their parents so that the parents are aware of their behavior and let the parents deal with it.
D.  Nothing.  Although it bothers you, these aren't your students and you can't police the hallways.  Plus, you're kind of afraid of them.  And embarrassed to have overheard anyone saying such vulgar things.
E.  Other:  ________________________________________________________________________

My answer:  D.  I was seriously so  bothered by it, but I kind of chickened out when it came to yelling at them for it.  Now I really wish I would have said something.  Boys shouldn't be allowed to talk like that.

Now it's time for you to share your answers!


  1. 1. F. call him out in private then make him tell the class what went wrong!
    2. B. I am a softy when it comes to this lol
    3. F. Probably... I like to think I would anyway
    4. D. Mostly cause well I am a chicken shiz and wouldn't want to get caught letting him "off" lol
    5. B. Probably say loudly that it is rude and gross lol - my attempt at embarrassment

    Reality all of them would have gotten away in each situation I like to think I am wayyy tougher than I am lol :)

    -Meesh :)

  2. Quite the dilemmas!

    1. E - I would have done the same
    2. D - I would have confronted the kid and told him the situation and give him the opportunity to pass the class
    3. E - I would have done the same
    4. E - I would do a combination of B + C - make him re-do the assignment but only give him bare minimum to pass.
    5. D - I would have done the same

  3. I agree with everything you did!!! Except I would have had to have yelled something at the foul mouthed boys... I am guilty of a swear word here and there but when I hear people being extremely vulgar I usually say something like "really, do you think that makes you sound cool? that's really disrespectful." I know it probably makes no difference to them but I just wonder if they have parents who don't believe in limits - of course your situation is different being a teacher and them not being your students. I do it at work rather often - you would be shocked at the things people yell or say loudly while walking around the hospital I work at!

    Anywayyyy wow that was a long winded comment, sorry! Haha

    Enjoy your weekend!!!

  4. This is such a fun post!! Its like all the fun parts of teaching that I miss and now I can re-live them.

    1. C
    2. C
    3. E
    4. C or D, depending on my mood and the previous behavior of the student. I hate when bright kids act like they're above the law.
    5. B

    Sometimes I get the feeling that other people are afraid of teenagers. I'm so glad that I had 5 years of teaching high school so I got that out of my system. I've made 6 foot tall boys cower in front of me (and they usually weren't my actual students) and I'm a 5'2" tiny blonde. Ah, I miss those days.

  5. I would have done everything you did except for
    2. - I would have spoken to him and allowed him to do another assignment. Perhaps he was too embarrassed to ask for extra grades?

  6. This was a fun post, mainly because I love that "What Would You Do Show." I'm almost always shocked by what people actually do. It's hard for me to say what I would do in these situations, because I've never been in them. With that said here is what I think I would do:
    1. C if he figures out he wasn't rewarded the points then he may confront you about it anyway. I'd rather just get it over with.
    2. B He is busting his chops and has more responsibility than the average kid. That's a tough situation to be in. I'm not sure that he should be penalized for trying to help his family survive. He may also think that there is no further options to bring his grade up. When I was that age I would never have thought that I could just waltz up to a teacher and ask for additional extra credit or an extension on anything. Deadlines and grades seemed so final to me.
    3. F There may be something going on here. Your job isn't to be a babysitter but I think it doesn't hurt to bring this to the principal's attention. Most people are way too prideful to ask for help and he might really need it.
    4. D You may as well learn early on that this is a serious offense. People have lost their jobs and livelihoods off of this sort of thing. In life there may not be a second chance.
    5. B This is probably why I will be stabbed at some point in my life, because I have a big mouth and don't tolerate garbage.

    That's what I say I would do, but again unless I'm actually in that situation I'll never really know for certain.

  7. A, B, E, C, B

    I'd be scared of the boys too, but I'm really tall and have big boobs and people find that intimidating. So sometimes I use it to my advantage even though it scares the shiz outta me.

