Classroom Confessions, Next Time on “Cheaters”

A new Vatican study identifying the most frequently confessed sins, by gender, shows lust, gluttony and sloth in the win, place, show positions for men and pride, envy, and anger in the top three for women.

No mention of the most commonly confessed sins for children, but I suspect that cheating in school is probably somewhere pretty high on the list (followed closely by ditching your peas under the table and “cleaning up” your room by taking every last thing off the floor and cramming it into your closet).

I haven’t bugged any confessionals to back up my theory, but I know me, and I know my daughter, and that’s all I need to know to make a case for cheating as one of the big ones. I did it, she’s done it, and, her teachers tell me, she and I are not alone.

My cheating career was not long, nor was it glamorous. I’m not proud of it, but there was that time in third grade when I lifted the entire Henry Hudson chapter from an explorers book and passed it off as my own (attention, teachers: when a third grader hands in a 14-page paper, do some digging, will ya?) There was that time in fourth grade when, just to keep from breaking the chain of gold stars on the class spelling test performance chart, I cribbed off another kid’s test paper (my first real-life ends/means dilemma). And there was that time in my senior year of high school, when I faked my way through our class discussion of The Grapes of Wrath, the only book assigned to me for high school English that I hadn’t actually read (still haven’t, incidentally, though I did find Steinbeck‘s East of Eden pretty darn amazing).

Scandalous, yes, but awfully white bread, right?

Well, before Christmas, my daughter came to me boasting an incredibly high AR score—the month’s best in her class, in fact. (For those of you not familiar with it, AR, or Accelerated Reader, is a school program where kids read books, then take computerized reading comprehension quizzes; it’s great for goal-setting and achievement-tracking, and it’s a big educational component in many of the schools in my area). But while I cheered her sudden surge to the top of the charts, her dad was skeptical. Turns out his suspicions were confirmed: the printed AR report showed that she’d scored big for quizzes that she’d taken on several Harry Potter books—several of which she’d not actually read.

Her explanation? She’d read one of the books, and had seen the movies for the others, and just got “carried away” when she took the tests. Oh boy.

Thankfully, I’d learned long ago from a Leave it to Beaver rerun on Nickelodeon’s TV Land that the “I saw the movie, so that’s good enough” approach doesn’t work. Poor Beaver was supposed to have read The Three Musketeers, but on the advice of his dopey friends, he watched a televised movie version instead, which, as it seems, could have starred the Three Stooges in the title roles. Athos, Aramis, and Porthos or Larry, Moe, and Curly—same difference, right?

So, my husband and I set up a conference with the teacher, where my red-handed daughter presented a confessional note, complete with her own suggestions for punishment, which included no recess, lost points, and, of course, actually reading the books and retaking the tests. The teacher, God bless her, went for door number 3, and sent my daughter back to class with a stern “thank you” for her honesty.

Truth is, she said, that my kid is by no means the first of the cheater-pants; the other kids in the “gifted” class (the little rascals) have been gaming the AR system since the day it was installed.

My daughter may be a cheater, I guess, but at least she’s developmentally on par.



  1. Sybil said,

    February 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

    If she’s a Girl Scout, she should have one of her badges taken away!!

  2. Sybil said,

    February 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

    And no cookies this year either.

  3. GIARC said,

    February 25, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    To Sybil: Wow! no cookies? That’s a tough punishment.

  4. scheirmad said,

    February 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Shoot, you’re right! She is a Girl Scout. I hadn’t thought of the possible repercussions. You won’t turn her in will you?

    -Scheir M.

  5. Sybil said,

    February 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Don’t worry darlin’, I won’t turn her in.
    More importantly, who is this GIARC character?!?!
    Sounds like some backwards-creature from Star Trek.

  6. GIARC said,

    February 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Resistance is Futile.

  7. Lorraine said,

    February 26, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Hey, I got through Year 12 English by bluffing my way through a Joseph Conrad book – I can’t even remember which one. It was boring and I couldn’t make myself read it and in all honesty I really, really tried! I was lucky because in the exam I didn’t have to write on it! My flip through and conversations with friends gave me enough correct info to write passing essays to appease my teacher during the year although I’m positive she knew!

  8. scheirmad said,

    February 26, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Hey Lorraine,

    I tried to listen to an audio recording of “Heart of Darkness” a while back. I know the narrator was speaking English but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah.” Oh well.

    -Scheir M.

  9. Andie said,

    March 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I don’t remember any test cheating, I remember a time with a “game show” quiz where I heard the questions early, then I knew the answers. Naughty, I know better now!

  10. scheirmad said,

    March 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

    That was naughty! Did you win the game?

  11. Andie said,

    March 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Of course! But I felt really bad! 😉

  12. Andie said,

    March 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    PS I thought (mistakenly) that I was supposed to read “Heart of Darkness” over the summer one year for high school.

    Worst. Book. Ever.

    @lorraine: If you missed one book due to cheating, you are lucky that was the book.

  13. scheirmad said,

    March 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    When I read “East of Eden” a couple of years ago I mistakenly thought it was 700 pages long. When I got to page 700, I found out that I had 200 more to go (I know, I should have seen that coming). Big bummer, let me tell you. If it wasn’t Steinbeck I would have bailed.

    -Scheir M.

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