Copy and Paste is all too easy.

Plagiarism. Copying. Stealing someone else’s words. Plagiarism is getting worse and worse. Last year felt like the worst year ever for honor code violations. Now, it’s starting up again.

One reason plagiarism drives me buggy is the pure dishonesty of the students passing off someone else’s work as their own.

Another reason plagiarism drives me into a minor tantrum is the sheer amount of my time that gets wasted every time I see it happen.

First, I check the report from the plagiarism checker (Think Turn It In dot com). For students who followed directions and submitted their papers before turning them in to me, it’s easy. I click on the report link and check to see that their work is reasonably original. Those who don’t follow directions lose a point in their grade, and I still check their work.

But back to the wasted time. I spent an hour and a half yesterday afternoon dealing with one case of copy/paste plagiarism. The student had copied verbatim answers to two test questions. The answers had words like “pathos” and phrases that no ordinary or even extraordinary sixth grader would use. I submitted the work to the plagiarism checker. I verified that the answers were stolen from an Internet source. I called the parent. I talked to the parent. I emailed the parent and student a copy of the checker’s report – 97.35% copied. Ugly. Pure ugly.

Then I logged in to teach a class. During that class, the parent called me and left a voice mail. After I’d finished class, logged attendance, and finished the rest of the tasks involved in a virtual class, I called her back. No answer. No voice mail. That meant more time wasted logging the attempt to call, emailing the parent and asking “Is this phone number current?”

I found out she’d called the principal. Principal was out at the time, so parent didn’t make contact. However, just knowing she’d thrown a fit (according to secretary) meant I had to spend MORE TIME doing unnecessary CYA research. I found the original source web site for each of the student’s copied answers, documented both with screen shots and URLs, and sent my evidence to both the principal and the dean of students.

And then the virtual bell “rang” and I headed home, knowing that I would have to catch up on 90 minutes of other responsibilities the next day in addition to tying up the loose ends of this young person’s attempt to better a test grade through cheating.

And that’s the main roadblock. It’s too easy, so easy to copy and paste and call it “done” that too many students don’t realize it’s wrong. I can teach the honor code and review how the importance of the plagiarism and some kids won’t get it until they have to redo and assignment and face the warning that the next time, the consequence will be more serious.

To make a long story short, the family had calmed down by the time we talked the next morning. The whole thing left me drained and frustrated and behind on my work, something that’s happening all too often.

Frankly, plagiarism stinks.

Sounds of Christmas

Actual workplace conversations:

I was playing Philly Brass Christmas between 8:00 and 8:30.

Email from a teacher across the room: “Turn up the music!”

My reply: “But they’re playing Silent Night!”

I did adjust the volume. She was laughing out loud.

Later, during a department meeting:

Me to new teacher: “If the music is too loud for you, let me know. I’ll turn it down.”

Him: “I want you to turn it up!”

So anyway, no complaints here. Falalalala.

 

And So It Goes.

It’s one of those days – one of those days when I wonder why I keep saying yes instead of no, one of those days when I’m really not sure if I am caught up or can get caught up at home or at work, just one of those days.

Meanwhile, I plug away.

Laundry. Why does Mount Washmore look taller than usual? Oh, yeah, I dug out another pair of jeans for myself and picked up three or four items at a thrift store. It’s Sunday, too. I normally get the clothes washed on Saturday. One day, amazingly enough, makes a difference.

Linens and things. I finally folded the tablecloths and napkins from Thanksgiving and stored them with the big roasting pan and the gravy boat. I use these once a year. If they took up more space, I’d toss them on the rummage sale pile and sell them. As it is, the gravy boat, tablecloths, and the matching napkins all fit inside the roasting pan. Perfect.

Rummage sale! I have all the curtains we took down before putting new windows in the great room. I washed them, but they still need to be measured. These are worth buying, if the right buyer comes along, and the right buyer will want to know the sizes. I have all the curtain rods, too. More to measure, more to sell.

I was asked to write an article for Teaching Today, a state publication. I said yes. I could have said no, sorry, please ask me again when my workload is lighter. I could have even asked for pay – but asking is harder than it seems. I have a skill: writing coherently. When I use this skill, I make my employer look good. I enjoy the process and the results; but working for free feels, well, cheap. Readers, I’ll link to the article when it’s up and running. I’ll consider the feedback to be my reward.

The last time-taker lies on my own shoulders. Once again I’m applying to be a teacher curriculum reviewer for the national level of my school organization. I’m investing in this time because 1, I believe I can do the job well; 2, it looks good in my files when I’m up for observation; 3, this position actually pays.

