Way back when, not so long ago, I had this teacher—a great teacher who couldn’t plan out tests. Honestly, I don’t think he was thinking of students like me when it came to his so called “tests” and “quizzes.” Students like me suffer from chronic-study-procrastination.
We also want to impress our parents with a GPA higher than 3.2.
I went home and actually remembered to study for this test, the last test before second semester. I pulled an all-nighter (that lasted about two hours). I’m talkin’ going online to visit the teacher’s website and looking at old notes; I even borrowed the book the questions were from. It was an open-note test.
At school the next morning I felt great. I got to class, sat in my assigned seat, and waited for the bell. The teacher handed out the test packets. I looked inside my backpack and my notebook wasn’t inside. I didn’t have it with me, but whatever. I had studied and pulled a major cram session so I thought nothing of it.
Everything was good. Or so I thought.
You know that moment when you take a test and you look at the questions and you think “Crap. I don’t know any of this stuff”? Then you look up and notice you’re the only one in the class not writing, or knowing what to look for in a textbook?
So I did something I’m sure at least half the population has done. I cheated.
I remember actually breaking the number two pencil I had and sliding off my desk onto the floor, and using that to my advantage.
I reached down to pick up my pencil and saw that the girl in front of me had her notebook open underneath her desk. I picked up the half of the pencil I could write with and sat up. I took my test, flipped it over, and very slyly and with all the skill I could muster ripped off the last page of the packet and let it float to floor.
As casually as I could, I went under my desk with my pencil half and wrote down what I was sure were the answers to the questions on the test. One problem: I couldn’t read what she wrote. I have nothing against Asian girls (who coincidentally like writing with 0.5 lead), but seriously, come on. How was I supposed to cheat off you when your hand-writing looks like the last line on an eye examination poster?
When I finished copying what I could read off this girl’s notebook, I sat up and noticed some things. First, my method of cheating is just plain bad. Second, I looked at my teacher’s desk and he was looking at me.
You could imagine how scared I was when he looked at me with his eyes squinted in that teacher-like way. I hurried up and crumpled the paper and tossed it somewhere. Then I noticed he wasn’t looking at me but through me, past me. I looked behind me and, low and behold, what did I see?
The answer key my teacher must have mistakenly given the student behind me.
The teacher gets up from his desk, goes over to the student, takes his test, rips it up, and puts it in the recycling.
This was my moment. I turned back around and thought, “How was I going to pull this off?” Then I remembered I had friends. Friends who knew people who deal in recycling on certain days.
When school ended I navigated through all the students going the opposite way to get to their lockers. I saw my friend and accidentally shoved him against the lockers. “Sorry,” I said, and let him chastise me for a second before I interrupted him.
“Hey, you know how your class does that recycling thing? Well, I left a paper in my teacher’s class, and he usually puts leftovers in the recycling, and I was wondering if you could go in and get the paper for me.”
“You could just come with me. I’m starting on his floor. The girl I was supposed to do this with wasn’t here today.”
We went to my teacher’s floor and classroom first. “Crap,” I thought. “I just took a test in his class. He’ll be wondering why I’m digging through his recycling.” I asked my friend to go in and get the bin because I had to use the bathroom.
When I heard my friends voice yell, “You still there?” I quickly exited the bathroom and looked through the bin he had to find the ripped packet. When I did, I found something even better: the answer key. I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d celebrate my guaranteed passing grade.
When I got home, I didn’t even worry about studying. When the next day came around, we had a substitute. Could my life get any better? Fate is smiling at me, Luck is on my side, and Fortune is following me on Twitter (#TeamFollowBack). I sat at my desk and waited for the starting bell to ring.
We received our tests. Telling the substitute I like using my own scratch paper, I opened my backpack and took out the packets. Looking at the ripped packet, I faced a similar problem. The handwriting wasn’t small but felt like translating ancient hieroglyphics, in wingdings.
I copied what I could decipher. The answer key, of course, was better written. I wrote down the answers for the first two pages and ran into a problem. The third page on the test was different from the answer key.
We had gotten a new test.
I wasn’t exactly sure how much time I had, but I knew it was too little to erase my answers and write new ones. I tried anyway. I felt stupid for thinking he would keep the same test.
As I erased the first page, I had an epiphany: cheating is an art, and I’m not artistically inclined. But at that moment, I didn’t care if I got caught. I was going to go down in a symphony of ripped paper, used erasers, and broken pencils. If I got caught I was going to take my “‘F”’ like a boss.
Then I realized another thing: if I got caught, all I had done would be for nothing, and it’d look really bad on my permanent record. I erased my fist answer and wrote “See back.” I flipped the packet over and wrote a letter.
The next Tuesday my teacher handed back all the tests except mine and four or five others, telling the class that anyone who didn’t get their test should stay after.
He sat on a stool in front of us and said something like: “I’ve asked you all to stay here because I fear for your grade in this class,” he said, handing back our tests. “The assessment you took counts for thirty percent of your grade, and I want you all to know I’m offering extra credit.”
He looks at me and says: “Uh, I read your note, and I want you to know I respect your honesty.”
He had read my letter. But he wasn’t finished.
“Next time don’t write it on the answer key.”
I don’t think my parents were impressed with my GPA. I didn’t bother to check. I was too scared to check how bad that “‘D”’ affected the outcome.
I screwed up, big time.
Deshawna Sanders, the author, is a high school sophomore who does not like to talk in class. She only communicates with classmates when necessary. She loves the dictionary and words and hates all double numbers (22, 33, 44, etc.) except eleven. She loves jazz and classical music.
Alex Kalinin did the art here. A senior in high school, he also loves to wrestle. Every day he puts a lot of effort into both. He knows many drawing techniques, but his favorite is ink.