  8. Anonymous8:39 PM

    I am a high school Spanish teacher and deal with stuff like this a lot! (By the way, please forgive any typos as I am uncharacteristically replying from my iPhone.) Anyway, I'll give you an example of something I dealt with just today:
    Students are not supposed to have their cell phones out during school hours whatsoever. Teachers are supposed to take them and turn them in to the office. Many teachers, though, just remind the students to put the phones away or the teachers don't mind if a student is just sending a quick text/doing something harmless. I try to follow the expectations of taking the phones, but I do not take them if a student is just checking the time or just quickly glancing. So this morning I had a student show me that I had made an appearance on Instagram (a site I have never been to and frankly know nothing about it). But a freshman girl that is not really a disruption posted a picture she had taken of me from behind as I wasn't looking and talking to the class and commented something like "the teacher sits right in front of me and doesn't take my stuff." I don't see this student until the end of the day but I called her to my room during first period and talked to her out in the hallway. After I questioned her about if she had publicly posted anything that had to do with me and she didn't want to answer, I said: "I suggest you take it down. I don't take your phone because I am NICE. That is ME BEING NICE TO YOU. Now I know that I can't really be nice in that way." She said "okay, I'm sorry" and I closed the door. I was glad she actually apologized, but especially with high school sometimes you really have to know how to deal with them and when to treat them more like adults and when to treat them more like children. You really can't hold their hands. My stance is that I really have to prepare them for life. And honestly what I consider my job to be is that I am the last chance for some of these kids to be taught some respect, responsibility, decency, etc. if they haven't yet been taught. I don't always get through but if I plant the seed for even one kid to be a productive member of society who otherwise wouldn't have been, then it is all worth it. This is why I don't even accept late work or give students any extra credit; I expect responsibility. That's not always what they learn, but that is the goal. Anyway, sorry I wrote a book here. I'm going to post my responses to your situations in another comment because this one has gotten too long!

  9. Anonymous8:57 PM

    As for your situations:
    1) F. I would talk to the class and explain that my generosity has been taken for granted and that it is a PRIVILEGE that they get the extra credit day that I don't have to give. Then I would pretend to consider taking the day away, but then say I know who took advantage and that I just strongly suggest it never happen again or there will be consequences.

    2) I would probably do the same, although this one is tough. Fair does not always mean equal, especially when it comes to hundreds of students. If that student seriously Put out his best effort I might do A or B and help him pass. But if he pretty much had ample opportunity to turn in something to pass and he didn't put out that extra effort that it sometimes takes, I would fail him.

    3) E. Nothing because if the chips were left over I would assume nobody wanted them anyway. However, if the chips were still needed I would probably jokingly say "are those yours? Don't take my chips I'm hungry!" or something. It's kind of like if a student gets nosy and tries to open a cabinet in the back of the room, even if it is really quiet and I'm all the way across the room I will go "is that yours??!" I don't say it like I'm mad, or really upset, and I make light of it, but at the same time they know I'm serious.

    4) D. Plagiarism is illegal and I cannot tolerate it at all. It is a conscious choice, it is wrong, it is cheating, and it is lazy. I have no mercy here. The only time I did have mercy was when I had a student who plagiarized shortly after his mother died and this was a good kid and I figured he really needed some slack.

    5) F. I can't stand immaturity like this and would not be able to keep myself from saying something. I would probably stop and give them a quick lesson on life and tell them they have a lot to learn and hopefully won't learn it the hard way. I would probably think of something clever to say about the topic or give an eye-opening analogy. I would be matter-of-fact and almost seem like I have pity on them, instead of being offended or scolding them because older kids do not respond to that; they usually respond to something more realistic and applicable to life.

    Anyway that's just me. Whew.

  10. 1. C He needs to know that what he did was wrong.

    2. B I would just feel so badly for him!

    3. E Again, I'd feel badly for him. It sounds like he wasn't doing it for a freebie, but out of later hunger.

    4. C If it's a first offense, I'd help him out just a little. I'd follow that up with a warning that if he ever does it again, it's a 0 AND I'd change the 1/2 credit from the first redo to a 0.

