a peek inside the fishbowl

14 May, 2008

lookin’ for cheaters

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

This appeared in my inbox recently. Anyone out there interested in helping out? (Send me an email if you are.)

I’m working on an article about kids and cheating for Parents Canada magazine. Here’s the scoop:When the whole Ryerson Facebook controversy came up, we talked about whether or not kids these days view cheating the same way their parents do. We’d need some studies that examine if cheating is more prevalent now than when we were kids, some interviews with kids who share their views on cheating, and if parental ‘help’ is cheating. What we think is that too many parents are over-helping, they see athletes taking drugs, musicians getting away with bad behaviour and reality TV showing how to ‘win the game’ by devious methods.

I’m looking for parents and kids to interview for this story about the above. Anyone game? Anybody willing to sacrifice their kids to the cause (or your kids’ friends)?

Personally, I find the concept of parents “over-helping” their kids really interesting. My kids have been doing big projects for school for a few years now. The level of, shall we say, parental involvement some children receive is really really clear when you see all the projects displayed side by side. Is parental “help” cheating?

2 Responses to "lookin’ for cheaters"

1 | MomOnTheGo

May 14th, 2008 at 1:19 pm


I started to say that Reid is too young for homework and was planning a rant about a couple of kids with whom I attended elementary school but then I realized it wasn’t quite accurate. Reid has had Kindermusik homework this year. For the most part, she works solo – to decorate a paper towel tube for a spying scope (the teacher said binoculars but Reid disagreed – or with limited help from me. One week, she had to bring in recordings of glissandos. I recorded her with her slide whistle and on a friend’s piano. When I couldn’t get the recording off of the recorder and onto the computer, though, I went on the Web and found some recordings for her. I didn’t try to pass it off as her work, though. It was cheating but since the thing that mattered to Reid was to have something to hand over to the teacher, I’m okay with it. “Over helping” your school kid is cheating, I think. It’s damaging to a kid’s self-esteem to do it and generally fools no one. It’ll be hard to keep myself from being an over-helper, though. (Is self-awareness the first step?)

2 | Ginger

May 14th, 2008 at 6:54 pm


Being a teacher, I have a very strong opinion about this. It is one thing for a parent to provide materials, direction and supervision. But when a parent takes over the project, and let me just say that teachers KNOW when a parent has done the work, I think it become cheating. I know what level my students work on from observing in-class work and projects. It is quiet clear when a child does the majority of the work and when he or she does not. The parent and the child are not fooling the teacher in any way. One way I get around this is to have an oral question-answer session with the student to see how much they can tell me about the process and the project. Those questions help clarify just how much work the student actually put into the project. I think that parents are more worried about the “grade” than the learning process and the growth of their student which the project is designed for.

As for cheating…most of my students (I teach 8th graders who range in age from 12-15) have no idea what cheating really is. They copy and paste from the internet without thought and don’t think anything is wrong with it. They willing share work with other students and don’t think that copying someone else’s work is cheating. But when I questioned them why they missed a question on the rock cycle when 5 questions earlier there was a complete diagram of the rock cycle, they answered saying that they thought it would be wrong to look back at the previous question because it would be cheating.

I don’t know how things work in Canadian schools, but U.S. schools are failing our children in regards to what is and what is not cheating. We don’t teach them how to cite sources or to take pride in their work. It is all about passing the state mandated test and “leaving no child behind”. The kids I teach are going to have a hard time when and if they get into college.

I know that one day, when my boys are in school and doing home work and projects, that I will be involved. I will monitor and provide materials and the resources they need to complete said work. I will guide them if they are stuck on a problem or question. But I will not do the work for them.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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