The Drive to Succeed*

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Teenagers these days fascinate me.

In some ways I feel like they already know so much more than I ever did at that age, but then at the same time I sometimes have to wonder if they are really prepared for life outside the four walls of a high school.

One of the things I am constantly surprised by is their attitudes towards tests. Now, this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but I always find there is a certain group of students in every class that panic a little during tests. These are good kids who have either forgotten about the test, didn’t prepare as well as they should have, or are maybe just having a rough day.

In any case, I see them staring hard at their papers, willing the answers to the questions they are stuck to pop into their minds. They stare down, then look at the ceiling in frustration…

…and then their eyes wander to the person sitting next to them, busy writing out the answer to the question they are stuck on. Some hesitate a moment before looking over, others try to wait until I’m not looking, and some don’t care what I’m doing–they just need the answer.

Some try to keep a pencil in one hand, and their cell phone in the other under the table. I mean, if they’re only “checking” the answer they were going to give anyway, it’s not cheating, right?

It blows me away. These aren’t “bad” kids, they are are just unprepared, and accepting responsibility for  their lack of preparedness and possibly failing just isn’t an option. They have already figured out that they need good grades in their classes for whatever their next stage in life will be, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there–including cheating.

So, I can’t help but wonder: is their drive to pass and succeed more important  than the drive to be honest?

Do honesty and integrity even matter anymore? As along as the desired mark is achieved, does it matter how you got it?

I couldn’t ever do it. My conscience eats me alive, and the thought of handing in something that isn’t my own has always left me feeling a little bit sick to my stomach.

…but maybe I’m just old fashioned. Maybe some kids today think that success is more important than honesty.

Are they right? In the grand scheme of things, does a little high school test matter?

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4 Comments

  • julie--burnett

    Coming from a fresh high school graduate, it always mattered to me to do things myself. If I failed the test, at least *I* failed the test, not the person sitting next to me. People asked me many times to copy an old assignment or texted me for an answer to the test, but I declined and ignored and made it through the 4 years.

    Honesty will get you farther, employers seek that in their employees.

  • Teachergirlblogs

    Every time I catch one of my students cheating it really bothers me. More than cheating on tests, I catch them plagiarizing their papers all the time. I have had to have them turn in every major assignment to turnitin.com just to make sure they are not plagiarizing. Some of them still do it too! They seem to see nothing wrong with it, which makes me scared for the future.

  • Karen Peterson

    Teaching kids honesty and integrity is more important than ever. And I’ve learned not to let them get away with even the smallest things because it just gives them more courage to try to get away with bigger stuff.

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