Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 3

(Continued from May 21, 2011) ...... A few days later, I received a telephone call from Karen’s dad. I fully expected a giant thank you and kudos! However, I instead received a minor tongue lashing because I did not intervene with Karen’s professor. They believed that a call from me would have gone a long way toward boosting Karen’s grade. I listened for a long time before I reminded him that cheating was never right; he had never coached Karen to cheat; and I told him that I was more than a little disappointed and surprised that he wanted me to help a cheater, even though it was Karen, get away with it!

He reminded me of how much he and his wife had done for me in the past and were still continuing to do. As such, he believed that I owed them as much in return.

While I wished that there had been something that I could have done to help with the grade, after all Karen was a great kid and here parents were terrific, the simple truth was that Karen had CHEATED and she had flirted with permanent dismissal from the university. Even if a phone call from me would have helped, it would have been wrong, as it would have taught Karen that it was fine to cheat and then get bailed out when caught.

Karen still called a couple of times a year and visited me once a year during the rest of her college years. Her parents did not keep up the contact and, when I called them on a few occasions, it was clear that they did not want to talk to me.

After Karen graduated from college with mostly “A’s”, a few “B’s””, and one “D-“, she came to see me. We talked about the old times in school, her college days, and her college years. Then Karen thanked me for my stand during her first year of college. She now realized that, had I gone to bat for her, she would have never learned her lesson and she might have relied on the plagiarism trick a few more times, instead of actually learning the material.

She told me that she had learned a valuable lesson and that she had me to thank for it. I told her that I was glad that she had understood and that I would have done the same exact thing for my own children. I also told her that it hurt me to watch her suffer with the "D-", but that I knew her long-term potential depended on following the right road.

I then asked about her parents. She told me that they had been upset with me for a few years and that the topic was discussed off and on since the moment that it happened. But, with a slight smirk, Karen told me that I might be getting a phone call from her parents in the near future. We finished our conversation and agreed to keep in touch over the years!

About a week later, Karen’s dad called me and said that he and his wife wanted to meet me for lunch. We set a day and time and ended the conversation.

On the day of the big lunch, I was just a tad uneasy, as I expected another to tongue-lashing over the cheating incident that occurred almost four years ago.

As I entered the restaurant, Karen’s dad and then her mom hugged me with some force! They profusely apologized for their previous behavior and their subsequent treatment of me. They said that it had taken four years, but that they now realized that I had done the right thing by not intervening for Karen and that now, four years later, they realized that my action had actually helped to make Karen a stronger person!

Well, it had taken four years, but I was finally back in good graces with Karen’s parents. To this day we are still friends and the incident has been forgotten – sort of! We still talk about it once in a while, but not often. Karen has gone to be highly successful (no surprise there!) in her chosen profession and her parents are continuing to offer their services to the school.

But, even though this story has a happy ending, it must not be forgotten that I was not interested in a pleasant ending as much as I was interested in helping a young college student to learn to do things properly, a lesson that would pay much higher dividends in life than a phone call to a professor.

I have shared this story with my own kids since they were quite young. Cheating is always bad; following the rules is always good; and … just like Karen, I will not bail you out when you knowingly break the rules! So far …. so good!

How about you? Have you ever had to choose between intervening for your kids when they have committed a nefarious act and telling them to buck up and accept the consequences and not repeat the act again? Let me know!

Ah yes, parenting continues to be difficult, but rewarding!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 2

(Continued from May 14, 2011) ..... However, I told her that I had to know ALL of the facts before I would place a telephone call. The last thing that I wanted to do, I told her, was to call the professor or his supervisor and THEN receive additional information that would make it seem foolish that a telephone call had been made.

Karen began to cry over the telephone. She then gave a few more details that she had previously withheld.

While Karen had maintained an “A” during the semester, her final exam, which included a research project that had to be handed in on the day of the final exam, had been plagiarized. Yes, Karen, the All-America kid and former student, had cheated on her final exam and she had been caught.

Her explanation was that she had been stressed, overworked, and ran out of time to properly complete the project.  She knew that she was wrong, but still wondered, actually she begged me, if I could intervene.

Similar to disciplining your own children, I had to explain to Karen that she had committed an egregious act; the professor could have, and probably should have, failed her for the class; the professor could have, and probably should have, sent her report to the compliance office, whereupon Karen would have been expelled from the university.

As such, I told her that I would not be intervening on her behalf. Rather, she should consider herself as fortunate, as her grade of a “D-“, while looking poor on her report card, helped to save her standing in the university. I also told her to NEVER cheat again, as it is never a solution to any issue. Proper planning, as she had done as far back as her middle days with me, is the only way to get through college.

I also told her that she would need to explain everything to her parents and face the music there. As her parents would soon be seeing her report card, it was best if she explained the situation before the card arrived.
She agreed that she had erred; that she would accept the “D-“; and that she would tell her parents.

(So, Karen told her parents and they thanked me for my intervention, right? Well, come back next week to discover the "joy" that awaited me!)

Paul W. Reeves 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 1

Several years ago, I had a student named “Karen” (not her real name, but she did give permission for this story). Karen was the perfect student, always respectful, hard-working, leader, intelligent, and popular with students and staff. Overall, she was a teacher’s dream to have in class.

