March 18, 2011

Ping-Pong with Mr. Plagiarizer

It was like a game of ping-pong, the conversational ball moving back and forth.

No, it was more like a game of handball, the conversation ricochetting off solid high walls, the sounds thwapping in my ears.

No, I think it was like cat and mouse, he pouncing on my careful words.

This game of teacher/student is never easy, especially when the student is a smarty-pants who thinks all the rules apply to everyone but him and he seems to have forgotten that I hold all the cards. I tried to counsel him, gingerly, to drop the class, but he's adamant he wants to finish, and he's just doing the best he can.

My father always says the university is bigger than any one student.  I keep that mantra tucked right in front of my teacher brain just for situations when I'm tempted to throw over all the carefully written rules in my syllabus and cave under the pressure of the sassy twenty-nine year old, heavily tattooed male with a baseball cap on his head which is two sizes too big, and who is standing before me, asserting that he has it rough because he's only late because he has to do his air conditioner calls before he comes to class--got to keep those customers happy because he has to pay the mortgage--wouldn't you say that's important?  And wouldn't you, Ms. Teacher realize that I'm doing the best I can?  That I have ADHD?  That I had a hard life?  That it's just me and my Dad trying to keep our business afloat in these hard times?  That I didn't know the rough draft was supposed to be turned in with the final essay?  I couldn't know that because I lost the assignment sheet?  And I can't print out the new one because I only have the computer there in the air conditioning shop? That you should cut me some slack because I'm just doing the best I can?

That makes two of us, Mr. Plagiarizer.  Have nice Spring Break.

P.S.  I was pretty discouraged at the end of the day today, after our "conversation" at the end of class.  Then I logged on and saw all your nice comments, encouraging me to carry on, to not give up.  I really appreciate you all.  Thanks so much.


  1. Many adult students have more excuses, more complaints, and much less worth ethic than my first graders. I found that out at the University. Sounds like you kept your cool and sounds like he is not quite cut out for studying....just yet.

  2. It seems that it's the louder you complain the more attention you get. It's a shame you can't focus on the other end of your students. This kid is demanding too much of your energy.

  3. I appreciate your sharing these experiences with Mr. Plagiarizer - and can only imagine how much harder it is to handle issues such as this with adults. As a middle school teacher, it seems easier in some ways to dismiss the excuses. You're doing great work, and by showing the consistency in your class and with your expectations, you're teaching him. It's up to him if he internalizes the lesson! Don't give up! :)

  4. Wow. Don't know how you do it. I love your ending "That makes two of us". Wonder what he would do if he had an employee acting like him in regards to you? You are rising above. Stay focused and be encouraged by the students who are growing. You are touching all their lives, even Mr. Plagiarizer. MaryHelen

  5. I have a friend and colleague who taught me that there is no excuse for doing the wrong thing-not being sick, being unhappy, having a rough time juggling everything, even having a tragedy strike. It helps so much to be clear about that, & it sounds like you are. At our school, we do listen to students who need extra time, or have lost an assignment, etc., but it is up to them to take charge of that need & ask for what they need, not just do the wrong thing & hope no one will notice. Good for you for sticking to what you believe.

  6. Oh, do I feel for you. I encountered 4 Mr. Plagarizers in middle school this year. This was the first time I had this problem. I was surprised. I guess I should not have been. I was more surprised by the parents. Two felt that I was being too harsh. That I shouldn't expect their children to understand this...I had explained it in class before we started. Anyway, from now on I'll have a contract signed by the students and the parents about it BEFORE we begin another research paper so I don't have this happen again. Hope you get a chance to relax this weekend.

  7. I willing to listen to all those reasons for why he's having a hard time keeping up ... but none of them make up for cheating and lying about it. None of them make up for the fact that half of your other students have difficult things they are dealing with in their lives, and yet they manage to get their work done and not try to make you feel guilty for expecting them to get their work done!

    Maybe for his next paper he could write an autobiographical essay (possibly harder to plagiarize!) focused on how hard it is to juggle school and work. Maybe if he has to articulate why he wants or needs to be in the classroom, it will help him start to take it seriously enough to get the work done.

    Maybe. (Sorry for the rant!)