March 9 | Forgiveness

Forgiveness

I think when you have an attitude of servanthood to humankind, it’s easier to forgive. You see that holding grudges or anger against someone really doesn’t serve others. It doesn’t serve yourself, either.

Several years ago when I became a professional teacher, I also adopted the attitude that my number one responsibility is to serve my students, in whatever way that means. It could be picking up books that they drop, or lending them a pencil, or trying to get to the bottom of their multiple absences or tardies.

It’s easy to give that student a zero for bringing you a late assignment even though the syllabus says no late work is accepted. It’s easy to dole out a zero for a clearly plagiarized paper. It takes time to talk to a student after class, or have a meeting with him or her about the offending paper.

I had a student who was very nervous when I brought him in my office about his plagiarized paper. He knew my policy on plagiarism, but like many international students, they don’t fully understand the consequences of plagiarizing.

It turns out that this student asked his roommate to help him write the paper. He was embarrassed he couldn’t write at the same level as the other students. He didn’t want to turn in what he called ‘bad writing’.

We got to the bottom of it, and I allowed him extra time to work on the paper if he agreed to get tutoring from me and other writing tutors.

In the end, he failed the class despite his most earnest efforts. But I have no regrets about my actions towards him. He needed help, more help than I could give him in a whole-class environment in one semester. But he participated more fully in class, and even attempted freewriting exercises with more motivation than the other students.

I do not condone plagiarism, and my students will tell you that I am strict about my policies. But I err on the side of forgiveness and understanding when it comes to academic offenses. And I hope I can better extend this to my every day life.