Friday, November 07, 2008

One Student's Honesty

Most of my students desire to get good grades. Probably because they are homeschoolers and taught from an early age to be more concerned about achievement and progress than about evaluation results themselves, the homeschoolers I work with don't obsess about their scores. Still, they naturally prefer a good grade to a bad one.

Last month, after the high-school literature class finished reading Beowulf, I administered a quiz. Sometimes I design my own quiz, sometimes not. For this year's reading of Beowulf, I nabbed an online quiz from SparkNotes because, unfortunately, the site I used to access for multiple-choice quizzes has reduced the number of materials available. I rarely, if ever, use such a popular site to obtain any evaluation materials although my students and I frequently use the web to obtain discussion materials and to read sample essays.

As a tool for also working on the students' listening skills, often a weakness for some homeschoolers, I dictated the multiple-choice quiz. The students, of course, wrote down their answer choice: A, B, C, or D. As quizzes go, I would rate the SparkNotes quiz on Beowulf of medium difficulty.

Immediately after the quizzes were completed, then traded and scored, a student — I'll call her Susan — approached my desk. I have been teaching Susan various classes for some years and her getting out of her seat in the middle of class never happens. "I don't deserve the grade I just got on the quiz," she said.

Had Susan cheated? No, but she believed that she had because, as part of her preparation for the Beowulf quiz, she had taken the online SparkNotes quiz, the same one I used. Susan had earned a 100% on the quiz in class, a 92% when she took the quiz online.

My response to Susan: "I didn't tell the class not to use the SparkNotes quiz as a study tool. Your 100% stands. You didn't cheat. You did earn your A+." In spite of caring very much about her grades in her senior year, Susan protested a bit, then gave up. I'm not the kind of teacher with whom a student will argue for long.

Few students exhibit Susan's integrity, particularly in a situation such as the one I've just described. Not that my students don't have integrity! They do! But Susan showed the epitome of integrity in her voluntary admission. I commend her.

I've been teaching for over thirty-five years now. Like most teachers, I remember many of my students' names, but not all the hundreds and hundreds of names. Faces and names blur over time. I'm sure, however, that I'll remember Susan and her integrity for years to come. That moment of Susan's honesty is one of those things which a teacher never forgets.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/07/2008 05:58:00 AM