In conclusion, I can get caught up on the laundry and set aside the rummage sale items for spring. I wrote a draft of the article on Friday between classes. It needs revisions and tweaks; it’s kind of boring in it’s first incarnation. Maybe I can make reference to a children’s book or a seasonal song in each paragraph to keep the readers’ attention. Yes, that could work.

Oh, no, I forgot something: holiday shopping! Aaargh! I might never get caught up!

Readers, what’s on your minds? How are you keeping up?

 

Cider Press is a Hit

We’ve learned quite a bit about making our own apple cider in the past few months.

No matter how much we make, it won’t last long.

I looked into recipes and processes for making hard cider. I considered other “flavors” such as cherry and rhubarb infused cider. Hahaha! Fresh apple cider is incredibly delicious. Chuck and Amigo drink it in place of orange juice at breakfast. I heat some up after school instead of an instant cappuccino. We froze a few containers, only to thaw them a few days later.

Nothing is better than fresh apple cider.

See above.

Pasteurizing apple cider on a plain old fashioned kitchen stove is easier than you might think.

Details: I did a lot of surfing on sites like the USDA and the CDC to find information about home pasteurizing for cider. The results were consistent: heat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain that temperature for 6 seconds. 6 seconds? Is that all? I maintained it for a full minute, just because.

There are more people making their own cider than I thought!

Amigo offered up some of our homemade apple cider for a barbershop chorus celebration, and several of the guys in the chorus let me know that they, too, press their own cider. One or two talked about antique cider presses. Another talked apple varieties; we like ours a little more tart, so Macs are the main apple. That, and the tree outside my office that I pick for free, keep the recipe pretty straightforward. A few buckets of Macintosh apples and a few pounds of something else will make a tasty mix.

Sweetener? Unnecessary.

I found this out by accident when I bottled a batch of cider and then realized I hadn’t added any sugar. Any. Sugar. At. All. And – it was delicious. Maybe it was the Honey Crisps, or maybe I’m just getting used to having my apple flavor straight, no chaser.

Next year, I’ll be more aggressive in foraging for apples earlier and oftener. Er, more often. I learned that orchards keep boxes or buckets of “seconds” or “imperfect” fruit, and that fruit is still delicious. If I can make friends with a few people who have apple trees and don’t pick them – don’t laugh, it could happen, just like the tree outside my office building – I can procure enough for a large batch of cider.

And then there are pears. I know at least three people with pear trees, all of whom seem to have excess pears come September. Pear cider – why not?

Post- Thanksgiving News and Views

Ah, Thanksgiving. In the absence of the fairies, we split the responsibilities and managed to put on a good spread ourselves. We learned a few things in the process, too.

Our kitchen needs more counter space. It’s a little like the commercial with the guy realizing he has enough food for his guests, but doesn’t have enough room in his refrigerator. I thought I was brilliant in the way I plugged in an outlet strip and connected the crock pots to it. There they were, spread out on the kitchen counter, heating the mashed potatoes, curried squash soup, two kinds of stuffing, and mulled apple cider. Then we took the turkey out of the oven and realized there was no room to carve it. Chuck ended up setting a large cutting board across two burners (turned off, of course) on the stove and carefully carving the bird there.

La Petite’s stuffing and mashed potato recipes were delicious. She even made small quantities of plain potatoes and stuffing for those family members known for their preferences toward the traditional versions.

When you’re seven years old, drinking mulled cider from a wine glass is really cool.

A traditional holiday is often a good time to create new traditions. We served the holiday dinner on Friday for suppertime instead of on the calendar’s Thursday. It meant more relaxing travel for those on the road, more sleep time for the late-shift person in the family, and all in all simply worked better. We’ll be open to moving Thanksgiving off the Thursday in the future if needed.

On the same note, my birthday and my sister-in-law’s birthday land near Thanksgiving every year. Chuck’s birthday and La Petite’s are in mid-December, just a few days after our niece’s (she of the apple cider wine glass). We were universally not ready with gifts wrapped, but we exchanged presents anyway. After we were all done, the laughter had died, but the smiles remained, we decided that maybe this No Wrapping was a good idea.

There’s a lot for which to be thankful this time around.  Chuck no longer has to fear getting sent off with the satellite truck. When our Packers played on Thanksgiving, that was a very real possibility. Chuck left the television industry about a year ago, and it was a good move. We were all (relatively) healthy. Everyone traveled safely. Most of all, we enjoyed spending time together.

And that, my friends, is the best tradition of all.

