Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

I’ve been absent a while due to a huge surge in both work, and for a short while, my writing career. The latter has sputtered and the former has blossomed, but I’m going to be more diligent about blogging. So, here is a topic that has been a source of stress for me ever since I turned 50…getting a colonoscopy.

Okay, for those who are younger, kind of like every pregnant woman who turns 35, there is this “squall” of medical “issues” that must be dealt with when you turn 50–even if you have no underlying indications of problems. (I know a lot of super-healthy 40-year old first-time moms, and a bunch of smoking, drinking ones who are 30–guess who has better birth outcomes. Seriously, stop smoking). You’ll get an EKG at every annual checkup. Another is a shingles vaccine (no big deal–shingles are pretty awful). The other is a colonoscopy. You’ve heard stories, I’m sure–nightmares driven by our cultural love/hate relationship with preventive medicine. Let me throw in the usual disclaimers–I have a Ph.D., but I’m not a medical doctor. This is my own personal experience, not medical advice. Please talk to your primary care provider about your risks and benefits for anything and everything.

I knew it was coming, and sure enough, my nurse practitioner brought it up. Here’s the gist of it: For about 48 hours, depending on the practitioner, you drink a clear liquid diet (chicken broth, Sprite, light-color Gatorade, etc.) Then you take some laxative pills, fast completely, and swill 4000 ml of this absolutely disgusting concoction that expels liquid out of your rectum (I’m sticking with the proper medical terms). Different doctors like different preps; this solution was Golytely, and it was utterly nasty, a combination that tasted like a blend of dirty sea water and bits of plastic. The “lemon flavor” did nothing to help. 4000 ml is about 1.06 gallons. Since I had an afternoon appointment, I had a “split” prep, which is actually the recommended way by the American Society of Gastroenterology for getting a clean colon. So, the evening before the procedure, I was to take 4 Dulcolax tablets and drink half the solution, 1 cup at a time over the space of an hour starting at 9 PM. Then, about 5 AM, I was to drink the rest. Now, my doctor was super picky about clean colons and said, in a helpful way, that my prep could’ve been a bit better (the nurse whispered to me later that I’d done things pretty well). I think 2 things didn’t help me: a) I could absolutely not finish that last 200 ml of solution the morning of the procedure. I was already choking it down, about to toss it up, using a straw and drinking it ice cold, which is the recommended way, and b) the second dose is best if taken no longer than 5 hours or so before the procedure. However, I was told to drink it at 5 AM over the space of an hour for a 1:30 PM procedure which then was delayed over an hour, so that meant I should’ve drank it around 8-9 AM instead because the early drinking plus the delay meant the colon had time to build up new “bits” of stuff (normal), and that’s not what they want to see. I’ll know better next time…and to ask for a different prep. There are lots of options out there; it’s really physician preference. Also, if you are a barfer like me, the Harvard School of Medicine says 4 mg of Zofran taken an hour before each dose of prep can help nausea–I did this, and it certainly helped. Ask your doctor.

I definitely recommend starting your liquid diet TWO days before the colonoscopy, which is what my PCP advised–it made things coming out an easier process. While time consuming and tiring, it was not that bad to be on liquids for two days. Use baby wipes, have diaper rash cream on hand, and (sorry), wear Depends if you lay down to rest. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your floors and mattress. Anyway, after all this, you go to a facility, get an IV (which, while a bit painful since you’re dehydrated, helps with rehydration), then you go to a room and get a scope up your rectum, into the sigmoid colon, up the descending colon, across the transverse colon, down the ascending colon, and into the cecum. That’s about 8 feet in most people. They check for masses or polyps or anything suspicious and usually take a small biopsy. Then you are done; time to rehydrate (slowly) and eat (slowly) and get your strength back. I recommend resting that day and if possible, the next day  as well. I took a good walk to expel the CO2, but I was worn out from the long three day experience of prep. Seriously, it’s okay to be good to yourself and maybe work from home the day after, especially if your procedure is in the afternoon.

