Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cheating is NOT cool!

I’m not saying I’ve never done it – you’d make exceptions too if you grew up with the reigning UNO champion who plays by her own rules – but I never realized until yesterday how much it irked me. After taking a dip in the world of academia, I now understand why it drives teachers absolutely INSANE when their students cheat. As a student, I got that it was beyond unfair for one of my peers to get an A ripping off someone else’s work when the rest of us worked our asses off, but it never drove me crazy. Until yesterday, when I caught some (note: not ONE, but SOME!) of my students cheating during their weekly writing exercises. How it works is every week they are assigned a passage to memorize, and on Monday they have to write it from memory for me to take home and correct. It’s supposed to help them with their grammar, spelling and writing – although to be honest, improvement at the moment is questionable. I personally think making them write paragraphs and do grammar corrections is more advantageous, but that’s the Chinese teaching system for you – and I am totally getting sidetracked so back to cheating.

Yesterday afternoon, I caught a few of my students cheating during their memorization exercises. They were looking at their phones, at pieces of paper tucked into the side of their desks and into notebooks – you know, the oldest tricks in the book. I was – and still am – infuriatingly mad over it. When your student cheats, it’s like a personal insult. They don’t realize that A) I was not born yesterday and B) the only person they are cheating is their self. Even after taking away their phones, making them put away their stuff, and telling them I was not afraid to fail them, they still didn’t get how serious cheating is. I would rather them fail honestly then be sneaky and cheat their way to me giving them an A. I’ve been fuming about it ever since, and you know what? I’ve found a new pet peeve!!

This morning, I became that lecture-y teacher no one likes. And I held back my harsher words, because while I want them to understand that cheating is NOT okay, and in the States you’d be screwed for the rest of your career if you ever tried it at an institution of higher education, I did not want to insult their culture and upbringing. Harsh as that is to say, cutting corners is an ingrained part of Chinese society. Forget all the contaminated food scares in the news – I see it all the time in the classroom. Cutting in line is a fact of life for some of these kids, as is stealing information – I was pissed when I found a couple of students swiping my lessons of my USB without even asking me earlier this semester! The atmosphere is very first-come, first serve. I learned this first-hand when I brought cookies to share with my 6th graders over the summer. Long story short, I directed the class monitors to make sure everyone got a piece and ended up watching in horror as a riot unfolded before my eyes. I did not bring cookies after that, and while that was a class of 6th graders, I see variations of the same thing with these college-aged students. They don’t think twice about starting fights DURING class. It’s happened 4 times already this semester. Not in the classroom during study hours, mind you, but interrupting your teacher mid-lesson fighting. Where is the respect for your teacher and classmates? I always thought that kind of stuff only happened in the movies – I mean, a girl fight breaking out in the middle of your grammar lesson? Only in Barney Stinson’s world.

Looking at all this, I guess I can’t blame the individuals — it’s the system’s fault to begin with. How are these kids supposed to learn that cheating is never okay when the only reprimand they get is a slap on the wrist? There are going to be some kids upset with their grades this week, and I only hope that this will help the fact sink in before they learn it the hard way.

I know I’m being a negative nancy – teaching is actually very rewarding and fun, and I’ve been enjoying my time here, but it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. It’s funny how a couple of bad apples can make you forget that the rest of your students are trying hard – it’s always the generalizations in a moment of anger that lead to stereotypes, right? So let’s leave this rant where it is and I’ll go back to being a cheerful lao shr tomorrow morning. 


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