13
Feb

Cheat

Students-mobiles-switched-001

Today my class cheated.

After the classes are over  on Friday at my school we all get together in the staff room, have a drink and talk about the day, about the stuff that happened, about our triumphs and mistakes. It is a nice way of shedding the week, not taking too much home. There is a fierce commitment in this job, a profound idealism that is not easy to wear, not handy to take home, so we talk it out.

So I was not expecting the head of the senior school to take me aside and tell me that my kids were cheating.

She had been called by a parent, because their child had received a photograph of the test paper, the test I had given today, and warned them. The two classes involved are pretty good kids, but I am under no illusions. Kids can be individually absolute sweethearts, but collectively fairly merciless.

Smartphones make this possible. All  my students have them (which is a wonderful thing) and it only takes a moment of inattention for a photo to be taken and shared. I was keeping an eye out, but also working on a stack of marking: looks like I missed a trick.

It was otherwise an easy day the day, only two classes, both taking a test and I was well prepared. The room was not very quiet - the older classes were getting a disco-themed lesson on sexually-transmitted diseases just down the hall, but their real problem was question 7. Question 7 was s a chunk of real mathematics, real problem-solving, look at this from a couple of angles challenge.

The deputy was sympathetic and pragmatic. "Don't worry too much", she said with the cheerful gravitas of the very, very experienced. "This happens and it even happens to very experienced teachers." We did a little damage assessment and it looks like I don't need to do any marking this weekend.

It is dumb. Whoever did this will probably cause his or her class to take the test again. Mathematics, certainly the way I teach it and mark it, is not very much about a singular answer, but a great deal about using the right process, building the right steps. if you copy my test paper and work out the perfect steps, perhaps with the help of one of my best students, you have actually just educated yourself. You cannot apply the advantage you gained without doing quite a lot of learning.

So it looks like I have the weekend off and my fourth-years are in for a tough time.