A couple of days ago I sat down in front of my computer to grade papers. One by one I opened the documents, read them, and checked each paper for plagiarism. During this process, I encountered a student who plagiarized her assignment. What she did was take the assignment from another student who had previously taken the class, place her name on it and post it in my class as hers. I would like to tell you this is rare, but it is not. In today’s environment with so much information on the Internet and the fact that if a student does not pass a class, they have to pay a portion of it back, this causes some students to do some incredibly irresponsible things.
When I discovered what she did I contacted the student to allow them to explain. The student responded to me immediately and apologized. She indicated there was no excuse for what she did, and asked me to forgive her, and indicated that whatever punishment I wanted to give she would accept. As the instructor, I can punish a little, or I can punish a lot. Her response was not what I expected. As a matter of fact, it’s the first time in over 20 years I had a student respond this way. Generally, it’s either a quick denial, and that they would never do anything like that, or they claimed they had no idea that what they were doing was wrong. After reading her response my next step was to decide the punishment if any I was going to place on the student.
I pondered my options as the words of a friend raced through my mind. I have a friend who has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism and lies. Her response is that when students plagiarize or lie, that they are adults, they know exactly what they’re doing, and if they do it on her watch, she’s going to have the student kicked out of class. As I reread the email response numerous times the words that jumped out at me were, “please forgive me. “In over 20 years of teaching, I have never heard a student ask for forgiveness. My friend went on a rampage, “So what if they repented, the deed is done. This might be the tenth time they did it and they finally got caught. Kick them out!”
As I prayed about what to do, I felt the presence of the Lord speak to me. I heard the Lord say, “ Give her a second chance.” As He said this, I knew this student was not in my class by accident. I knew that this was not a coincidence. The Lord knew that she was going to cheat, and He put me in place to handle it. I did as the Lord instructed and gave her a second chance. When I told her she broke down and cried.
We all need forgiveness.
“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” Matthew 6:12