I know that teachers constantly feel that some days are good and some days are bad. Life in the classroom can make a teacher feel like they are on a mountaintop in one class and then in a valley in another. I experienced the extremes this week. The beginning of the week was my mountaintop. Both of my classes finally figured out that “class participation” did not include them staring at their computers when they should actually be engaging in class discussion. I have been experimenting with my instruction when teaching students specific workflows that they need to follow to fully utilize the software programs that I am teaching. From these experiments, I have found that my classes respond best when I verbally explain the procedures while also visually showing them each step in the program. But that is not enough! I need to then repeat the workflow two more times, and finally make the students do it on their own while I circle the room and double-check their work. I had many moments of pure joy when I saw my students engage in an advanced assignment in Photoshop and do it without training wheels.
I was soon knocked off of my mountaintop by the middle of the week when I corrected the last Excel project that my Junior High Technology class had just turned in. Two of my student’s projects looked identical and it was evident that one student had copied another. This was my first time dealing with cheating and I soon found that it is not black and white. I talked to both students outside of class and showed them the evidence. The student with the mirrored image of the other students work completely agreed and fully accepted a 0 on the project. However, the student whose work was copied and clearly had done more work had a difficult time with the news. He had exceeded expectations on the assignment and was on task throughout every class period, showing a great deal of effort. It was only after the other student left that I heard how all of the information had been exchanged verbally. The student said that his friend kept asking him for ideas and he did not know that his friend was in exchange, putting them down word for word. With junior high tears coming down his cheeks, I could see peer pressure, remorse, broken trust, and a kid with a good heart and good intentions. This was a gray area; I was torn and had knots in my stomach. Some teachers might draw a clear line and say that no matter how that line is crossed, it will still amount to a 0. But I’m not that teacher. In this situation I was not dealing with numbers, I was dealing with a human being who is growing into a person of character that will someday play a role in the greater society that we live in. With that said, I lowered that student’s grade on the project by one letter and told him to better choose his friends.