It’s Every Man For Himself Out Here…

In this post, I actually have a tale to tell. It is a tale that is somewhat somber, and yet, like most somber stories, it carries a valuable moral, which I hope any college-goers (or high school-goers, for that matter) consider with care.

My tale takes place, in part, in my Business Computer Applications class. On this particular day, the last day of school for the week for me, me and each of the other twenty-six or so students in class were given the same assignment: to edit a document in Microsoft Word using a step-by-step guideline. The resulting document would, for the most part, look exactly the same for each of us, give or take the time (which is rounded to the second), our names, and the border for the document, which we were free to personalize.

Yes, it does get better (or worse, depending on your point of view), so keep reading.

Anyway, by the end of class, I had turned in my assignment and was preparing to shut Microsoft Word down. That’s when trouble came a’knockin…. A student a couple of desks away from me had shut down his computer and was about to leave, when he realized that he had neglected to print off or save the assignment we were all supposed to turn in. Distressed, and upon seeing that my assignment was still open on my computer, he came toward me and asked me to put HIS NAME on MY ASSIGNMENT so that he could go ahead and turn the assignment in.

And what did I say? Why, I said “Sure.” Why not, after all? The documents were all supposed to turn out looking pretty much identical, anyway. What harm could there be? Here, I’ll put YOUR NAME on the work that I DID, so that YOU can turn it in.

Listen closely, children: this little “switching of names” maneuver is called CHEATING.

Unfortunately, I did not think of my heinous crime of cheating as a heinous crime of cheating until several hours later, after the deed hopelessly irreversible. Once I came to my senses, however, and realized that what I had done could, indeed, be construed as CHEATING, I was in a bit of a panic. What, oh what to do! Should I email my teacher right away, explain the situation, and respectfully beg for mercy?? Or, should I let it slide? She might not discover the deception, after all, even though my document and that of the other student have the EXACT SAME TIME (rounded to the second) and the EXACT SAME BORDERS on them! And what are the odds of that?

Sigh. It was indeed a conundrum.

In the end, I did what I believe to have been the right thing. It was something I recommend for every student to do, whenever they make a mistake in school and want/need to make it right. What I did was, I emailed my teacher, in which said email I outlined the situation for her and expressed my humblest apologies.

To my relief, my teacher’s response was very positive. She said she was proud of me for being honest, and that she wouldn’t hold it against me. I assume she only meant this personally, however, as her policy dictates that when someone cheats, and they are helped, that someone and their cohort(s) are given failing grades on the assignment that was cheated on. I am at peace with this outcome, however. At least my teacher knows that I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. A teacher’s respect and good favor means more to me than helping someone I barely know to cheat, whether it feels like cheating or not at the time.

I learned two important things from this experience:

1) Teachers are there to help and teach you, and they will understand if you make a mistake…but only if you TELL THEM about it. Always be honest with your teachers, because you want them on your side more than you want the kid two seats down from you. If you ever cheat, by accident or no, never just let it slide. Always…be…honest.

And, 2) As callous as it may sound, it’s every man (or woman) for himself in college. Yes, it’s all well and good to help someone. In fact, you should help other people; doing this will help you learn and solidify information in your memory, as well as providing you with someone to turn to in case YOU ever need help with something, academically. But when “helping” someone is interfering with your own schoolwork and jeopardizing your education…. Swallow your pity and compassion, ’cause it’s time to take a step back. When you’re paying for your education, you want to make sure you get the best experience possible. Call me crazy, but getting F’s for something as stupid as duplicating your document and putting someone else’s name on it is not my idea of the best experience possible.

These were lessons I had to learn the “hard way.” I hope that this post serves others as the “easy way.”



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