of a Former Cheater
ĎWe Never Stopped To Think It Was Cheatingí
By Liz Twentyman (January 14, 2002)
I used to cheat. At the time, though, I didnít think of it as cheating. I never stole a test from a teacherís desk and copied the answers. I never wrote answers on my arm and then wore a long sleeve shirt, tugging it up every once in a while when I needed some help, and I never submitted an older siblingís paper as my own. That was cheating. What I was doing wasnít cheating. I was just letting that quiet kid from French desperately copy the answers from my workbook a couple of minutes before class began. It was just ungraded busy work, checked only for completion, and I wasnít the one copying it. If he hadnít copied it from me, he would have found somebody else.
It became a daily ritual. During lunch, at least two or three people would be sprawled on the floor in our alcove, scribbling someone elseís answers into their workbooks. Everybody did it. We never stopped to think that maybe we shouldnít be copying, that what we were doing was cheating. We just did it.
Before I knew it, I became one of the copiers. It only happened once, though. I realized two minutes before a class began that I had forgotten to do a worksheet. The girl sitting next to me slid hers over, no questions asked, and I started paraphrasing what she had written. I had only gotten through the first of two pages when the teacher started to walk around the room, collecting homework. Then a hand slid my classmateís paper out from halfway under mine. I looked up. The teacherís angry, accusing eyes glared back. The teacher never said anything, but I knew that I was caught.
I couldnít get the incident off my mind for several days. Everywhere I went, I turned it over in my mind, replaying my teacherís reaction over and over again. I was distracted during basketball practice and during classes. I could only think about having been caught. My teacher never took any action, but the guilt was enough. I began thinking about what she could have done, how I could have gotten detention or Saturday school, or even a zero on the assignment, and how it was stupid of me to put myself in that position. I was angry at myself. But as I mulled over it even more, I realized that it was wrong for even deeper reasons. It was wrong because I was claiming credit for someone elseís work. It was wrong because I was deceiving the teacher. It was wrong because I hadnít earned the grade, but instead someone else had. And not only that, but what I had been doing before was also wrong. As I had let others copy my work, I had been contributing to all of these things. I was giving others an unfair advantage.
I had initially been angry with myself for being so obvious when I was copying my classmateís paper, for putting myself in a position to be caught so easily. But perhaps I had wanted to get caught. Perhaps I knew what I was doing was wrong, but needed someone else to show me that once and for all.
In any case, it worked. As of a couple
of days after that incident, Iíve never cheated again. Iíve never copied
anyone elseís paper, Iíve never let my eyes stray during a quiz, and Iíve
never just handed somebody else my paper to let him copy it. If other students
are talking about a test that I havenít yet taken, I walk away. But itís
gone much further than that. I try to be completely honest with myself
and with others in all aspects of my life. During basketball and track
practice, I refuse to cut corners, always running my hardest. During last
track season, I told my coach that Annie, one of my teammates, should also
run the 800 meter run, even though it meant that I would no longer be our
teamís fastest in that event. (Annie went on to win the state championship.)
Integrity became increasingly important to me in the months following being
caught, and it has remained so even until today.
Lasso Logo by Kevin Dorsey (October 2001)