Carl Gustav Jung was going through training to be a doctor and was writing his thesis. Once a certain teacher was discussing the papers of his students and took the best first. Jung’s paper was the last on his table. That’s what the teacher said then (these are all quotes from the video, watch the first part of it):
“That would be by far the best paper, if it hadn’t been copied. You’re a thief!… and if I knew where you’ve stolen it I’d fling you out of school. You are a liar!”
Jung’s comment on this, many years later: “I hated that fellow. And that was the only man that I could have killed, you know, if I had met him once in the dark corner…”
My friend was studying at a university here in Moscow. Once a certain teacher was announcing the grades (supplying these with comments) for the papers the students had written and he/she took the best first. My friend’s paper was the last on his/her table. What the teacher said then could repeat the words of a certain teacher of 100 years before. It looked to be the best paper but it had “surely” been copied.
While in fact my friend was the only student in that group who had written it by himself.
I was teaching a group of insurance specialists, all ladies 5-7 years older than me. Once the task was to write a review of some film we’d watched. One of the students, actually the brightest one in that class and the one who always liked to “test” me (I was 23 then), handed in a page with printed text which didn’t sound like her writing. I checked online and found the text of the review down the first link in Google. I pulled myself (and my courage, and my sense of fairness) together and scribbled a message for her on that page, something saying I knew she could do better than that. Next class she brought a good review she’d written herself, and I never felt any slightest hint of disrespect again.
I know my students copied and stole for their writing tasks. I always (??) know when that happens. In most cases I make a personal note on that paper. Sometimes I ask to speak about the topic. Sometimes I call the student out on the cheating. There have been moments I can’t be proud of, when I thought the student had copied but he/she hadn’t in fact. There have been worse cases I can’t bring myself to tell about here.
Here’s what this all leads to for me, in the end.
What’s happening in a classroom relies a lot on the choices I make as a teacher. The kind of choices is not limited to picking materials, methods, tasks, tools, management strategies, considering learner types, acting on emergent language and reflecting in/on action. These, and everything else that matters in a classroom (and we know by some blog titles there are the other things that matter), constitute the flesh and bone of a lesson. In a lame attempt to tie Jung in here, let’s say that there’s also psyche of a lesson. Maybe it is the choices we are making (as humans), which are not necessarily rational or right all the time. We are making impulsive choices (ok, maybe I am making impulsive choices, not you). Some of them are intuitive and correct, others can be..well, not disastrous but leaving me feeling awkward, even ashamed at times.
For all we know there could have been lethal consequences to poor choices teachers made. This exaggeration doesn’t serve to prove anything.
I apologise to those who don’t find psychology enthralling or connected to this post. It’s night time writing again!
Let me know what you think, if there’s anything here to think about. Thanks!
UPD, because there IS something here to think about. Thank you for this.
Plagiarists and cheats – a blog post by Graham Stanley
The Cheating Art – a blog post with a lesson plan, by David Petrie
Digital Plagiarism vs Digital Citizenship: a war of words – a 2013 IATEFL Hungary talk by Sophia Mavridi, shared by Bethany Cagnol in her post-like comment below