I’ve been overheard at school saying, “It feels like I’m continually bringing my horses to water, but they just won’t drink.” I’m reaching out, making calls, sending emails, and I have to admit that most of my efforts are working. I’ve gotten through to parents and students by phone and by email. Several respond well when I invite them to a small group session, and those who attend and participate seem to get the material and improve their work accordingly.
And then there are the exceptions. Those who plagiarize. Those who make things up. Babble on aimlessly. Have no clue, but write a goofy answer.
Here’s an example. The student was supposed to compare and contrast the book she was reading on her own to one of the selections she’d read in class – any of the selections she’d read since January.
the story grabbed my attention because it was a good story and it had good words and good verbs and the story was a good story for kids.
Yeah, you guessed it. She earned 0 points for that answer. Another student tried, at least.
This book has garbed my attention
I’d chalk it up to a typo, but she wrote “garbed” again later in the answer.
Then there was the youngster who wrote an essay about playing soccer and ended it with “Trump: Making soccer great again.” Huh?!?
It’s plagiarism that gets me the most. We use a plagiarism checker to seek out and reveal work that may have been copied from Internet sources. Whether it’s the dreaded Wikipedia or a paper mill that writes and sells essays, Turn It In dot com will find it. In the past three days I’ve had three major incidents of plagiarism. At 53%, 87%, and 92% copied, I couldn’t let any of these go. Had they been borderline, with the only copied material names and places and direct quotes, I could have pointed out the results and reminded the students to give credit where credit was due. But with more than half of an assignment taken directly, word for word, I had to go through plagiarism protocol with each student. I called each one, spoke with the student and the parent learning coach, and then told the students they needed to redo the assignments. And then, to make it official, I recorded the offense in our google sheet for such offenses. Thank goodness, each was a first offense.
I cope with the stress of these incidents by taking breaks from grading. I’ll deal with a difficult situation, and then I’ll take a short walk away from my desk. I’ll pick up any printing, rinse my coffee cups, refill my water bottle, and then head back to my computer. I’ll take a deep breath and then attack the grade book again.
I’ll also remind myself that these kids are the exception, not the norm. Out of 45 essays and 45 Social Studies projects, if only three are copied, I ought to consider it a decent ratio. Maybe. The truth is, I’ll be satisfied when we reach 0% plagiarism. Zero.
As for the others? I wish they’d stick to making their own writing great, much less great again.