Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Though you might not realize it from my blog (Then again, you just might) I greatly enjoy teaching undergraduates. Don't get me wrong- it isnt why I came to grad school, and it is a truly heinous expenditure of time in grading, but I still really like it. I know I'm not alone in feeling that way but, all the same, it sometimes feels like it. My love of teaching, and my honest affection for my students, often leads me to do things that my research-oriented department head might prefer I not. (Let's just not tell him, eh?) One example of this is my out-of-class study sessions. Since my tests are charitably described by my students as "hard," and often as, "ball-busting," I feel like this is a reasonable thing for me to do. So, before each test, I offer a time to meet with the class and answer questions. I also do this for as long as they can keep asking- and so have had these sessions run as long as 2.5 or 3 hours. What can I say? A cumulative final exam does tend to get people's attention. So, I guess you could say that while I expect a great deal of my students, I generally try to give back as much as they put in.

Overall my policies have worked well but, recently, I've found myself facing the inverse of the situation described by Kim Kim.* I've had a student in my class who has not been doing well, but who has been good about coming to class, doing the homework, and generally seems to be putting in the effort. I've even been pretty impressed with his drive, as he managed to do something like ten percentage points better on my second test than the first... which is impressive since it was universally declared by my students to be harder than the first. Like many instructors, I don't really expect every student to perform brilliantly, but I respect the hell out of the ones who work hard for their grades.

Recently I offered an extra credit paper for my students and, as you might expect, this student turned in an assignment. I was pleased about this, as he needs the credit, but didn't expect too much as his writing typically is not very good. So, I was pleased when I noticed that this paper was better written than his earlier works. Then I was a little concerned about how much better written it was. Then I googled several of the sentences in his paper. And then I found the paper itself, posted as an example of an "A" paper for an English class at a community college.

Now I feel annoyed for a number of reasons. I'm annoyed that a student I liked decided to try to cheat. I'm annoyed that I have to go through the paperwork nightmare that an incident of cheating entails. To be honest, I'm even a little annoyed at how half-assed this effort was. I mean, shit, can't he at least put some effort into the cheating? It took me all of two tries to hit his paper with google- that's a pretty shitty job. Mostly, though, I'm annoyed at the waste. Do the work, don't do the work, either one is fine. This, however, just wastes time and distracts us both from the actual task of learning. That's a problem for me. Doubly so if this makes it harder for me to continue liking my students.

I'm going to have a meeting with him tomorrow about it- and then submit the case as an academic violation. I just haven't decided how hard to pound on him. Suggestions, of course, are welcome.

Comes with the territory, I guess. I like my job, and I like my students, but part of the respect that is supposed to exist in a classroom is expecting a certain level of performance. They expect a lot from me, and that's as it should be, but I also have to expect a lot from them. If I don't care enough to be hard sometimes, it's gonna be tough for me to care enough to be good.

For those who are interested, no, I doubt that picture much resembles Kim. While I think I know who Kim is, I have never (to my knowledge) met her. Still, since we have a tradition on this blog of giving people faces, I thought it appropriate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, why do they do that? I don't know whether to be smug that they're so easy to catch with Google, or dismayed that they can't even cheat properly.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:00:00 PM  
Blogger TDEC said...

I wonder what the person's motivation was - laziness or sheer despair. Sometimes people just give up I guess. I've never really understood why people cheat at the kind of level, as it is so obviously really not worth the enormous trouble you get into. I don't know how it is with you, but at my uni you'd very simply lose all of your grades for that year. Now if the whole thing were hopeless from the start, then maybe, but sounds like it wasn't at all.

Recently, one of my colleagues, who is also finishing her degree in Our Corporate Field, had to hand in her final paper. After years of diligent studying she decided to submit a paper nicked from the Corporation's online library. She didn't get caught, luckily, but why in god's name would you risk a four-year degree and all the money you invested simply to bypass a project (not a very big one either) that is supposed to be interesting to you?

Beats me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't have any brilliant advice except to suggest that you document EVERY interaction with this student, not just those pertaining to the cheating incident. And if you can, have a colleague sit in the room with you when you discuss the cheating incident with the student, particularly if said student is female. (Great, now you can be suspicious as well as disappointed. Always here to help.)

PS. You missed by a long shot with the picture, but thanks anyway.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4:42:00 AM  
Blogger procfreak said...

i feel your pain. last semester i had someone cut and paste the free preview of a paper from a term paper mill, then the rest from a variety of sources (wtf? terms papers too expensive these days?). and then this kid had the balls to turn the paper in early as a draft, just to see if it would past muster. and i'm sad to say, it did (the first time, not the second, obviously). in any event, i did want to caution you about following the violation of academic norms blah blah blah process. often that process is more than tedious for you, and unduly harsh for the student. really. it's almost not worth it. it sounds as if this kid as been trying to improve, so if you bust him with this, he'll likely admit it, and then either fail him for the course or just the assignment (which you'd have to do anyway). have him agree to it, and then get it in writing. but stay out of the whole "report" thing. too much wasted time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 7:10:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Well, I had the meeting with him. He tried to bluff his way through it, then blame it on his roomie. Nice job- that's still a violation of the code of conduct. I'm going through with the formal purpose, even if only to keep myself covered.

Kim: Way ahead of you. My previous job taught me to be a total documentation whore, and I had witnesses for my chat with the student. Sorry about the image- I'll do better next time.

Procfrek: Yeah, the procedures are a pain, but if I don't go the formal route, I open myself up to even more trouble. I love the "support" my university provides to its instructors.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 11:03:00 AM  

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