Now, my story…So, for every dang surgery I’ve ever had, including the miraculous Da Vinci robotic ovary removal (almost pain free), I throw up. I’m talking no matter what anti-emetic is used (Zofran works the best for me; the Trans-Derm Scop patch was a nightmare, but it works great for most people), I throw up like the possessed Linda Blair. It’s horrible. If I’m lucky, it’s like an hour puke; if not, maybe 6 hours, and oh geez, that is the LAST thing you want if you have had surgery on your neck or abdomen. But you have to be insistent that this is the case. Here are the things people have told me in hospitals:

  • Propofol won’t cause you to throw up; seriously, that never happens. (So, um, why the whole “nothing after midnight,” to avoid aspirating liquid into the lungs, if it never causes nausea? Hmm. Check out the ASA recommendations from 2015 (Table 1) at the American Society of Anesthesiology. But of course, talk to your doctor, always).
  • The Trans-Derm Scop patch will prevent you from throwing up. (I know it works wonders for many people; dang, I wish it did for me!)
  • Why do you want Zofran before surgery? Most people don’t throw up. You can get it after if you need it. (Um, it works better if taken before nausea starts?)
  • This is a fast procedure; you won’t remember anything, and people usually don’t throw up.

And the other thing that causes me problems is Versed (midazolam). I’ve stopped taking breaths–twice, and also experienced nausea, headache, and hiccups that had me gasping (to be fair, I think the CRNA in one case saw I was anxious and gave me a 4 cc bolus–whoa! Too much!). Here’s what most medical people say:

  • You don’t want Versed? Why?
  • Most of our patients are really happy with the Versed; they don’t want to be anxious. (I don’t like anxiety, either, but I do like breathing).
  • I won’t do the procedure unless you have Versed or something similar (at which point, I changed doctors).

Let me quickly say–if I was having major surgery, I’m not stupid! I’d want the Propofol, pain meds,  and a good anesthesiologist at my side. We’d work together to come with an anti-nausea plan. They are out there, and if you find one (we did), get his/her name, and request them! The two I’ve used and requested were so happy to help, and I’ve recommended them to others. Good folks who do good work, but I’m guessing many people don’t even ask their names. And likewise, Versed has been a life saver for people who are anxious or want the amnesia it provides. Seriously, I am all about do what is best for you. No judgment here!

So, there is the root of my fears and problems: No doctor I could find would do the procedure without sedation (either Versed + Fentanyl, or Propofol, possibly with Versed first). I called about 10 places and even had an appointment and procedure scheduled (he insisted on Valium because no one could possibly stand to do this procedure without some kind of sedation; I really didn’t know what I was going to have to endure, he explained). He had my favorite anesthesiologist on the case, and I probably would’ve went through with it…except the facility was like a stockyard. I took a friend there, and the space provided was gruesome. No one was allowed to be with you during prep (I’m a hard stick on a good day and appreciate a hand to hold). The cubicles were just curtains. I saw people “stacked up” in the hallway, moaning with their sheets off because the center was so busy. Just to confirm, I did call and asked: could my spouse stay with me; what were the cubicles like; and was everyone guaranteed privacy. Answers: No one can be with you during prep, we do have curtains, and we do the best we can, given that we are a “high volume” center. Nope. I cancelled. And I kept making calls.

Having read many peer-reviewed articles about unsedated colonoscopy, I contacted the nearest medical school/teaching hospital to see if they might be doing a clinical study comparing sedated versus unsedated colonoscopy. No, but they had a doctor who did them, and would I like to book an appointment? I asked several questions–can my spouse be with me (yes, of course); what is your privacy like (we have cubicles that have walls on 3 sides and a curtain on one side, and we cover our patients at all times); yes, we see a lot of patients, but we do our best to be considerate of modesty. I booked the appointment.

