C. Troubadour: "February, where have you gone?"
Feb: "To the hardware store."
Yes, after recovering from our first job repainting and installing trim in one of our guest bedrooms, we decided it was time to tackle bedroom No. 2, our would-be nursery. There's no imminent need for it yet, but we figured I'd be more help working on the room now rather than later, when paint fume exposure will be a larger concern ...
I made D promise that we would establish a schedule for this project so that it wouldn't drag itself out over 19 months as the first did -- nearly as long as it took me to write my thesis -- and I'd say we're actually sticking to our plan. Perhaps it's because we've learned some useful lessons from our (many) mistakes in the previous round -- among them, don't leave your painting tape in place until after the paint has dried and don't use the same tape for multiple coats. (The tape becomes very difficult to remove and can peel your carefully applied paint away with it!) Perhaps, too, things are moving along because we now know our tolerance for such work and are pacing ourselves better to avoid burnout. Whatever the case, the topcoat on the walls is done, and beautiful lengths of crown molding are now laid out in our garage, waiting to be cut to size with a special saw we borrowed from one of D's coworkers. Color me amazed! (And thank goodness we won't be using our earlier method for the cutting.) If we can get this room finished by April, I will be ecstatic.
I am, however, much less delighted with the progress I've been making with one of the students I tutor each week. (Oh, right -- remember that job I took a few weeks before Halloween? That's the other thing occupying my time these days.) The student in question has been my charge since my boss handed him off to me in mid-October -- she'd been working with him before that point -- and, per the curriculum she's set up, I comment on grammar and content in weekly reading summaries she assigns him to write on books of his own choosing (in this case, mostly sci-fi/fantasy). I have my own opinion about the merits of making a kid parrot back what he's read without asking him to do more with it, so I'd asked him in recent weeks to answer some additional analysis questions. And I started to notice that the writing style he employed for that extra portion was distinctly different from that of his "reports."
Teachers, I think you know where this is going.
Yesterday, hoping against hope that I'd find nothing, I checked each and every one of the assignments the kid had sent me from October onward and discovered they'd been drawn, word for word, from Wikipedia, which offers handy little synopses on every single book he's read.
What, I ask you, is the point of paying a tutor to help you improve your writing when you don't present your real work for her to critique?
Logic puzzles aside, I'm now unsure what to do for this boy. I reported the problem to my boss, of course, who confronted the student's parents. A thorough apology from their son was in my inbox within the hour. But in terms of my next steps with him, I'm wondering what position is best to take.
I want, above all, to be effective in guiding him out of this mess. Believe it or not, he is the one who sought out a tutor for himself (yes, he -- not his parents), and he has his heart set on getting into an Ivy League school. Clearly, something complicated is going on in his I-want-it-and-I-don't behavior toward getting extra help -- but how do I get him to understand (and tell me) what that is? I haven't a clue yet. All I do know (from my own experience teaching in Iowa and in other places) is that plagiarism is rarely the result of laziness; it's more often an act of desperation. Whatever is making this kid anxious enough to seek out a tutor but balk at having her give him real assistance is at once intriguing, disturbing and, above all, saddening.
Thankfully, I have a little extra time to think about options for addressing all this as we won't be meeting for two weeks while this kid is traveling with his family. So teachers, parents, anyone who sees this as a gigantic teachable moment -- what suggestions do you have?
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