Today my students had their first assignment due. It was a relatively easy assignment, worth only 4% of their grade. (I didn't decide this, the coordinator for our department decides how many assignments there are and what they are worth.)
At the end of class, I asked for the assignments. After most of them were handed in and the students had left, I saw these three guys huddled at the back of the room - two of them blocking the desk of one student who was sitting down, madly writing.
I recognized the scenario. I've seen it before.
I walked back, picked up the paper the student was scribbling on, and the one he was copying from.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Just checking my answers." He stammered.
"Looks like you're copying to me." I could feel the colour in my face rising.
"No... look. I filled in the answer, but it was wrong. I was just checking it against his."
I looked. It was true. The assignment was done, crossed out and written over.
"It's still copying. I'm not marking that section."
"Aw, c'mon!" He said.
"You're copying. I'll mark the rest of the assignment, but not that section.... not for either of you."
"What?! Don't blame it on him! He didn't do anything wrong!"
"He lent you his paper. You didn't forcibly take it from him, did you?"
"No, but... It's still not his fault. Why d'ya have to do that?"
"You're copying... Right in front of me -- blatantly! What do you expect me to say? I'm academically duty-bound to do something about it. Sorry, fellas."
He looked at his friend and said, "Sorry, man."
The friend just shrugged it off, trying to be cool about it.
The two in question, along with the third who was helping to try and block my view, left together.
I hate this part of my job. I've had to deal with it before. Anyone who teaches long enough has to deal with it.
For some reason, I have only ever seen young men attempt this. I'm sure the girls have done it, but they never seem to be quite so conspicuous as to do it right in front of me.
What gets me is that they seem to think they can get away with it. They don't seem to understand that if I actually witness it with my own eyes and do nothing about it, I am the one at fault. Not only would I be a push-over, but I can be severely reprimanded by my own department head -- and rightly so -- if anyone else reported it. (It has happened -- but not to me.)
As I told these guys today, "I get paid to answer your questions. If you are not sure of an answer, ask me." In fact, I told that one fella today that his "wrong" answer was in fact, not entirely wrong, and he would have gotten part marks for it. Instead, he'll get a zero on the entire section.
Do they think I don't have eyes?
Do they think I'm just too "nice" to do anything about it?
Do they think that their 6-foot-plus frames -- in a pack of 3 -- will intimidate me?
Oh well... if it was going happen, I guess I'd rather it happen on a small assignment at the beginning of term, rather than on a big test later on. That's always ugly.
At least now we know where we stand with each other.
Still though... it's not a part of the job that I enjoy.