And to cut to the chase–it went great! Okay, I realize I’m one of a gazillion patients, but at my pre-check in phone call, the nurse said, “You’ll just have to remind everyone, no sedation, because we probably won’t remember.” And we did. Most people looked at me like I had 3 heads, but they were polite about it. One nurse, though, said, “You can do this! You seem determined, and I know you’ll be fine.” The anesthesiologist was courteous, but he was also clear: “You have to make a decision now, before you leave the cubicle; you can’t turn back because I can’t leave a patient who is getting sedation to come to you if you change your mind midway through. That’s not safe for anyone, and I know you don’t want to abort the procedure after your prep.” I agreed–that was fair, and he signed off my chart and went to help someone else. But yeah, kinda scary to hear it.

The same nurse who’d called me was the one who took care of me in the colonoscopy suite, and she was absolutely awesome and supportive. She coached me to breathe through the turns, never left my side, and gave verbal reassurances. The doctor and his fellowship doctor told me “where we are” on the turns and such. We cheered when they reached the cecum. It helped that the doctor had done these before unsedated (he said he’d had to do one on an intelligence officer) and used a pediatric scope. That made a big difference.

Did it hurt? Yes–about 3 times, for about 10 seconds each. I would say if childbirth is an 8 and a kidney stone is a 9, this was about a 6, but brief “stabs” of pain, nothing lasting very long. These were, of course, where the turns were made. I panted my way through, and the pain passed quickly. Six minutes to get into the cecum, near the appendix, where the large intestine meets the small intestine. Eight minutes to get out as they peeked at things and took a painless biopsy. I admit, I didn’t watch the monitor going in because I was so focused on breathing and relaxing. I did on the way out, and it was quite interesting. Could I “feel” the scope? Yes, but barely, like a flutter. Could I feel the gas (CO2)? Not as much as I thought. And then…done! The “I’ve been doing this a long time” tech, who helped things “behind” muttered, “I’ve seen people with the drugs have a heckuva time…that was really amazing.” And at all times, I was well draped.

I got some ginger ale, dressed, and went right home. The check-out nurse giggled and thanked me for making her paperwork easier. The only problems I’ve had have been rehydrating and eating again (I haven’t had a Coke in 30 years–but it cured my headache and settled my stomach. Also, I inhaled a Krispy Kreme donut–hmmm, start with toast and crackers first, I think). No problems getting a good night’s rest, and the coffee this AM was marvelous.

I want to repeat–this is NOT for everyone. If you have fears or anxiety, you will probably be more at ease getting medications (both a good friend and my spouse say that’s what they want, and that’s great for them–know thyself). No judgment! However, if you have problems with nausea or recovering from anesthesia, and you can manage pain with self-hypnosis, breathing, meditating, and/or relaxation–this may be something you want to investigate. Your challenge will be finding a doctor and facility who will do it. I warn you, this (and the crappy Golytely) were the hard parts. You might have to travel (I was ready to go to Minnesota to Mayo) or make a lot of phone calls. Also, beware of bait and switch–get names of who you talk with so there are no misunderstandings later. Your PCP might be able to direct you to someone they know. Why is it so hard to find a provider that will go unsedated? I suspect it’s a twofold problem–one, this makes money if you use sedation. (Sorry, but it’s true–I won’t get an anesthesia bill). And two, probably this is a difficult procedure for many people to consider doing without meds and thus is not a “norm.” Possibly, gastro residents coming out of med school are never trained how to do this unsedated. However, my doctor also said he and his colleagues do it unsedated so they don’t miss work.

I hope this is helpful to someone who is looking for this option–drop me a line if you want more info. And maybe you could tell them you work for some intelligence service and can’t have the sedation? Just a funny thought. 🙂



Asperger’s Syndrome: It’s Not “Cool”—It Just “Is”.

My class reunion is coming up this weekend. I went to the last one–it was okay. Not much had changed about how people acted or treated one another. I stay in touch with the people I like and not the ones I don’t, so there was no real need to go to this next one. Besides, my buddies weren’t going, and I sure could use a free weekend to write. Or do laundry.

