On some days in my classroom, I bat a thousand. I see the cell phone easing out of the pocket or the fingers typing a text deep inside a purse so capacious that it could double as a body bag. I’m astute enough to know that students who submit typed homework with someone else’s name at the top might want to rethink cheating via Microsoft Word and that students who borrow pens rarely remember to return them. I’ve learned to remedy that last problem by asking for collateral before allowing writing implements to leave my desk. Cell phones, TS 180 calculators, and kidneys all work fine. But sometimes I marvel at the way students try to skirt the rules. They bend, stretch and pull like a couple of Cirque de Sol contortionists trying to land a promotion. Allow me to recount a couple of incidents.
Tony and I had spoken about his papers before. While he was a bright kid aiming for the A, I had, in no uncertain terms, impressed upon him the importance of doing his own work. Imagine my disappointment to read another of Tony’s papers that had obviously been revised by an adult. Tony was both amazed and embarrassed that I had exposed him for the literary fraud he had become, but then again, I really couldn’t take all the credit for my Sherlock Holmes deductions. The sticky note attached to the second page that read “Honey, I tried to revise this paper, but I couldn’t read the teacher’s comments on this bottom paragraph. You’ll just have to do that one yourself. Love, Mom” was a clue that was hard to overlook.
And then there was the time a 7th grader submitted a story that I thought might belong to someone else at home. Exhibit A was that two page story I had assigned weighed in at ten pages, and exhibit B was the choice of language. I don’t know many twelve-year olds who work the word undulations into a sentence. Even more suspicious was the fact that Jerry didn’t know what the word meant or even how his story ended. He’d probably gone to bed while mom was still on page three.
But my favorite is the few times I truly do channel the other side and pull one from up my sleeve. This happened last week when a student handed me a short story assignment. I read the first two paragraphs and knew that this was the same story he’d submitted to me two years prior when he took my class as a freshman. I handed it back and told him to stick to recycling aluminum cans over fiction, and he eyed me with awe. It’s hard to impress a sixteen year old boy, but sometimes you can stumble on it by accident.
But no story would be complete without recounting a time or two when I swung for the fence and missed. I had one of those moments last month during freshmen presentations. I had urged the kids be attentive and courteous, so imagine my distaste when I saw a student pulling what looked to be a cell phone from his pocket. I was off my chair in an instant and pounced before he could work the object back into his jeans. I held out my hand palm up and confiscated . . . a retainer. Aha! That’ll teach him to work on dental alignment in my class! I returned the contraband plastic and strolled back across the room giggling about the one who got away.
So on good days I have eyes in the back of my head and the mental acuity of Steve Jobs. On other days, I’m just thankful to have a job.
© 2013 – Traci Carver