FLUSHING, Queens, New York — I am a procrastinator. That is just who I am. For some unknown reason, I always end up leaving things for the last minute, especially school work. Umm… deciding to read the three 40-page chapters for my A.P. European test the night before the exam and falling asleep in the middle… nah, I never did that. Me? Never!
You can imagine how hard it is to resist the temptation to cheat while I am sitting in my room with a rather large cup, really a jug, of coffee at two in the morning trying to somehow come up with an essay for my English class, which is due the next day.
Well, this was the situation about three months ago, when at around one in the morning I was just beginning to write a 10-page essay about the book To Kill A Mockingbird.
Why was I starting it now, the night before it’s due? Well, that’s a whole other discussion.
For those of who have pulled all-nighters in the past, you know how difficult it is to actually think clearly after drinking two cups of coffee in the middle of the night. But yes, this was all my fault.
I do not know why, maybe it was because I was tired or because I did not want to think, I decided to go to gradesaver.com and look up the free essays that it had on To Kill A Mockingbird. And voila! In a few minutes, I actually found well-written essays, ready to be printed out. I knew that this was the only thing that could save me.
But then I thought about how my mother would react if she knew that I had cheated, how my teacher would fail me, and how I might get expelled from school. You see, I attend a private, all-girls high school and we have a very strict honor code. I really think that my school is the only school that makes all the students take out any cellular phones, iPods, and any other device and hand it over to the teachers before tests, in addition to leaving our backpacks outside the classroom all to avoid any form of cheating.
Breaking this honor code would mean destroying everything that I have worked for all these years. So, with some good old caffeine and the feeling that I was doing the right thing, I managed to write an 11-page essay by 6 a.m.
I have to admit, though, when I handed in that paper, I was tired, but also very proud of myself.
Three weeks later, my English teacher called the class for a serious meeting. It seemed like not one of us had a clue of what was going on. I came into the classroom and sat down.
I will probably never forget the look on my teacher’s face when she walked through the door that morning. She looked at all of us with such anger and disappointment that I felt like I had committed a crime I knew nothing about.
“Girls, I graded your pieces on To Kill A Mockingbird, and I have to say that I was absolutely shocked and disappointed with several of you. Did you honestly think that you could copy paragraphs from gradesaver.com and get away with it? Plagiarism, girls, is cheating. You have cheated me, the school, and you have cheated yourselves.”
It is hard to explain the thoughts that were running through my mind as she was speaking. My friends were being punished for the same thing that I nearly did myself! I later found out that there were about six out of the 13 girls in my class who copied what was written on gradesaver.com word for word.
Those girls thought they had the “easy way out,” but boy, were they in for a surprise!
After many meetings with the school principal, who was furious and later spoke with the whole grade, warning us that if such a thing happens again, she will expel students, the teacher gave us all our papers back.
I was extremely happy with my grade, and although it was done at the last minute, I knew that I deserved it and worked hard for it.
As for the girls who cheated, their grades were lowered by about 30 points, their parents were called in, and they were placed on academic probation. Worst of all, they lost the teacher’s trust, which I think, is the worst punishment of all.
It is not worth it to cheat. Cheating is hurting yourself, and why would you want to do that? You know, it takes a lifetime to gain someone’s trust, and only a second to lose it.
So guys, make the right decisions. And as for my procrastination problem… well, that will go away before I start college, I hope!
Smadar Sapir is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.