High school confidential: secret memo revealed

Bob Wakeham bwakeham@nl.rogers.com
Published on October 29, 2011

In the aftermath (or afterscience) of revealing what they feel is an enlightened approach to cheaters and other, briefly misguided children of god, officials of the Eastern School Board have quietly issued a helpful memo to teachers on ways to implement the new policies.

It was meant to stay strictly within the ranks of teachers, but my source, “Bad Teacher” from English Harbour West, provided me with a copy of the memo, asking only that I never reveal his name.

Aside from the concerns he had of falling victim to long-standing directives from bosses that voicing complaints, no matter how justified, beyond the staff room would prompt reassignment to a shack in Saglek Bay, my source tells me he’s even more fearful that Joan Burke herself might be sent to castigate him. And, as he noted, she’s a pit bull whose nasty bites were learned at the feet of her one-time master, Dan (Dog Whisperer) Williams, who tolerated not even a twinge of revolution in the ranks of public servants.

An even worse punishment, he said, tongue only half in cheek, would involve being ordered to teach Kathy Dunderdale a civics course on ways to avoid democratic accountability in the legislature.

In any case, I’m exposing here, for the first time, the contents of the confidential note.



TO: Teachers of the Province

RE: “Cheaters Always Prosper”

If a student is caught with crib notes up his or her sleeve or is overheard demanding “What did get for Question 2, Polly?”he or she should be asked politely — politeness being the operative word here in order to avoid possible, subsequent confrontations with parents — to step out into the corridor. (Now that we’ve gotten the “he or she” out of the politically correct way, we hope no one is offended for the duration of this note if we just use the male pronoun; after all, boys will be boys, as everyone knows, and girls are as pure as the driven snow). 

Having made sure no one can eavesdrop, ask for the student’s forgiveness for having interrupted his cheating. Better still, rather than use the word “cheating,” think of some euphemism; tell the student, for example, that you’re immensely sorry for having distracted him as he read notes hidden in his Bible.

Even if the student has been overtly taking advantage of the smartest girl in class, and has forcefully confiscated her test and started to vigorously copy her answers, praise him during your corridor conversation for his aggressiveness, and suggest such an approach will be abundantly helpful in the working world he will eventually enter.

Next, inform the innocent-beyond-all-guilt student that he can go shoot a few hoops in the gym while his classmates finish the test in their foolishly honest way. If time on the basketball court is not to his liking, offer him the use of the television in the principal’s office where he can watch a new version of the ’50s movie, “Blackboard Jungle,” in which a teacher, played by Glenn Ford, apologizes profusely to a student, played by Vic Morrow, for having exposed his arm to Morrow’s switchblade.

Make sure you tell the student that he need not feel guilty about the time it will take for you to create a new test for him to take. Just say you’ll be honoured to do that on your lunch period or at home in the evening (once you’ve fed your own four kids, cleaned the house, scooped up the dog poop in the backyard and seen to your spouse’s nighttime needs). He just should not worry his little cheatin’ heart one iota (OK, watch that sarcasm —delete “cheatin’ heart” reference). Also, be sure to let the student know he should not think of the new test as giving him an unfair advantage over his classmates; if they were too stunned to cheat, that’s their problem. 

Now, if the parents of the student demand to see you about the disgraceful, embarrassing way in which you dragged their child by the hair out into the corridor (their perspective is always accurate), put your tail between your legs and nod like Pavlov’s bow-wow every time Mom or Dad makes a point. Just remember: never lose your cool with a parent. They are completely objective when it comes to their Tammy or Timmy; the child can do no wrong, an unabashed opinion Ma and Pa will hold even as they watch their own version of Beaver Cleaver 10 years down the road pulling a hoodie over his head to protect himself from those intrusive “Here and Now” cameras posted outside Courtroom No. 2.

As to handing in assignments late, we wish to offer similar advice. Ask the student, again in the politest of terms, to come outside the classroom. The dialogue should be as follows: “Now, I don’t wish to offend you, Tommy, and I definitely do not wish to offend your Mommy and Daddy, and I believe you when you tell me that your dog Tippy ate half your assignment work, and that the fat kid, the one who bothers you at lunchtime, the one who’d gobble down the lamb of God, ate the other half. Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll sign a contract with a new deadline. And if, if, if, by chance, you accidentally delete that work on your computer as you try and switch to the latest computer game, the one where you play Bruce

Willis and single-handedly free Afghanistan from centuries of enslavement, then we’ll just draw up another buddy-buddy contract. That’s what it’s all about, Tommy, being your buddy.”

And, finally, tell the student to ignore cynics in the media who’ll suggest these new rules will teach him zilch about responsibility or fair-mindedness or honesty, and will do nothing to prepare him for life beyond Grade 12. Tell him that when he gets to Memorial University there’ll be 100 per cent tolerance of cheating. As to the working environment in which he’ll eventually find himself, tell the student there’s not an employer out there who’ll find fault with non-completion of assignments or using a fellow worker’s material to get ahead.

Thanks, teachers of the province, for utilizing part of all that free time you have at your disposal to read this note. As is usually the case, we now hand matters over to you, entirely. We, your bosses in the ivory towers of the Eastern School District and the Department of Education, will once again play Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of the entire mess.

Good luck.


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com