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Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Could it...

... get any better than this?

The lesson was the War of 1812.

A fun few days.

First person account of an impressed sailor.  Madison's letter to Congress asking for a Declaration of War.  Graphic organizer of the two phases.  The Star Spangled Banner, Uncle Sam and "The Battle of New Orleans" (Johnny Horton AND Mormon Tabernacle Choir versions).

And a little CLOZE test.  It's where you fill in the blanks.  Students could choose the "C" level test (that had all the words on the back) or the "A" level test (students had to remember the information).

I was happy.  Until I graded the tests.

I used to have a hard time with cheaters.  I was raised by people with strong ethical values, and I have them, too.  I tried to monitor and catch and punish cheaters.  Until George W. Bush's first election.  And then, hey, maybe I'm teaching the wrong values, huh?  So I sort of let it all go.

So how do you catch cheaters on a simple, middle school test?  They have matching - usually goofy - wrong answers.  Four kids at one table, two at another.  Nowadays I deal with them by gathering the matching papers, stapling them together and writing "If you're going to cheat, make sure someone has the right answers." 

The end.

No loss of points, no calls home, no trip to the principal's office.

I forget it.  They live with it.

The table of four ended up in giggles when they realized "They're all the same!"  (The question must have been, "How did she know?"  The end.)

The two at the other table, however, have given me a very special teacher moment.  One that I will write in my "I LOVE  THIS" journal and visit again and again.

On Tuesday, Student #1 caught me before lunch and asked to speak with me.  "I just wanted to tell you I did not cheat on the test," she said in earnest, "That's not who I am.  I wanted you to know that."

I got all soft and mushy, smiled, and thanked her for telling me.  I believed her.  She was the copy-ee.

Yesterday, Student #2 came into my classroom, pale as a sheet.  "I'd like to talk to you," she began "about the test.  I talked with my parents about this, and I need to talk to you."  She went on to confess to cheating on the test.  She doesn't really know why she did, because that's not something she usually does.  It's all right if I give her an F.  "I've been sick about this," as she put her hand on her almost 14-year-old tummy, "and I'm so sorry."

I'm sure she didn't expect what she got.  I got all mushy and gooey again, and so proud to know her.  In 24 years of teaching, this has NEVER happened.  With elegance, this young teenager owned this mistake, apologized and rather eloquently explained how disappointed she was in herself.  I'm sure she did not expect an expression of admiration, a hug and a confession of a similar mistake I once made.  (OK, I was in second grade, but she didn't need to know that.)  We had a serious but brief conversation (during which her color returned) and then she left for the day, obviously much relieved.

This morning I emailed her parents to let them know how splendidly their daughter had handled herself and gave them a BRAVO!  Mom wrote back to thank me.  She said the girl had not been eating or sleeping, she was so upset, and finally decided on her own that she had to face me.

Later I went to my principal with the good news (he likes that) and we agreed with Mom that, even with the stress, this was an important lesson that the young woman learned, will not forget.

These are the kids that are my anchors.  I figured out that by the time I retire - maybe as early as next year - I will have taught over 4,000 eighth graders.  Some of them can be challenging.  But the majority bring me hope for the future, and once in a while I get an experience like this.

We'll be in good hands with these kids.

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