The other day, my spousal partner heard me talking to our teenager about how much I had loved chemistry in high school. (The teenager is a complete math/science nerd and extremely proud of it, though getting him to write is worse than pulling molars). We had a good teacher–she was funny and she knew how to teach, a winning combo. I especially enjoyed the study of atoms–how they were made and stuff of that ilk (I’m sure there’s a name for that sort of thing, but I don’t recall it). My spouse asked me why I’d never taken more science in college, aside from the required 2-course sequence (biology) if I loved chemistry so much. “Because of my high school trig teacher,” I promptly answered. “She taught me a bad lesson–that I couldn’t do math.” Now you see how this links to the high school reunion. I’ve been seeing pictures on various social media making quips about that math class and its “quirky” teacher. They’re not a bit funny to me. Having that teacher was, in fact, more than a bit traumatic.

See, here’s the deal. I was good at math and science. Maybe I wasn’t destined for a career in chemistry, nor was I any kind of math genius, but with the right person guiding me, I not only was decent at math and science, I was quite good at geometry. And I did fine in biology, though I liked chemistry much better. The spouse said, “I see a lot of stories about ‘the teacher that most influenced me’ in a positive light. Why not write about a negative experience?” So here it is.

I had a particularly superb 8th grade math teacher (I took algebra a year early) as well as an inspiring 8th grade science teacher (earth science–weather and oceanography–it was wonderful). I remember her setting a glass of cold water down in front of our lab group. Condensation formed on the exterior of the container. “Tell me what is happening and why,” she said. “Explain to me what’s going on when the water forms on the outside of the glass.” We came up with some wild theories, but eventually figured it out by working through the problem in front of us. Damn, talk about a teachable moment! And it was low cost! I ran into her about 15 years later at a conference and was delighted to see she’d gone on to teach college science education to future teachers, after a long career in the middle school classroom. My algebra teacher began on the first day of class with the books open on the desks. She could be fun, but she stressed to us from Day 1 how serious we had to be about our studies. I got pneumonia in 8th grade and had to stay home five days of school. When the doctor looked at my chest x-rays and delivered the bad news, I panicked. “I can’t miss algebra!” I cried. “Please, can I just go to school for that one period?” He looked at my mom and said, “No patient of mine has ever complained about getting to miss school.” I think he thought I was nuts–or very odd. I got As for all but one 6-week grading period that year.

So, in high school, as a freshman, I was in Algebra II and Biology, both of which were sophomore classes. I wasn’t the #1 student, but I was still a strong performer. I enjoyed the classes a lot. Even dissection, which I found pretty gross, was bearable. I knew absolutely and utterly that I would never have a career in any kind of medical setting–ever. I took a second year of biology–challenging but interesting–and followed up that second algebra with geometry, which I adored. I was considering a career in law, with a major in classics or English, so doing proofs was kind of a breeze.

As a junior, I went into the next math course–college algebra (aka algebra III) and trig, a two-semester combined course. And things fell apart. No matter how much homework I did or how many hours I spent studying, I rarely got scores above a C. And I really tried. I got help from friends. I spent hours trying to understand the stuff. But when the teacher’s idea of “teaching” was showing one problem, saying “you don’t have to understand anything but the formula,” and getting students to do problems on the board (sometimes incorrectly) without any follow-up explanation…well, that was an issue. Remember that this was long before things like Khan Academy or YouTube; even the Internet was quite young. My parents, who had no idea what to do, called the district office to see if any kind of tutoring was available–nope. I squeaked by with a C in college algebra, but when it got to trig, I couldn’t even get a D. So, I just completely gave up. I spent that last 15 or so weeks of school writing scripts for a TV show my bestie and I had created. The teacher never noticed since I was quiet and didn’t move the chair out of its tile squares; she had a real fixation about that. My writing skills developed nicely. Meanwhile, I was doing fine in all my other subjects, and I’d discovered a passion for history, thanks to a teacher every bit as gifted as the math teacher was terrible. It was probably the only thing that kept me from falling into a serious depression. For the first time in my life, I had genuinely failed at something. My demanding mother, who never interfered in school because teachers were always right, saw how hard I’d worked and didn’t skin me alive for bringing home a report card with the letters A, A, B+, A, A, F.  (The B+ was in chemistry, back in the days when an A had to be a 94 or higher). Something look weird about those letters to you? Yeah, me, too. If I had a student with those grades, I’d talk to them and find out what was going on. Only one teacher of mine did. All students had the same homeroom teacher, all four years of high school. Near the last day of school that year, she took me aside. Mind you, she hadn’t ever had me for a class, and other than seeing her for 15 minutes a day, she barely knew me…or so I thought.

