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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 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 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...
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I agree with all the comments you have received. All I can add is
    Try to do something non school related as in a nice walk so you can unwind and enjoy some of your time off!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1866 days ago
    Amen to the previous comments. Stand your ground. This just speaks to the pervasive laziness of our society of late! Good luck and keep us posted. We're behind you 100%.
    1866 days ago
    I see parents defending their kids on a regular basis these days instead of believing a teacher. Sometimes you don't have to wonder why when the parents act as bad or worse than their kids. Stand your ground.
    1867 days ago
    I don't like confrontation. In fact, I HATE it. But there are certain situations where it is called for. I know exactly where you are coming from in not wanting to take on the situation because of all the havoc it will wreak. I teach 4 and 5 year olds at church. Telling some of their parents that they misbehaved in class is like telling them that their child has 5 heads. They look at you in complete and utter disbelief. The truth is THEY KNOW THEIR KIDS AND THEY KNOW THAT THEIR KIDS ARE CAPABLE OF MISBEHAVING, PLAGIARISM, ETC! They just don't want to have to own up to that. It's embarrassing and makes it look like they aren't good parents. It is much much easier to say that the teacher must be mistaken or out to get their kid.
    But you stand your ground! It is tough but you are doing what is right. In light of all the wrong doing that the parent is doing to their child by denying the copying you be the one good example in that child's life. You be the one person they can look back at and think "Out of all the grown ups in my life Ms.___ stood for what was right" They may not think that right away but give them enough time and they will see that people like you are few and far between.

    Also, you might show them this webpage.

    It speaks of a professor who had been plagiarising for so long that it cost him his job and his doctorate!!! Plagiarism(and lying in general) has it's consequences. Let them know that if they find it easy to do now they will continue to find it easy to do further on in school. You can show them how it can destroy their lives. They think it just has to do with some dumb grade school paper. But showing them that it has real world, real adult consequences may change their minds. Goodluck to you! Let us know how things turn out.
    1867 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/12/2013 12:45:56 PM
  • STEPHANIE302013
    I agree with nikkicole83 - this kids clearly knew what they were doing was wrong - they can't come back and say they didn't know what plagarism was. Giving them a break by just giving them a zero will teach them that they can get away with this. I say go the full disciplinary route - if you supervisor over rules you if/when the parents complain - that's a different story but you will know that you did everything you could to show these kids they did something wrong!
    1867 days ago
    Don't let a few kids bring you down. Keep that chin up and go sweat out all that stress! :)
    1867 days ago
    If you did ALL those things to prepare them and clearly set your guidelines about plaigarism AND had them sign a contract, then you need to follow through on the discipline that you initially alligned with this offense. You are doing them no favors by letting them off of the hook. These kids will go on to college or on to the real world believing that if you whine enough you can eventually get out of everything. This is about self-responsibility. The parents will go crazy and try to make it out to be your fault. That is about their parenting, not about you. I would say when these conversations happen, you stick to the issue at hand, let them know it is a zero-tolerance policy and don't begin negotiating. If you do, they will get off easy and that is not preparing them to be adults.
    1867 days ago
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