Now I don't know what to think about difficult child 2's "cheating"

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Here's the teacher's reply to my email:

    husband and I need to talk about this before we talk to difficult child 2... :confused:
  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Well, still haven't spoken with husband about this... he's SLEEPING. (That's another story...)

    I took difficult child 2 out to lunch today and talked with him about the teacher's email. He still insists on his innocence and I have to say I still believe him.

    He was crying he said because he was embarrassed over his classmates yelling at him and then being called up to see the teacher.

    I don't think the teacher actually SAW him looking in the book. I think he'd already put it back in his desk by the time the girl in his class told the teacher what was happening.

    Because I know difficult child 2 has problems with language pragmatics, I think when the teacher asked difficult child 2 "Did you know...", difficult child 2 interpreted it as "Do you know that what people saw you doing is considered cheating" or even perhaps he was thinking "Yeah I know because everybody just told me I was." A better way to ask (because of the way difficult child 2 thinks) would be to say, "Where you cheating?" Does that make sense?

    Even my mom is just incredulous over the thought that difficult child 2 would try to be so blatant about something like this. It's just so uncharacteristic of him.

    So for now, we both agree to disagree, and I will address it at length when we meet for the IEP meeting. And maybe husband will be able to attend to further support our case.

    What's really bad, though, is that his classmates are talking about it with other students -- there was a girl in detention with him yesterday, who isn't even in his class, and SHE already knew what happened the day before.

    Can't wait until this year is over and we are at the new school.
  3. Janna

    Janna New Member

    Quite honestly, I wouldn't continue to push. That's just me. He's going to allow him to take it again, let him take it again, and if he does well, that would ease my mind he probably had no reason to cheat. If he fails miserably, I'd be questioning if he had concern over not passing the test and tried to.

    Either way, does it really matter? Teacher is allowing him a re-do. Just let him re-do it.

    Just my .02.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I'm not worried about the test. I'm worried about the perception the teacher, and now his peers have -- that he cheated. And the fact that kids are all gossipping about it really bugs me.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You won't be able to change the perception, no matter what really happened. It does sound like there was confusion - either over whether difficult child 2 got it wrong, or whether he was questioned in a way that accidentally muddied the truth. We've had similar problems with difficult child 3 in his school (when he was in mainstream) because teachers would imply the answer they wanted, in the question they asked. It's what teachers do - it's a valuable teaching tool. "Who can tell me whether the capital of France is Paris?" is the sort of thing I mean. You shouldn't ask a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid questions in this way, if you want to be sure they really know the answer. Your son isn't Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) but from what you've told us, there are a lot of similarities in the way he responds at times.

    It's possible that difficult child 2 was cheating, by peeking at his book. It's possible that difficult child 2 made a mistake. It's possible that difficult child 2 wasn't sure if it was open book or not, and that could have accounted for the tentative way of looking at a book - but if he wasn't sure, he should have asked.

    This is an important learning opportunity for difficult child 2, regardless of where the truth lies. What he can learn - if you're not sure, then ask. If you've made a mistake, tell the truth. Don't add to the confusion by trying to change your story later - you WILL get caught out in a lie if you try to fib about it later on. And even if he did it or not - DON'T CHEAT is definitely a message he is getting from this.

    Use the other kids' gossiping to your advantage, but only if you're in a position to hear them talking and your asking questions isn't going to make things worse. Go to them and say, "Who saw what happened? Tell me about it." Ask no more detail other than, "What happened next? Then what?" No prompting. If you happen to know another kid (or the kid's parent) well enough to quietly ask their eye witness account, then go get the info. Discreetly. Frankly, I do find most kids' eye-witness accounts to be reliable, as long as they aren't getting a pay-off for lying. For example, I wouldn't necessarily believe the other kid in a fight, but I WOULD be more likely to believe an impartial witness. And in the case of apparent cheating in a test, a kid who was there and saw it is likely to be telling the truth about what he saw. That doesn't mean the witness mightn't get it wrong - if another kid sees an open-book exam and doesn't recognise it for what it is, the witness might say, "Those kids were cheating, they had their books open." But the witness should also be able to describe HOW the books were open, HOW they were being used, etc.

    It IS possible that the teacher is lying, but a lie to that degree would have to be pretty brazen. It is more likely that the teacher is telling the truth as he sees it. If the teacher were knowingly lying or trying to distort the truth, then he/she would have said, "It was reported to me that..." rather than "difficult child 2 was doing this."

