I have a couple of classes this semester that some people would call “remedial”, while others use the charming pc epithet “upgrading”, with its jaunty similarity to “upcycling” of junk, claiming that a student’s previous poor performance is nothing that a coat of paint and some crackle medium can’t fix. Anyhoo, you get the picture: this is a room made up 50% of slackers, skateboarders and smokers who didn’t do any work in school; 10% of girls who got pregnant and dropped out, 15% of ESL students who are not going anywhere because what they need is more and better ESL, and 25% of people who fucked up or were fucked over and truly deserve a second chance.
This class is not rocket surgery. It basically exists to ask the question “are you ready for college?” The answer “yes” is demonstrated physically by 2 things: 1) Bum in seat, and 2) Face in book. Unfortunately for the vast majority of students in the room, this is not a hurdle they can get over. Most of them smash into it like QWOP guy on the second half of the course, limbs flailing.
A lot of them disappear. This is an okay outcome. They’ve paid a few hundred dollars (or their parents have) for a life lesson which is “stuff is hard and if you can’t be bothered, you shouldn’t pay the money”. It’s the gym membership model. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean; we’ve all paid for gym time we didn’t use.
Some of them flame out in spectacular and interesting ways like the dude who threw his blank midterm test in my face and stormed out of the room 5 minutes into the test. Some of them make up strings of more and more fabulous lies about how their uncle’s pet triceratops escaped and went on a rampage causing them to leave their textbooks unattended in an unlocked car, so that they were stolen by a gang of local ruffians who used said textbooks as firestarters in a string of mysteriously unpublicized and unsolved arsons.
Still others resort to cheating.
Here’s how today’s cheating incident went.
A dude who had previously tried to argue that he should be allowed to use his cellphone in exams because he needs to translate all of the test questions into his native language in order to be sure he understands them and needs an app for that, turned in assignment containing a paragraph in which he demonstrated an uncanny understanding of the feminist underpinnings in Margaret Atwood’s poetry. Because I have keen perception and literary critical abilities above those of a dead squid, this roused my suspicions. I hied me to the google machine. Sure enough, 5 seconds later, I discovered, in a moment of Sherlockian revelation, that the sentences about Atwood had been lifted from SparkNotes, and none of the information in the paragraph had anything to do with the critical article on Atwood he had cited. This, is what we call in the business “intent to deceive”. Some less able students will resort to SparkNotes when they struggle, but the honest ones will cite (aka admit) it. This dude was pretending to have read and understood something he hadn’t.
The assignment also contained a requirement to “list the names of all the people who helped you”. The idea here was to encourage students to internalize the idea of giving credit for help. Good students meticulously write down my name, the name of the librarians they consult and the names of the classmates they worked with. This guy had the names of 2 random classmates, one of whom is exactly like Bart Simpson in that episode where he tries to be a good student and Mrs Krabopple eventually tells him to stop raising his hand because he hasn’t got an answer right yet. So, no admission there.
I sent the student the Email of Doom, containing the words “SEE ME”. To give him the wee bit of credit he deserves, he did appear at the appointed time. The really weaselly ones tend to dodge for at least a round or two, and the ostriches stick their heads in the sand apparently thinking that if they can’t see me, I can’t throw the book at them.
Anyhow, when he shows up, this dude says “I can explain”; followed by the absolutely predictable “I asked my buddy to help me and I had no idea he was a plagiarist” gambit. I am in no mood for this stupid bullshitty bullshit. For one thing, this must be something like the 67th time I have had that particular leg pulled, and as I have said before, I have a dodgy knee. I am not having it.
Because of the design of the assignment, I have the easiest counter in the world. I scroll down to the last question on his assignment, and I say “Which of these 2 people here you have listed was the one who gave you the plagiarized answer, then?” AH HA. Then he squirms and says it was someone else, which is fantastic, because then I say “So you just admitted that you cheated on the first question, and lied on the second?” His only counter to this is that the instruction “list all the people who helped you with the assignment” is ambiguous. MY ASS IS AMBIGUOUS. Also, he claimed that getting the answer from his plagiarist buddy was “like” cheating but not actually cheating. At this point, I got quite shouty. Doors were shut down the corridor.
I proceeded to fill in the cheater form, adding “lied about an answer” to the already listed crime of deliberate plagiarism. The dude, at this point, admitted that he was a bit worried about what was going to happen next. I said “Well, if this is a first offence, nothing more than a zero on the assignment and Cheater Re-education Camp. If you haven’t done it before, you won’t be in any more trouble.” He said “Oh, no, I haven’t done it before”, but like Prince Humperdink, there was fear behind his eyes.
After he signed the form admitting his crimes, he rallied. It wasn’t really fair to get a ZERO. Some of the questions on the assignment, he said, he had worked really hard on. I gave him a hard stare, and countered, “You probably should have worked really hard on ALL OF THEM.”
IMPORTANT TROPHY UPDATE:
There are some new ones, including a thing that looks like a giant metal icecream cone which is so tall that shelves had to be moved to accommodate it. So far, no further smashination.