Barbershop Competition – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good? That’s easy. Two or three hotels filled with men who love to sing barbershop harmony! Everywhere we went, we saw or heard guys singing. We were in the right place at the right time to hear a singing telegram of sorts for a birthday. The quartet sang well, the recipient was so surprised she cried, and barbershop harmony sounded great in the large atrium lobby. Later on, we were making arrangements for a to-go order  when we heard another quartet singing “Let me call you sweetheart” to the restaurant hostess.

To follow in the “Good” category were the many short but wonderful conversations we had with other barbershoppers. (Get used to it, spell check. In my world, that is a real word.) It was hi, which group are you with, did you sing already today, how did it go, have you been singing long, and more. Barbershoppers are a friendly group.

But then, the bad. We had one bad experience that put all three of us in near-anxiety mode. We ordered from a pizza-type restaurant, getting assurance that the food would be ready to eat soon, and we’d be on our way to hear one of our quartets. Our order wasn’t ready, we were getting tense as we watched the clock, so we decided to ask for it to go and eat later, after seeing the quartet perform. Amigo and I hit the pavement (the Skywalk) and headed for the auditorium while Chuck changed our order and complained heavily to the manager. To make a long story short, we all made it to the performance, but not without some stress on the way. We informed the rest of the chorus of our experience so they wouldn’t be stuck in a similar tough spot.

How about a little more “good”? We decided to make the long weekend a family vacation of sorts. We didn’t rush to get to Rochester, relaxed in our hotel room when Amigo wasn’t singing or watching other groups sing, and there was a Starbucks down the road. Er, hallway. I’m a morning person, where Chuck’s second shift work puts him firmly in night owl mode most of the time. When I woke up Friday morning, I showered, dressed, and strode down the hall to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I spent a while relaxing (there’s that word again) and reading the morning paper.

Oh, well, the ugly. We forgot swimsuits. That was okay, though, because we really didn’t have time to swim in the hotel pool. What else – oh, yeah, the Chinese restaurant was never open when we wanted it. That’s not too bad, though, because there were so many other options. Ugly? Amigo’s tux pants are too short. But he stands in the third row, so that’s not serious, either. We can get that fixed later. Maybe there weren’t any truly ugly moments.

As for more good, the chorus placed 4th out of 18 groups. They sang very well, and even went home with the award for Most Improved.

Ah, barbershoppers. They’re a great bunch of guys. So spell check, get used to it. Barbershoppers is a real word.

I’m Back!

My laptop is in the shop again. I’ve been contemplating buying a tablet or a 2 in 1. To make a long story short,I did it. I am getting to know my new device, and you, readers, can expect more posts from the O.K. Chorale soon! But first, I’m off to take Amigo to the courthouse to sing God Bless America and thr Armed Forces Medley for Veteran’s Day.

Caveman Politics

I saw this term in a comment on Facebook, and it stuck in my head. “Caveman politics” term was a commentary on a bill that would forbid University of Wisconsin employees from performing or assisting with abortions. You read it right, readers: people who do their work in the hallowed halls of government are trying to legislate training and practicing medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and its associated clinics.

Perhaps I should call it Paleolithic Politics – it has a nice ring to it, with a bit of alliteration.How many of us actually know what the status of women was like in the Paleo- or Neolithic eras? I can look it up in my history texts, but what I really want to know is this: why does our state legislature want to take their ideological swing so far to the right that it tells the University of Wisconsin Medical School what it can and cannot teach?

Would you like to know more? It’s scary.

 

Apple Cider and More

Once again, we were too busy making apple cider to take any pictures and document the process. The end result is delicious. In fact, even though it’s almost November, I might keep my eye on the orchards that advertise windfalls and “not quite perfect” apples. They would still make delicious cider.

Coming up soon: Amigo and his barbershop chorus are warming up for their next level of competition. Take it from me, folks, these guys are sounding good. I’ve helped out a little here and there by assisting with sectionals (when the guys split up to learn their own parts), donating my homemade goods as raffle prizes, and mainly by getting Amigo to rehearsals. I’m looking forward to hearing the chorus sing next weekend!

It’s All School Field Trip Day on Tuesday. I was ready to go to a planetarium and earth science museum. I chickened out. Seriously, sort of, in a way, because I feared settling into the planetarium and having the world start spinning around me again. It might be a meaningless fear, but I just didn’t feel up to chancing it. Since there were plenty of teachers signed up to go, I passed on the Person-In-Charge paperwork to another teacher and put myself on a different trip. I’ll be going on a hayride, picking up a pumpkin and maybe some apples (woot! more cider!) and having a relaxing and fun lunch afterwards with a few teacher friends.

To summarize, it’s been a busy weekend and it’ll be a busy week, too. And if anyone asks me “How d’you like them apples?” I’ll say “As cider, of course.”