    5. A I tell off total strangers for being demeaning to women, when I have no authority over them. You bet I'd tell off students for it!

  11. Why would you take the time to talk to one student to allow then to pass but not the other? Plagiarism is illegal, while working 40 hours a week is insane while in high school. Maybe he doesn't care about his grade because no one else believes in him.
    Language oh man, wait till you have kids and your "Momma bear" kicks in. If anyone uses foul language and my child is in ear shot, you had better believe I'm going to say something!

  12. 1. C
    I'm no teacher and I would NEVER want to teach high school, but I'm a big fan of being frank with people, but not embarrass them unnecessarily.

    2. I think maybe B, but I'm not sure.
    I have a huge soft spot for kids that have to give up parts of their childhood to support their families. I like your answer. I am sad that you had to do that.

    3. C
    Again, I don't like embarrassing people unnecessarily. I've done that before with people that work underneath me and I HATE when people put me in a position like that.

    4. Either C or D, depending on the student.
    When I was a sophomore, this popular basketball kid in my English class plagiarized his paper too. They called my teacher BAJ, short for Bad-Ass Johnson, because she was awesome and everybody liked her so much. She was a nice person, but she didn't take crap from teenagers. He plagiarized, and she failed him. Surprisingly, the basketball kid and herself still had a good student-teacher relationship and I don't think he did it again. It was a very interesting lesson to learn as my fifteen-year-old self.

    5. E
    I would have said something and it would not have been nice. Probably something along the lines of B, but with more force. That is not okay to say EVER and this is probably a time where I would not have cared to not embarrass them. I don't know exact wording. Maybe, "If you want to speak like that with your own friends, go for it. I'm not your teacher and school's not in session right now, but you are still on school property, and you need to cut it out. That type of language doesn't make you cooler-- it just makes you sound like you don't know what you're talking about. If I catch you again, I will speak to you about this with the principal and your parents in the room as well. Watch your mouths." But that's because I'm a bit of a feminist and I really don't like teenagers very much. They probably would continue to swear and then make fun of me after I left, but sometimes I have to be that person. I do stuff like that at my work all the time. I HATE it, but it has to be done. I'm really not that nice of a person either, soooo, I don't care.


    Interesting post! I hope you enjoy your weekend!

  13. Oh man. This soooo brings me back to my days teaching HS math. I think I've experienced every one of those situations...including the plagiarized paper. I found myself relating to all of your options, and often agreeing with you in the end. (Especially the last one...I still shudder to think of those overheard conversations!) So many difficult decisions to make on a daily basis. Truly an exhausting profession.

    Finally, thank you for what you do.

  14. wow, bonnie i really liked this post. i had different answers for so many, until i read your reasons and it really made me think. what an interesting post that REALLY gives a new perspective about teaching to those of us who have absolutely no idea. thank you, girl :)

  15. Hello I am your newest follower, wanted to say thanks for following me. I would also like to extend an invatation to you and your followers to come join our New Year's Cocktail Exchange (Info on my page)
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  16. Well, there are the "Utopian" choices and then there is real life... And besides, kids are HUGE theses days. They are terrifying...

  17. I am very disappointed in you, Bonnie. I can't believe you failed #2. Especially when you knew full well about his family situation. He's trying to help put food on the table. What the heck is wrong with you? I was disappointed at first, but after reading further I lost a lot of respect for you. You passed #4???? Seriously? HE PLAGARISED! But you couldn't pass the kid that goes to school AND works 40 hours a week!!!! Is he a suck up or something? Sounds like you play favorites. So wrong. I hate your attitude towards your students. So negative. They're teenagers not complete idiots. You were one once too. Show a little compassion. Isn't that what your religion teaches?

    1. Leave it to a self righteous blah blah to bring religion into it. Oh Gawl, welcome to the real world where there aren't cut and dry, right and wrong answers. Guarantee you wouldn't have the guts to say this to someone's face.