“I just wanted to tell you….” I remember her awkward pause. “I wanted to tell you that the same thing that happened to you in math this year happened to my daughter, too.” I recalled that her daughter had graduated a year earlier, a popular honor student. “And…please don’t worry. She got into the first university of her choice. She’s doing great there, and she’s not having any trouble with math on the college level.” That was all she said, and probably all she felt she could say without speaking ill of a colleague. I wish I’d thanked her more for saying what she did. It meant a lot. Flunking that math class seemed to cost me a lot in the short term–not graduating in the top 10 of my class, not taking any more math or science (despite wanting to be in advanced chemistry), possibly missing out on some scholarship money, and definitely destroying my confidence in my math/science abilities. I never considered any kind of career in science after that point…because I’d been given the clear message that I would fail.

I exempted all but one math class for my undergraduate degree; I took logic for that one required math and got a B, which was fine since it was actually sort of boring. I took one statistics course in grad school and got an A. I became a successful social sciences faculty member with a Ph.D., a tenured associate professor (for the moment). I thought I’d never have to worry about math again aside from averaging grades. But then, we had this aberrant child who was some kind of math/science whiz. When he was in 5th grade, I saw that unless I refreshed my math skills, I wouldn’t be able to help him before too much time passed.

We are lucky enough to be able to take one or two classes as employees of our university system, free, each semester. I’d been out of high school a long time; heck, I’d been out of college a long time, other than as the instructor. I knew I was both wiser and able to tell whether or not a teacher knew how to teach. I took a chance and enrolled in college algebra. Parts of it were challenging (logarithms, shudder), but I got an A. In fact, to everyone’s utter shock, I found out I sort of liked math, for many of the same reasons I took and liked foreign languages. I got a thrill out of the deciphering and problem solving. I enjoyed it enough to enroll next in pre-calculus, and there was another shock: I loved trig. LOVED it. The whole earth opened up, and angels sang as my mind started seeing unit circles in everything from the window panes to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It blew me away. But let me quickly give credit to the professor, who used videos, practice tests, homework with a program that walked students step-by-step through how to work problems, and other techniques aside from throwing a random question on the board and expecting students to do math through magical osmosis. He answered any questions, promptly and thoroughly, no matter how “stupid” they may have seemed. I recommend him all the time, and most students have agreed with my assessment of his teaching skills. The ones that don’t are usually those who don’t bother to take advantage of all the practice and extra credit he offers (probably the same ones who botch my classes, too).

Thus–an example of how a teacher influenced me. No, let’s be honest–that’s a story of how a teacher royally screwed me over. She was a crappy, awful teacher who had no idea how to convey her subject. She may not have intentionally set out to mess with my mind and confidence, but she did, and she never displayed any empathy or compassion to her students. Let’s just say that I was fortunate enough to a) have other teachers that were a positive influence on me (the ones I’ve already named, plus my Latin teacher), and b) possess the metacognition to know how to master a subject I once thought I was absolutely incapable of understanding.

What’s next for me? Well, if I get the time, there’s calculus. And heck, maybe I’ll even give chemistry a try. I’m too old to change careers, but I’m living proof that you are never too old to learn…and master…something new.

Now, back to that novel I’m writing….

As an educator of 20 years, mostly in higher education, people often ask me what I would change about our current education system in the U.S. Five years ago, I would have said it’s fixable. We can reform it within. I can no longer say that. Those of us who teach college are seeing problems that we cannot fix. Here are my top picks for ways to make the U.S. education system a much better one, or at least start the process of change.

1. Treat teachers like the professionals they are. This includes a salary comparable to other professions that require a four-year degree and a professional internship. Ideally, as part of their professional development, all teachers should be encouraged and supported in obtaining a master’s degree as well—not for the increase in pay, but for the intrinsic increase in knowledge.