    I just again looked back at what the teacher said to difficult child 2 - I agree with you, the questioning was wrong, it prompted difficult child 2's answer. But the damage is done now, you can't un-ring the bell.

    What SHOULD have been asked - "What were you doing? Why were you doing it?"

    If you can, discuss the problem with the teacher from the point of view of trying to prevent future misunderstandings. As for this, regardless of what you discover from other classmates' questioning, you and the teacher must agree to differ. But where you CAN hopefully find agreement, is in how to question difficult child 2 in the event of future misdemeanours of any kind. The teacher needs to learn to NOT prompt the answer she expects or wants, but instead to take difficult child 2 somewhere quiet without onlookers (whose facial expressions and gestures can also prompt the answers) and then ask for a simple recount. "Tell me what was happening there."

    I remember when difficult child 3 was labelled as a liar (as well as a bully an thug!) by his teacher, because after a push and shove altercation (I saw many of these start, difficult child 3 was always the kid on the end who ended up in the dirt, and who back then would often get up and shove back) the teacher said to difficult child 3, "Did you push Jeremy?"
    difficult child 3's instant response was denial, "No, I didn't!"
    But the teacher had asked about something he had seen. difficult child 3 HAD pushed Jeremy. Mind you, Jeremy had been shoving other kids often, as a routine behaviour when bored waiting on lines outside the classroom, for the teacher to turn up. But the teacher didn't ask, "WHY did you push Jeremy," he just asked the obvious. difficult child 3, sensing disapproval, automatically denied. But after the teacher said, "I saw you, you DID push Jeremy," difficult child 3 fairly quickly admitted he had. By that stage, there was nothing difficult child 3 could say in his defence, because he had previously lied in saying he hadn't done it.

    These boys were pushing and shoving each other constantly, jostling was like a game to them, but too sophisticated a game for difficult child 3 to play. Because he wasn't part of the 'in' crowd, difficult child 3 was generally standing on one end of another of the lines, hence he was the one always getting the worst of it. And the bullies would even do this in front of me! I would be there waiting for a quick word to the teacher. This classroom was the one furthest away from the staffroom (partly for difficult child 3's benefit - it was the classroom with least outside noise) so this teacher was always late getting to the classroom. And while the kids waited, they got rough with each other.

    I remember a similar incident on a school excursion - the kids were performing in a district choir. They had been designated an area and were milling around near their bags, when another shove along the line happened. Like Newton's Cradle, all the boys in the line toppled into one another like dominos, and difficult child 3 (again on the end) was sent flying into a pile of schoolbags. He was crying, and the boy who had been standing next to him was dragged out by the teacher and ticked off for shoving difficult child 3. I didn't get a chance to step in and say, "It wasn't him! He had been shoved by the next boy, who had been shoved by the next boy and so on, the culprit is way over there, at the other end of the line!" and the culprit was grinning, because AGAIN the trick had worked.

    It seemed too petty a thing to keep harping to the teachers about - the Newtons Cradle effect (or the domino effect) that these boys would play on each other constantly, over years, with difficult child 3 (and other social misfits) on the receiving end. But when difficult child 3 was questioned, "Did you shove that kid?" well, often he had. Either he had got up and shoved back (usually the wrong kid, because difficult child 3 would only blame the kid next to him, he didn't see the problem either) or if difficult child 3 was the second last kid on the line - well yes, he HAD shoved the kid but not because he meant to, only because he had himself been shoved in that direction.

    Sometimes teachers only want the easiest asnwer. But with a difficult child, that is the wrong attitude. It becomes more important to get to the REAL truth and although it takes a few more minutes to begin with, it DOES save time in the long run.

    If this teacher could say to you now, "I know the truth because I was VERY careful about how I questioned him," then you would by now be ripping difficult child 2 a new one for lying, because you would have confidence in what the teacher has told you.

