When plagiarism becomes personal
Friday, April 12, 2013
So I survived the munchies attack last night, successfully not gorging OR grazing post blog. I went right back to work, grading my freshmen papers. I was down to the last two and had deja-vu. The paper I was reading was so similar in content and structure to the one I read about 2 hours prior that I couldn't ignore it. I put both papers side-by-side and began my comparison: there were way too many coincidences on a CREATIVE WRITING assignment, so I went to their rough drafts and discovered only one had the same content from the first draft to the second. I still couldn't shake that some of the information wasn't accurate to the novel they had just read, so I took to the internet.
Turns out the paper that matched rough draft to final draft, had a direct copy and paste from the character analysis on sparknotes.com. So much for thinking that student was the honest one. Plagiarism number one done. So I looked back at miss clearly-copied-my-classmate's-
ideas and couldn't find any direct internet match, but I KNEW she didn't complete this assignment honestly, and quite frankly, got the student she copied from caught.
I returned to my stack of papers and got suspicious again. ANOTHER student had direct lines from schmoop.com. Plagiarism number two done. This caused me to look up just about every student's paper from that point forward. I mean, it was a CREATIVE assignment that required recalling details from the text. Other than inaccurate information, not following directions, or not proofreading (which is a serious issue with this next generation), this should be a helpful grade in the marking period. I talked myself off the crazy Googling ledge and just read the sparknotes character analysis to keep in mind as I continued grading, and THAT'S when it hit me. The original plagiarist had paraphrased the sparknotes summary, misunderstanding some of the details, hence the obscure understanding of a portion of the paper. Plagiarism number three done.
I'm not proud of this.
In fact, I feel responsible. Was the assignment that poorly thought out? Did they think they could take advantage of me? Why did I not run all the papers through a screening in the first place?
I mean they KNOW what plagiarism is. We do multiple lessons on it, we identify different types, they signing a freaking contract! I tell them stories and show examples and I don't quit on the concept until they've all demonstrated an understanding and yet here I am with three and I'm not even finished grading.
And then there's the parent aftermath. They'll start with denial or justification because who doesn't want to believe their perfect child. The two that are copied and pasted will quickly turn to negotiating (i.e. "Could they re-do it for partial credit?" "Is there extra credit they could do?") and the paraphrased one will continue arguing, eventually contacting my supervisor because there isn't a direct sentence copied. I'll start to take everything personally, which quite frankly I already am, and begin to question my own decisions. The kids will check out and be resentful, the parents will harp on me about their averages (which are now failing as a result of the assignment). On top of that I'll spare them the discipline referral and just give the zero on the assignment, which the parents won't realize is cutting the kids a break and so they'll remain resentful and I'll feel guilty about not following district policy.
Long story short (not really), THIS is what has been running through my brain since around 9:30pm while on spring break. I'm refraining from emailing the parents until we are back in school, mostly because I promised I wouldn't check my email over break, even though writing the emails would make me feel a little better. This is clearly a stress trigger - not for food - but the fact that I take everything personally feels SO uncontrollable.
ARGH. I need to keep grading, but I also need to sweat some of this out. Decisions, decisions...