The end of the quarter always brings out every degree of desperation imaginable from my students. Suddenly kids whom I've literally never laid eyes are are popping up asking for grades and tests and help after school. Who are you child and why do you think you can pass my class in only two days? It's a total circus!
"What can I do to pass your class?" they ask.
"Go back in time to three months ago and actually attend class." I answer.
The worst, though, is the students who have shown up to class every freaking day, but haven't done a lick of work. They have spent 50-60 hours using their rear ends to warm a seat in my class and STILL have nothing to show for it.
"What can I do to pass your class?" they ask.
"Not much at this point. You've literally missed every big assignment." I answer.
" Please! I'll do anything!" they ask.
"Okay. You can read The Crucible and take the test on it and then write those three essays that you never wrote. If you do those things by Monday you'll probably have enough points to pass." I answer.
"Oh damn! I'm not going to do all that!"
One student was failing pretty miserably about a week ago, but swore to me that he didn't want to fail.
"What's your game plan for passing the quarter?" I asked last week. (I am trying to get them to approach me with ideas of how they can pass instead of approaching me asking me to figure it out for them. It kind of works. Sometimes.)
"Well... I'm finishing up that essay that was due a few weeks ago."
"Good. What else? That won't be enough points to pass."
"Um... I was going to do the extra assignment you said we could do too."
"Great. That just might be enough. You gotta put the pedal to the medal these last few days, though, you know?"
"Oh, I know, Mrs. Larsen. I know."
"I need that essay before I leave today at 3:00."
"I'll get it to you, I promise!"
Well, he farted around all class period, not working on the essay I said he had to finish by 3:00. By the time the bell had rung, he had written one sentence. ONE SENTENCE IN EIGHTY FIVE MINUTES. I mean, if they had anti-olympics in writing essays, this kid would be gold medalist.
And yet, somehow, at the end of the day I had a beautifully, full written essay sitting in my late basket.
Naturally, I was skeptical.
I read the essay and it took anywhere from seven to eight seconds for me to figure out that he had copied the essay. Oh, children, your cheating ways are way too amateur for me. Challenge me a little bit!
You want me to teach you the fine art of catching high school cheaters?
And strangely fun!
And I am very good at it!
Eighty percent of the time the essay is copied word for word from the internet. Kids ain't too bright sometimes. They don't realize that it is as easy for me to find already written analyses on their topics as it is for them. Take our most recent essay for example. Students were supposed to write an analysis on Jonathon Edward's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Students can easily google "analysis Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Many well written essays on the topic will come up. Then, while I'm grading their essay, I may come across a sentence like the following: "This way of portraying 'sinners' emphasizes their helpless, precarious position, but also the nastiness and corruption of their ways." There are several things that tip me off that this has been plagiarized; it is well written, well explained and correctly uses words that I rarely see eleventh graders handle so well. (portray, precarious, emphasize, corruption- all in the same sentence!) I google the sentence and the exact sentence comes up as well as the site from where the material was copied. Piece of cake!
(Disclaimer: Some students are very much so capable of writing a sentence like the copied one above. Those students always reveal themselves within the first two weeks of school and then consistently hand in that level of work. Therefore, they are not suspected of cheating.)
(Fast Fact: Most often plagiarized sites: wikipedia, wikihow, yahooanswers, sparknotes. I mean, they're not even kind of trying to cover their tracks.)
Every once in a while I will come across an essay that I know is not written by the student, but nothing is coming up on the internet. I can't prove the student is cheating because I can't find the source. In this case I circle a few of the higher level vocabulary words that the student used and then quiz him or her on it.
This is what happened to my darling student last who wasted his entire class period I had given him to write the essay, but at the end of the day managed to have a flawless paper for me. I knew he couldn't have written it, but it wasn't pulling up anywhere on the internet. He sauntered into my classroom after school, ready to hear that he was indeed passing the class.
"Hey Mrs. Larsen. Did you grade that essay? I notice I still have zero points on it."
"I did grade it. Let's talk about it." I pulled the essay out of a stack of papers.
He looked nervous. Just the way I like my cheating high schoolers.
"Tell me, what does the word 'zealot' mean?" I quizzed, referring to one of the words I had circled in the paper.
"Uh... zealot... Let's see... Uh... So I'm not totally one hundred percent sure on that one."
"Then how'd you use it in your paper?"
"I'll be honest, I got a friend to help me with some of the wording on that, but I really did write it."
"Yes. I promise."
"Then what were the main points in your essay?"
The vocabulary trick and/or tell me the main point of your essay tricks work every time. (Kids never even bother to read the essay they are handing in as their own.) Last year I had a student who could barely work his way around the English language use the phrase "bureaucratic nightmare" when trying to explain illegal immigration in our country. Yah, sorry, dude. You have no idea what that means.
I'm embarrassed to admit that the devil in me likes to watch the kids squirm just a little bit when they get caught trying to cheat. That moment when they know I know they cheated and I know they know I know but neither of us say anything is absolute gold. It's like the anticipation that comes before Christmas morning or a long awaited first kiss. It just feels so good.
And then, when I start writing stuff like that, I know it's time for me to take a long weekend, soak in the tub, and coo at my baby.
Those kids- they'll make the nicest of women turn in to a straight up sadist