It was quite the dilemma. Was my teacher really telling me to cheat? Mrs. Kristen had sent us home with a few very hard questions for homework. “But the answers aren’t in the book,” I protested. That is when she recommended that I go copy a friend’s homework? I was having trouble wrapping my nine-year-old mind around her instructions. In a whisper, I finally asked my friend to copy his worksheet. He looked at me suspiciously. He felt it too, this was wrong and possibly a trap, but he agreed anyway. Looking the other way, he placed his worksheet on his desk and I fervently copied.
After school, the moment I was dreading finally came. My teacher asked me to stay after class. My suspicions were confirmed. It had been a test, a trap, to see if I would cheat and I had failed! By the time I reached her desk I could hardly breathe, my heart was racing and I was on the verge of crying. Mrs. Kristen smiled, “I just wanted to congratulate. You got an A+! It was wise to copy Andy’s paper, he always gets the right answers.” I couldn’t bear it any more. I broke down, “But I cheated!”
Mrs. Kristen laughed, “Cheating is when you break the rules and it isn’t breaking the rules if the rule-maker tells you to do it. Now, why do you think that I have you look up a few obscure facts everyday? Do you really need to know the average rainfall in Belize?” I thought about it. I would have assumed yes, but had no reason to explain why. She continued, “The purpose of the homework challenge is to see if you can find the right answer. There are lots of ways to find the information that you need. Today you asked a friend, but tonight I want you to use a different resource. You can ask me, you can use my encyclopedias, you can go to the library, you can call a librarian, you can look on the internet, you can ask your grandparents, or use any other resource that you can think of. I just want you to learn how to solve your own problems and answer your own questions.” Mrs. Kristen then warned me not to copy my math homework. Some homework was meant to be individual.
From that point on, I borrowed her encyclopedias and called the public library on several occasions. Mrs Kristen was right. I have never used any of the information that I researched for those ridiculously hard homework challenges, but the greater lesson, learning how to solve my own problems and answer my own questions, has been invaluable. It has served me everyday of my life!
This is a great lesson that homeschooling parents should consider. School teaches that answers come from textbooks and teachers – Mrs Kristen taught me that there are answers everywhere!
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I agree that kids need to learn to find information for themselves, but that there is also info that they just have to know! I remember learning this in college when a teacher told us the final would be open note, open book. Everyone was happy about it, but still spent so long studying and memorizing the material (which was no doubt important). I instead organized and labeled my notes because we would still only have an hour for the test. I got the highest grade because I used my time to be resourceful. After all life is open book!
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