2. By the same token, make the standards for teacher education and qualification rigorous. Raise the GPA for admission to candidacy, add a fifth ‘supervised’ year of training under a mentor teacher (i.e. the new teacher is autonomous in his/her classroom, but has an experienced guide who can help them with the common problems of first-year teaching), and create a set of meaningful certification criteria that has reciprocity across states. Have yearly evaluations that include periodic observations, portfolios, and interviews rather than putting so much emphasis on students’ test scores or a once-a-year observation. If a teacher is to be considered an ‘expert’ in a specific academic discipline, he or she should hold a master’s degree in that subject as well.

And here is an addendum to colleges of education or other institutions who grant teaching degrees: Make your teacher education candidates work for it. Don’t ignore your undergraduates in favor of your research or grad students. Make sure you focus on giving students in teacher education in-school experiences plus sharp thinking and problem solving skills. Encourage their growth and creativity. Be picky about who you allow into your programs. Do not allow teacher education to be the major people choose when they can’t get into nursing school (sad, but true). Make it be the major that your best college students actively seek out…and if there is competition for limited spots, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

3. Catch the weakest K-3 students early in the education process. Get them help sooner, not later, and be willing to compensate the educators for the after-hours time they spend with these students. Provide a dedicated special education teacher, as needed, to every classroom, rather than one for every four or five classrooms. Additionally, a well-trained aide should be a part of every classroom at least through 4th grade.

4. Get over the concept that all children are destined to go to a university. They aren’t. We need qualified, energetic, and dedicated professionals in the service industry. For whatever reason, America often attaches a negative stigma to students who want to be plumbers, electricians, and bricklayers. This is unfair. Personally, I could not perform any of those tasks—and I am very thankful to have skilled men and women I can pay for their work. (My plumber is a lady, by the way).

5. Stop using a business model in education. This means getting rid of NCLB and Race to the Top, cutting back on the high-stakes testing, and abandoning ideology like Lean Six Sigma, which was great for engineering and nuclear power plants, but lousy when applied to people.

6. Find a way to equalize education spending across the country. The system is broken when children in more impoverished states are given X dollars per pupil, while in wealthier states, the spending is 3X dollars, for example. Education, for whatever reason, usually gets the ‘cut’ when a state has budget issues. Education should be the last thing from which funds are ever cut.

7. Create a balance between national and local standards. No one is saying that children in South Carolina need a year-long course in the history of Idaho, or that you must teach physical science in 7th grade and life science in 8th grade. But have some broad national learning objectives for all subjects; then, allow states to determine how they would like to structure and teach those objectives, making them specific and applicable by and on the local level.

8. End social promotion—and by the same token, stop holding back children who are capable of working ahead in a given subject. Add some flexibility to the ‘age/grade’ system, such as letting the 2nd grader who is reading on a higher level spend ELA time in a 3rd grade classroom, or the 3rd grader who hasn’t yet mastered 2nd grade math concepts, but is doing well in other areas, drop back for just that one given subject.

9. Quit promoting bad teachers to administration just to get them out of the classroom, and end the practice of nepotism in promotion. A good educational administrator must first and foremost be a good teacher. Learning to lead and administrate is a skill acquired after several years in the classroom as a teacher.

10. Lower the student to teacher ratio, and regardless of the budget, do not eliminate art, music, PE/recess, and foreign languages from the curriculum. Overwhelming evidence shows that exercise, creativity, and studying a second language are good for the brain and the body.

11. Encourage faculty to engage in creative teaching techniques and collaborative teaching. Offer incentives to teachers who lead these endeavors.

12. The love of standardized testing is so deeply ingrained in U.S. culture, it will be impossible to eradicate it completely. But cut back on it. Consider a nationally-normed test given across a span of time, such as 2nd, 6th, and 8th grade, not every year.

13. Get parents deeply involved–in education. Not just in extracurricular activities, but in supporting their children getting homework done, reading their heads off, and being responsible (according to age and other logical expectations).