Karen, along with several other students, made a habit of coming in my room before school, spending lunch in my room, and paying after school visits before she headed home. Additionally, as I had Karen in class for three years, I got to know her parents really well. Her dad used to coordinate the logistics of concert nights and cable television broadcasts and her mom was very active with distributing uniforms and planning our annual out-of-state trips.

It was always sad when students departed at the end of the year, sadder when they left for good, and especially sad when it was a student with whom I had formed a bond. She and her parents had even approached me to offer free babysitting services! We never took them up on the offer, but the offer was an extension of a great relationship between a teacher, student, and parents.

Although I heard from Karen a couple of times a year during her high school days, I had moved on to helping other kids and she had moved on to advanced studies and preparation for college. However, I still kept I touch with her parents. They were terrific people and my wife and I enjoyed their company. In particular, though, they continued to support our band program by helping other parents learn the ropes.

Near the end of Karen’s first semester of college, she called me at my office. While it was certainly great to hear from her, I could tell that she appeared to be in some distress, which, I assumed, was the purpose of the telephone call.

Karen did not waste much time getting to the point of her telephone call. She told me that a professor was giving her a “D-“ in one of her classes, even though she had maintained an “A” throughout the semester and even though she had earned a “B” on her final exam.

Clearly, this did not make any sense and I assumed that it was simply an error in the professor’s grade book. I dispensed my advice to Karen, which included telling her to speak with the professor about her grade. She told me that she had already spoken to him and that he had told her that her grade of a “D-“ was final. He also told her that if she pushed the issue, he would fail her for the class and report her to the office at the university.

An unusual story suddenly became much more dramatic, at least in my mind. How could a professor give an “A” student a “D-“ and then tell her to, in essence, keep quite or he would fail her?

Karen was attending the same university that I had attended in when I pursued my first college degree. As such, she thought that I might know the professor and she hoped that I would intervene with him. I had to tell Karen that I did not know her professor, but that I would be willing to make a telephone call on her behalf. 

(So, did I call her professor to get the grade changed? Please come back next week to find out!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day - THANK YOU!

Well, tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the day on which the second most telephone calls are made and the second most gifts are given in the year (Christmas is #1 every year)! So, what are 25 of the top one million things that a mother can do for her son (the son who will someday be a dad)? Well, here they are:

1) Make him feel loved, nurtured, and taken care of every single day

2) Be there when he is sick or upset and tend to his wounds

3) Make his favorite breakfast every day (with the understanding that his “favorite” will change on a routine basis)

4) Sacrifice her own needs and desires to make sure that her son’s needs and desires are met (without ever telling her son that she made sacrifices)

5) Having a complete homemade dinner ready every single night – other than the occasional pizza night

6) Ensuring that his clothes are clean for school every day

7) Completely washing, drying, and ironing his entire baseball uniform between games of a double header – in plenty of time to get him back to the field for the 2nd game

8) Shooting him a couple of extra bucks when he goes out on a date in high school even though the son never asked – she just knows

9) Somehow finding the funds – when funds are really tight – to purchase the professional drum set of his dreams – a drum set that he could then use to put himself through college, pay for gas and miscellaneous expenses, and even tuck away some cash for the future

10) Getting his drum set to the football field and unloading it by herself while her son practices with the high school band

11) Somehow finding the funds to send him to a jazz camp in Indiana, providing transportation to get him there, returning mid-week to deliver his own drums because he thought that he needed them, and then returning at week’s end to watch his concert, load the drums, and get him home

12) Making sure that he had a nice new suit for his first music gig

13) Never missing one of his endeavors, baseball, basketball, bowling, concerts, etc. - always there in the front row

14) Creating – from scratch – the perfect Santa Claus suit for his 2nd grade play

15) Being there to celebrate every single victory, both no-hitters, every hit and home run, every basket, every strike, and every musical note and still be willing to listen to him re-tell the stories of his endeavors on their way home and at home

16) When her son grows up – watching her grandchildren while her son and wife go away for the weekend – many times

17) Allowing him to get a dog when she really didn’t want one – and then also falling in love with the dog – and nurturing the dog in his final days after her son marries and moves away

18) Always telling her son that she has high aspirations for him in life and reassuring him that he will succeed as long as he works hard

19) Making him a full breakfast at 3:00 a.m. when her son gets home from a gig and is starving

20) Cooking complete dinners and delivering them to his home after he gets married, so that he and his wife will not have to cook late at night after returning home from work and night college classes

21) Always sensing when her son is under stress or duress and encouraging him to slow down and take a deep breath

22) Being supportive with her grandchildren – her son’s children – even when she might wish to give them a kick in the pants

23) Befriending her son’s wife through the years even though they did not always see eye-to-eye at the beginning stages of their relationship

24) Falling in love with her son’s new dog and becoming inseparable with the dog when they are together

25) When facing testing for her upcoming cancer surgery – telling her son to go to work and not worry .. she’ll take a cab to the hospital

O.K., with all of that unselfish motherly love bestowed upon a son, you might think that the young man might become spoiled!! Well, ..... I don’t know ..... do you think that I’m spoiled????

That’s right! Those 25 items describe my own mom, but they only scratch the surface!

To the best mother in the world – THANK YOU, MOM! If my kids someday consider me to be as great a parent as you – my life's mission will be completed. Thank you for the lessons on being a great parent!

Paul W. Reeves