    So in summary - I think you need to say to the teacher, "I believe you are telling me what YOU believe to be true. However, I feel it is still possible you may have either misunderstood difficult child 2, or he may have misunderstood you. Or both. And because I am still uncertain, I am confused as to how to handle this. I don't like feeling confused about this. Whatever happened here, is resolved as well as it can be. Can we please talk about ways we can use in the future, to make sure that we can get at the truth more effectively and more surely?"
    Then explain what I have said here, about the need to look for simple recount without the faintest hint of prompting. The reason you can give the teacher - this particular difficult child WANTS to please the teacher (and other adults) and also wants to do well. So if he sneses approval or disapproval in the question, especially if it's linked to a possible answer (as prompted in the question) then such a child is highly likely to give you what he thinks you want to hear (or NOT give you what he thinks you DON'T want to hear). If the child senses that his answer will bring more disapproval, even a normally non-lying child, will try to lie. ALL children will try to lie, to reduce the amount of trouble they're likely to be in. This is normal. This should be recognised and NOT punished too hard (to begin with). The first aim is to get to the truth, and if fear of punishment is too great, this will get in the way of the truth. So the questioning also needs to be gentle and non-emotive. In other words - no standover tactics. This teacher sounds like a decent sort who wouldn't do that (I hope I'm right). But I have personally witnessed teachers standing over MY kids, even when they know I'm there. The teacher felt this was acceptable, obviously. I did not. But if the teacher could do that in my presence, then what would such a teacher do or say when there was nobody around to witness?

    There are bad eggs out there. There are also some wonderful teachers. Unfortunately, we have to be sure that our kids have the best. If the teacher is not the best, we have an opportunity to teach the teacher, how to be better for our difficult child.

    I still seethe at times over what my youngest experienced. But I also still live in the same small village as many of these teachers. I still smile and greet these people in the street. difficult child 3 still goes up to them to talk, happy to see them because he views ALL teachers (even the ones who were hard on him) as his friends. Some of these people were good friends of mine before they were difficult child 3's teachers. They may think they still are. I do my best to not show my anger, because nothing can be achieved by it. But I know I can never feel comfortable around them as I used to. It's not all his teachers, only about half of them. But they supported and reinforced each other, which is why there was so much problem, this bad teaching behaviour was able to persist and perpetuate. easy child 2/difficult child 2 is studying to be a teacher. I shudder to think how she will cope, if she ever gets assigned to this school! I've heard what this small group of renegade teachers does, to prac students.

    But I digress - what I'm saying - there are good teachers, there are bad teachers. Often it is polarised because you don't get many indifferent teachers.

    And I can't be sure, but the signs are there for this teacher of difficult child 2's to be a GOOD teacher. But it all depends on how this teacher accepts any discussion of modifying his/her interrogation technique. If there is willingness to take the info on board - then my teacher-meter is heading towards "good". If not - then it's teaching-by-the-numbers so don't expect any modification or support here.

    I hope this wasn't too confusing for you.

    by the way, you might get away with your own questioning of difficult child 2 in the simple recount method. Try it perhaps for practice, but first make this statement - "The matter is now resolved, you have been punished already, the test will be re-taken. So whatever you answer now, you will not be punished any further. But the truth of the story is important, so we can properly lay this to rest."
    Then say, "Now tell me the events of that day, in order."
    And recognise that to you, he still will feel some pressure to stick to the "I didn't realise..." story. Let him tell it. You could even ask WHEN he finally knew it wasn't open book. That will be a telling moment. Watch his face, watch his eyes. Ask him how he felt inside.
    Then after it is all done, rehearse what SHOULD have happened. At the point of uncertainty, he should have raised his hand to ask, "Is this open book? Because I have been using my book, I thought it was."

    The consequences of not doing this, have been getting his reputation besmirched (it won't last, there will be a new topic of interest by next week) and also having to take the test again. This is punishment for cheating; but it is also punishment for not asking first.

    The thing is - as far as the test itelf is concerned, the teacher HAD to throw it away anyway, because it wasn't taken under fair conditions. Even if difficult child 2 was not intentionally cheating, he didn't take the test under the same conditions as everyone else, so it has to be re-done. If this had been a science experiment where everybody had red jellybeans and were soaking them in alcohol to extract the colour, and difficult child 2 was given green jellybeans instead - difficult child 2's batch would have to be thrown away because HIS extract would not match the others in the colorimeter. difficult child 2 would have to start over, with a batch of red jellybeans.

    Finding the truth now won't stop the chatter. You just have to wait for it to pass, wait for the next sensational event to make difficult child 2 old news. But finding out how to find the truth in future, can prevent similar problems happening due to misunderstandings. So if in the future difficult child 2 gets in trouble for cheating, you hopefully can be more confident that the teacher is doing the right thing.