“I wonder if Mr. Otterman keeps his final exam in here,” yelled one student as he pointed to a filing cabinet in the back of the room. “Let’s open it and see,” another student responded. My classmates gathered around as they looked through the folders. All the students were talking at once. “Oh my gosh, it’s here!” “Shhh! Not so loud!” “Score!” “Wow, we don’t have to study!” “Can I have a copy of it, too?” “Guys, go make 25 copies so we’ll all have one.”
Three students returned to the room with a stack of papers. They were so proud of their achievement. One boy walked toward my desk and whispered, “Here’s your copy.”
I was horrified. I hesitated for a moment and said, “No! I don’t want to cheat.”
He was surprised. “Why?” he asked.
I couldn’t believe I was being pressured. I told him it was wrong.
He thought he wouldn’t get into trouble because so many people were involved in the scam. He was furious that I wouldn’t take a copy. He slammed the papers down on the desk and said, “The only way we’ll get into trouble is if you tell on us. You’re the only one not taking it!”
I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do. I left the room as quickly as I could, but my classmate followed me, asking, “Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving!” I said.
“Going to tell on us?” he screamed. “If we get into trouble, we’ll know you’re the traitor!”
At that point, my emotions were running wild. I walked around the halls for the rest of the class. “I can’t take it. It’s wrong. I’d rather get the grade that I deserve than cheat with them.”
When the bell rang, I decided it was safe to return to the room to get my backpack. I was anxious –– almost sick — for the rest of the day. I thought I did the right thing, but inside, I felt horrible.
I spent the next few days studying for the final, while the others coasted. Worse, they texted me, “Just take a copy. If he finds out, we’ll know that it was you who told.”
Lying in bed that night, I made the decision not to tell anyone because it would have made a bad situation even worse. I decided to study for the final, do my best, and accept the grade I earned!
Looking back, I firmly believe that since they got away with cheating, they’ll probably do it again. Eventually, they’ll get caught and will have to face the consequences.
I learned a lot from this experience. I know I might be confronted with a similar experience one day. In the short term, it may be easier to follow the crowd, but in the end, you have to be able to live with your decisions. As Sophocles said, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” After all, you’re only cheating yourself.