14. Finally—whatever new system is put into place—allow it time to thrive and adjust before claiming it doesn’t work or is ineffectual. The most touted educational system in the world, from Finland, took 30 years to perfect and had a lot of bumps along the way.

Plagiarism Sucks

Posted: 23/09/2014 in Rants and Raves

I sent this note out to students. About five across two classes have plagiarized. Not only were they unashamed when caught, they were unapologetic. They wouldn’t discuss it with me. One tried to ‘rewrite’ her work and resubmit it. They disgust me. I detest them. I’m ashamed to be in education right now because it is so fraught with bureaucracy and buzz words and ‘protecting’ the student. Fellow students, by the way, are just as angry–they are asking me, “I saw someone’s post, and clearly, they stole stuff off Wikipedia. Did you see that?” All I can say is, “Yes, and I followed the rules in my syllabus.” When I started teaching, it was about helping people grow and learn. It was about how could I best achieve that. Now, it’s all about ‘success rates’ and ‘documentation of critical thinking by giving students an assessment of how they ‘felt’ about the assessment.’ I technically can retire in 12 years. I am trying to figure out a way to shave that down a bit. I am starting to hate (yes, I know–strong word) and dread every day I work and every paper I have to read. I am a glorified tech support person who also gets some money to enable students, not teach them.

I made the religious notation because in their personal introductions, a huge percentage of my students commented how important their religion was to them; it’s not normally something I’d even mention. It sickens me that so many of them wear religious regalia and still cheat. One of my cheaters is a nurse. Does she cheat on other things, I wonder? I personally think plagiarism or cheating is despicable and wish anyone who did it would be summarily kicked out of college. However, there’s so much due process to protect students, they get a 0. That’s about all I can do that will actually stick unless they are repeat offenders. We couldn’t even get a file started to keep a record of repeat offenders in different classes. It’s insane.

Dear Students,

Being a student can be very challenging. It’s often made more difficult by life circumstances. I was in grad school and teaching when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died, at the same time I was going through a divorce. I stuck with school and finished, even though that semester wasn’t my best work. This past January, my father died after a long illness at the same time we were without power due to the ice storm. I was taking two programming classes–and withdrawing from them was the best option for me because I got too far behind to catch up. I kept my professors informed, but I took responsibility for my decisions–they were my choices.

However, one thing I HAVE NEVER, EVER done, in 10 years of school and through 3 degrees and 4 additional courses in math and computer science for personal enrichment and through a LOT OF “PERSONAL STUFF” is plagiarize. If you want examples and a definition, READ YOUR SYLLABUS. I was recently singled out and complimented by the dean of social sciences for my clear explanations on what plagiarism is and what consequences it incurs. Plagiarism is dishonest. It is lying. It is cheating. If you consider yourself religious in any way, think of it as immoral and wrong and the same as stealing. If you commit plagiarism, that’s the same as going into a store and stealing something another person has worked hard to make and produce. Let’s not mince words here.

I’ve taught 20 years. I’ve heard ALL the excuses (and they usually fall into one of these categories):

•    “I’m so busy, I just took a shortcut.”

•    “My personal life is hard right now–a lot is going on.”

•    “I didn’t know it was a problem. I thought it would be okay just this once.”

•    “I wasn’t clear on what you meant by how to cite sources in writing.”

I don’t care about your excuse. I don’t care about your reason. I do care about you not doing it–ever. Read the syllabus again. Ask your advisor. Ask tutors. I have had about five students commit some sort of plagiarism this semester. They have received the consequences. Possibly others have done it and not yet got caught–trust me, you will get caught at some point.

Make sure you do not copy and paste work from the internet. Make sure you cite your sources. Make sure you ASK if you are ever unsure if you are doing it right.

There is never an excuse. Never. I will make sure you are given the harshest consequences possible. I am aware and watching. Think about that before you are tempted to commit plagiarism.

Dr. Andromache

PS: Yes, I am quite furious. The thoughts of someone stealing another person’s writing and hard work is absolutely infuriating to me. I find it abominable behavior and have zero respect for anyone who would do this.