"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


song goes out to all the earth

I have had a long, busy couple of weeks. Grading essays, Congo travel plans, a doctor's appointment, luncheons, meetings with new students, office hours (another matter entirely), and of course, my usual load of teaching responsibilities, dissertation writing, church activities, and trying to keep up with friends and family.

This week brought two new experiences to my ever-growing body of teaching experience. The first was good: dealing with students' parents. On Tuesday night, I attended an end-of-year recital for one of my student's dance/gymnastics group. He organizes the group and invited all his professors, so I thought I'd attend. And I'm glad I did. It was a fun evening, with lots of laughter from a group of students who clearly care about one another.

I ended up sitting next to my student's parents. Although I've been in many situations of introducing my family to my professors, I've never had to have a conversation with the parents of one of my students before. Luckily, he's a great student, and I didn't have to stretch the truth to tell them that they should be proud of their son. It was fun. Also, I now have a standing invitation to visit Peru, but that's another story.

The other thing I learned this week was not nearly as much fun. Last weekend while grading, I noticed something that didn't seem quite right. After much research, I realized that I would have to confront a student about my suspicions of academic dishonesty. (Academic dishonesty, unlike cute things like this, is a serious issue that can result in a student being removed from a course.)

Now. I have been teaching on and off for seven years, and I teach at a large state university. I counted awhile back, and I think that I have taught, graded for, and/or advised close to 1,000 undergraduates over the years. I am quite certain that in all this time, someone has probably cheated on an exam or a paper.

But I've never caught it until now. And it made me absolutely sick. I like to believe the best of people, and it really disappoints me when someone does the wrong thing. I really didn't know what to do. Luckily, there are procedures for these things, and my colleagues were willing to share their experiences.

Also luckily, this happened in a class at the Christian university at which I teach. The directives for dealing with academic dishonesty are quite different than those at the large state university at which I also teach. Instead of automatically failing or penalizing the student, I was instructed to follow Matthew 18 by approaching the student with my concerns. This left room for redemptive action that punished the student for making a poor choice, but that also didn't destroy the student's academic record.

Teaching is a learning process. And while one of the lessons I learned this week was harder to learn than the other, I'm glad to know that I can do it. I'm grateful for the advice and support of friends and colleagues. And I'm thankful that the vast majority of my students really are good kids whose parents I'm glad to meet. I am lucky to have a job that I love.



Anonymous kirstin said...

ugh... i hated dealing with cheating when i taught spanish last year. but good experience for you to gain, i agree.

Friday, April 27, 2007 2:34:00 PM

Anonymous the librarian said...

After being on the Honor Council at my college for 3 years, I know how hard this is. I'm glad the school has procedures and a policy that allows for mistakes to be made without permanent repercussions. We always had to start with expulsion, but were usually able to get sentences down to probation with a failing grade on the assignment and some type of education based on student and faculty testimony and the facts of the case. Still, those were some of the most stressful times in my college career. I'm sure your handled it with much grace and compassion.

Friday, April 27, 2007 4:18:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks, y'all. It really was awful. And a huge time-suck - it took forever to do the research to be sure, to get the student to come in, to communicate with my dean, and to do the paperwork. Ugh.

Friday, April 27, 2007 7:11:00 PM


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