  18. E, B, E/F, C, B :-)

  19. Wow brutal one Lillian Anderson!!

    As for my answers:

    1. F
    I would make a joke out of it in class. I would say something along the lines of, guess i didn't CLARIFY that you're only supposed to get extra credit for bringing in your OWN food, not recycling, so smart of y'all to beat me at my own game but we're either gonna have to figure out a way to make sure only kids who do the task get credit for it and see what they say. I might talk to the kid after class too, just to let him know I'm onto him.

    2. A/B
    I taught in the South Bronx for five years and I have to say it really did change my perspective abotu things. Being "fair" doesn't have to mean giving everyone the same assignment and expecting the same results. If someone is working their butts off to get a 57 and some else gets an 80 who doesn't even try, I mean, it's all about perspective. Especially if you know about outside circumstances sometimes I think it's important to consider those. PLUS, I hate to say it, but I think English is a little bit more subjective when it comes to grading so there's probably room to go back on a few assignments and tack on a couple more points.

    3. G
    I let me students take leftover food, he wouldn't've needed to sneak it. I don't need it. me, i dont need the extra bag of chips tempting me! lol

    4. D
    I think i'm a pretty understanding teacher in most other respects, but cheating, no. there's just no excuse. especially plagiarism. i think you are also teaching a lesson there - by letting it slide you're setting a precedent that even if you set classroom expectations, they're not necessarily set in stone ... and i think plagiarism is one that should be.

    and even though im not gonna be as rude about it as some other commenters...i was surprised at your answer to the 57% kid and the plagiarism kid. But, we don't know your do. Just goes to show that teaching is anything but black and white.

    5. E
    I would speed up, walk past them, and shoot them the nastiest teacher look I could muster {this is only because I"m in a new school this year though, if this was my old school I definitely would have said something !

  20. Bonnie, I think you are an amazing teacher. I can't imagine all the crazy decisions you have to make in just one day of teaching a very difficult age group, and I have such great respect for the quality of teacher you strive to be. Don't listen to the negative crap out there. Let those people walk a mile in your shoes and see if they wouldn't do the same thing :)

  21. Lillian, what do you really think?

  22. These are all tough situations! I think some of my answers would be different, but of course it's impossible to know if you're not experiencing it first hand! Thanks for stopping by my blog (MichiGal), and you have a new follower :-)

  23. Anonymous3:29 PM

    I think these were all tough situations to be in and it's hard to say what my call would be. However, I really think a meeting with the boy in #2 should have happened. I had a hard situation in life and my life was always made so much better by the teachers that showed they cared. I remember once I was having a ton of migraines because of some stressful situations at home and I put my head down in class (not sleeping but not really all aware either) and a teacher pulled me aside in the hallway and asked what was going on and if there was anything she could do to help. Throughout the rest of the year, that teacher checked on me and even put an extension on an assignment because I couldn't get it done in time. Obviously, this teacher made a huge impression on me.

    However, if you had a meeting with him and told him he could redo an assignment or something like that to bring him up to the points needed to pass and he acted like he didn't care, then I think it would have been right to fail him.

    As far as the person in #4, I think that some penalty should have been given. Maybe not failing him for the class but people/kids make mistakes and even good people can go the wrong way sometimes. However, he needs to learn now that it's wrong. In college and the rest of life, that wouldn't be tolerated and you letting him slide by might make him not even think about doing it again. Once again with a life example (I'm full of those! lol) I had a friend that hadn't done her homework and asked if she could see mine before the class. I told her she could see it, but don't copy my answers so she reworded things. A few days later, I got called into that teacher's room and she asked me why I cheated. I had no idea my friend had done that with my homework and even started crying. My mistake wasn't cheating, but allowing someone to take my homework and even though I told her not to copy it, she still did. You better believe that I never let anyone look at my homework again. I wish I could remember if I received a reduced grade on that assignment but I'm not sure.

  24. Um, I don't know if Lillian's comment is a joke or what, but I would say that you should not feel bad for ANY choices you make because none of us can truly know exactly what we would do in any situation until we've been there. And even then, all students are different and schools are different. We all are doing the best we can in any given situation, so don't let that get to you.

