The Brighter Side of Failing a Student

I had a student plagiarize an assignment this semester. Twice. Second offense means they fail the class. I get so bummed out when this happens, and usually the behavior can be corrected after the first attempt. But not this time. So, what do you do when your student cheats? Here’s a few suggestions from my humble podium.

Lay Down the Law

Start with the facts. Show them their work and the work they plagiarized so that there’s no disputing whether or not they cheated. This will save you time in the beginning so as to sidestep the argument that would erupt with false blame thrown and accusations of singling out. Be as objective as you can and let the evidence do the condemning for you. Your student knows they messed up, and you don’t have to rub their face in it.

Pull Them Back into the Real World

Plagiarism doesn’t fly anywhere - not in academia, not in the workplace. So, remind them that who they allow themselves to be today is shaping them for who they’re going to become, and this behavior isn’t acceptable. If your response is to seek the easy path when stress is high, then that response needs to be reconditioned; because, work is stressful. Yep. You don’t get an easy route. You figure it out and be upfront. The end.

Show Them Mercy and Clean the Slate

I share with my students that I dropped my first programming class. The second time I took it, I loved it and got an A in the class. If you extend empathy, your student won’t feel isolated and they might be more apt to forgive themselves and seek reformation. Let them know that, although there is an academic consequence to their actions, that you still want to see them succeed and that you’re ready to help them out if they decide to step back into your classroom again.

Abrupt Change Forces Reflection

Even though the circumstances aren’t great, when we mess up, we’re given the opportunity to reflect on who we are and what we’re hoping to get out of life. This type of shift, steadfast and irreversible, forces us to reevaluate what we’re doing. It brings us back into the moment. And when we’re present, we’re authentic.

Always, Brittney