Recently a teacher, Amelia, asked for help in dealing with a student who denies using Google translator while being unable to explain what she wrote and how she came up with the tenses that hadn’t been taught yet. Unfortunately, the teacher asked her, which is the wrong approach, in my experience, and I’ll explain a better approach later on. For now this is the reality and here is the dialogue for sharing with the parents.
“I really like your daughter and believe in her having a bright future. She recently chose to use Google Translator on an assignment. This is a common mistake that I see every year. Usually I talk about the mistake with the student who apologizes and promises not to do it again. But this time (insert name) just can’t bear to admit her mistake. This worries me because if she applies to a college that use the common app, teachers will be asked to rate her on her honesty, and this could prevent her from getting a glowing teacher evaluation. It also worries me because in my experience (x number of years times X number of students per year) of over 3000 students, the students who can’t admit a mistake, often get into bigger problems because they are afraid to admit a mistake.
I know of one student who couldn’t admit she was with a driver who had been drinking and got into the car that ended up in a serious accident. Her parents always told her to call, but she really didn’t have the experience of surviving admitting a bad choice and getting over to the other side with her parents. I’d hate to see this happen to her. I am worried about her and I am hoping with this conversation that you are able to help her to get past this. because she really has so much going for her. Can you help her with this?”
I have many versions of this dialogue and more in my book, Teacher Dialogues. It also includes advice on how to start the conversation. Rather than asking the student, tell the student in a private moment. “You know how you are one of my favorite students? Well I can tell that you must have been really pressed for time to not trust your language skills and just go with a Google translator or a friend. Can you help me to understand what was going on that guided your decision? Ok, I understand. Can you just write it on the paper so that I can remember while I get back to the class?”
Once they explain what happened, I take the paper and then tell them that X reason (that they gave) is something they have to tell their parents. I give them 24 or 48 hours to figure out who and how to tell and ask for an email or note from their parent.
Most students blanche at this, yet time after time, they later feel so much better that they told their parents. Carrying around deceit does hurt a lot of them. They even counsel other students to tell their parents and get it over – after they stop being mad it feels so much better.
Good luck Amelia, with helping this family to address the issue of sharing disappointing choices. It is why we teach students first, curriculum a close second.