Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Decisionsphoto © 2009 Felix | more info (via: Wylio)

I know that my speech class is not the favorite of every sophomore who comes through the door. And most of them who don't like it, are afraid of it. Face it, speaking in front of a group of people is a scary thing, particularly when you are sixteen years old.  I remember it well. I also know how good it is for people of any age to learn public speaking skills--especially the one about coping with nervousness.

I also know that sometimes kids try to take the easy way out and cheat. Now how do you cheat in speech class?  You plagiarize.

It has happened before, and, unfortunately, it will happen again.  The semester final is a commencement speech. Students have a week to write it. They have example speeches to watch on the internet and examples from former students to read. I will help any of them develop ideas. And the day I go over the requirements for this, I talk about plagiarism.

I don't know why, but this is the speech gets plagiarized the most. And it's the easiest one to catch them on. It has to sound like the student. It needs to be personal. I tell them how I find out they have cheated (Google is a wonderful thing!) Twice before, I have Googled speeches. It's hard to deny that you copied and pasted when the evidence is right in front of you.

Today was a different kind of plagiarism. A student in one class copied and pasted the speech of a student in another class into a word document and delivered it as his/her own. Really. And how did I find out? Two students who had read the original came and told me after class. I looked into it and found the evidence. Geez...everyone has to turn in a copy of their speech. Did he/she really think I wouldn't notice at some point?  My stupid sign must be flashing again!

The hard part of the whole scenario is this. The offending student will fail speech--a requirement for graduation--by having to take the zero. This class was very difficult for the student and I know it wouldn't be any easier the next time. My first instinct was to just let him/her fail ( (this was also the reaction of the parent when I called home). But, everybody makes stupid choices once in a while during their life. You make a decision you think will help you out and no one will be the wiser. . . unless you get caught.

  I cooled down and came up with a "solution".

Tomorrow morning, the student will come in and work on a new speech, which will need to be delivered by after school on Friday. If done, he/she will pass. If not, he/she will retake speech next year. I hope this time, a wise decision is made.

"Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions."  ~Author Unknown


  1. I like that "my stupid sign must be flashing again". These words are some of my thoughts often enough. I think you must do what feels right for the student's welfare. I know that you read my post yesterday, about choices. I think it's such a challenging thing for a teacher, to try to make the one that seems best for all concerned. I hope this student realizes what a gift he or she has been given. I bet the parents do.

  2. Yes, the statement "my stupid sign must be flashing again" made me laugh out loud! I feel that way so often when talking to students. What ARE they thinking? I like your solution. The consequence of failing on the spot and repeating a year, is justified, but in this case probably not really helpful to their growth. Tiring, isn't it? This is the part of teaching that isn't fun. I wish the students knew how distressing their actions can be to their teachers.