I shouldn't take it personally when students cheat. They rarely do it for fun, or just to see if they can get away with it. They do it because they're panicking, feeling in over their heads, strapped for time, etc. (None of which makes it ok, of course.) But I tend to forget this. I don't know how other teachers feel when they find proof that someone has passed off someone else's work as their own, but my initial reaction isn't, let's say, the most mature. Evil Glee sets in first, as I imagine the diabolical cat-and-mouse game I might play when I summon the dirty rotten cheater in for The Meeting:
(The following takes place in my office -- in my fantasy, my dingy little linoleum-floored space has been replaced with a large study, complete with oak shelves, a crackling fireplace, and leather wingback chairs.)
Me: Bob. Do come in.
Bob the Dirty Rotten Cheating Student: (Breezy, unsuspecting, touch of youthful arrogance) Thank you, sir. I came as soon as I received your message.
Me: Have a seat, won't you?
Bob: With pleasure, Sir.
Bob: Why, thank you.
Me: Bob, I wanted to discuss the paper you recently handed in to me.
Bob: (Confident, but with a faint tinge of uncertainty) Oh?
Me: I was deeply impressed with the quality of your work.
Bob: (Secretly relieved) Thank you, Sir. I'm very proud of the hard work I put into this very challenging and fulfilling project.
Me: I daresay this paper exhibits some of the finest writing I've seen this semester.
Bob: Please, Sir. I'm humbled by your praise.
Me: Indeed. (Pause to give Bob a disarming smile) Tell me, Bob -- what enabled you to come up with such an intriguing and, might I say, innovative topic?
Bob: Well that's hard to say, Sir. I believe it just came to me, as if in a dream.
Me: (Standing, beginning to pace, hands behind back) You must feel very proud of yourself, Bob.
Bob: (Eyes watching me carefully, yet betraying nothing) That I do, Sir. That I do.
(In the distance, the ominous sound of thunder rumbles across the moors)
Me: Tell me, Bob... are you proud of the actual work you did on this paper, or are you proud of... (suddenly whirling to face him) CHEATING LIKE A DEVIOUS LITTLE RAT BASTARD?!?!
Bob: (Instantly bewildered) Huh what who how?
Me: (Triumphantly whipping out student essay and corresponding Internet article with all common text highlighted) J'ACCUSE, FOUL FIEND!!!
From there, Bob the Student collapses into a sniveling mass of guilt after having been confronted with the dark, unscrupulous side of his nature. I hover over him as he cowers. I tell him he'll rue the day he ever entered my domain. He nods, unable to speak through the racking sobs. The whole thing usually ends with my triumphant laugh, a hearty bwa ha ha ha, while Bob crumples to the floor, wrings his hands, and begs for mercy. I offer none.
I wish I could say that's how it usually plays out, but... it's not. It almost never actually goes like that. Students sometimes do snivel when they're caught cheating, but only because they think a little sniveling might help them at least get half credit. I'm pretty sure they rarely rue anything. Plus, I'm not allowed to keep cognac in my office.
Next up -- Part 2: The Pirate's Six Stages of Plagiarism.