    That said, I like to think I would have:
    1. C- Confront the student in private and take away all of his extra points along with future opportunities.
    2. D- Depends on what you've done so far. If you have been working with him, telling him what's going on and giving him chances, then no. If he had no clue where he was and no help to get him out, then I would offer an extra assignment. There are definitely kids out there who work full-time and still can pass, and if he isn't getting the information then it's not fair to him or the future teachers to move him up.
    3. E- agreed :)
    4. D/E- I know this is wrong, but I think there are different levels of cheating. My mom is a freshman english teacher and we found (while she was here in my last week of pregnancy) a student that had taken an ENTIRE paper and given it as his own. He changed a few minor sentences, but it was intense. Then there are people who put in a few sentences and change them a bit but it's basically plagiarism because they didn't site. Then there are those who think they can slip things in and get away with it, and that would piss me off because it shows what they think of me and my detecting skills.
    5. C- If you think parents will do anything.
    A- if you aren't really scared they will somehow react later on (I don't know what your school demographics are)
    D- If you were honestly scared of them! Though I might have thrown a little comment in there.

    Okay, so there's my NOVEL of a response. I loved this post!! Definitely made me think! Can't wait to go back and check out old ones. Thanks for following me btw. :)


  25. 1. I want to say I would do C, but if I was tired...F. And I would call him lame.
    2.If I had tried to talk with him earlier in the quarter about his grade, C. If not, I would give him the option of B, but I would have a pretty tough deadline on it.
    3.D. If I was tired, E. Most of my kids are pretty low income so there is a good chance that they would need the food for at home.
    4. C. That's what I do for cheaters.
    5.B- when I do that in the halls the boys are usually pretty embarrassed that they were caught talking like that.

    Have a great day off!

  26. Hi Bonnie!

    Thanks for following me. It totally made my day! :) I'm glad you found me. Blogging does take a lot of time and work, but I am totally hooked and absolutely love it!!! I just followed you back and was reading about you. That is so funny. I have total road rage too :\ I try to be good though (or a little better) when my little man is in the car...I look forward to reading your posts!


  27. 1. E, I wouldn't make a big deal about it, but he doesn't deserve the extra credit.

    2. A, it's not a typical situation. Working 40 hours a week is tough by itself, I can't imagine trying to go to school at the same time.

    3. E, If he wants them that badly then oh well. Whoever brought them probably wasn't counting on getting them back anyway.

    4. D, They know the consequences for cheating and still did it.

    5. B, That way they know someone heard them and was offended.

    Also wanted to let you know I nominated you for a Liebster Award!

  28. 1. A, only because he was bragging about it to other people. If he was sneaky about it I would do it privately, but since he was already bragging about it, I would want to call him out in front of everyone so that they can all learn from it to. Don't brag about doing something unfair when the teacher is ALREADY doing something nice that she doesn't need to do. Idiot.

    2. A. Because I feel for the kids who have to help out their families financially. Times are hard, it's even harder on the kids.

    3. G. Let him take it and then ask the principal if there are issues at home. Again, times are tough, and maybe he doesn't get treats at home and wanted to feel like a normal kid. When you're "poor" an extra treat can make you feel normal again. Especially when all your money goes to bills.

    4. D. I know it sounds harsh, but the student needs to learn. I'm sure he could have come to you if he didn't have time or something like that and you guys could have figured it out. Cheating should never be the answer.

    5. B. I don't like the language either, hate it. I would have said something and told them it's disrespectful.

  29. I was a teacher, before having my daughter. It's so hard. You are right. Things aren't black and white.

  30. I agreed with literally every single thing you did. At first, I was disappointed that you failed the almost-passing kid. But then I read what you said, that he was 52% before the extra credit. In hind sight, I would have talked to the student earlier. Maybe the last month before grading, so he had more time to kick it into gear. But honestly, giving him 8% more is just a little too much. He does need to learn to keep his priorities in line. Yes, it's great that he is helping his family, but he has to remember his other responsibilities too. I think you handled all of these situations well.