Paris Andrew, TIP’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, is here to help gifted students. She used to run the residential programming at TIP’s educational programs, and she is completing a PhD in related areas, so she knows what she’s talking about.
Some kids always want to copy my answers to homework assignments. They say I’m the smart kid and expect that I’ll just give them the answers. One even asked me to text her a picture of the completed homework so she could copy it. How do I tell them no without making them not like me? We aren’t really friends but we get along in class. I’m not sure what they think of me, but I don’t want them to think of me badly. I’m not sure exactly how to put it, but I don’t want them to think of me as that girl who thinks she’s too good for us or the goody goody who isn’t one of the regular kids. Thanks. —TJ, seventh grade
Thanks for sharing this experience, as I am sure other TIPsters may be going through this as well.
First of all, I understand how frustrating it can be when you work hard to study and learn the right answers– only to have someone come along who wants to take the easy way out. But the truth about the situation is that every time they do that, and copy from someone else, they are only hurting themselves and losing out on an opportunity to grow and be better. I am glad you are not like that.
On the other hand, I understand that everyone wants to be liked. The thing is: there’s a difference between being liked and being taken advantage of. Very soon, you will start to realize that there’s not enough time in the world to be friends with everyone and that not everyone is going to like you, no matter what you do. You are at the age where you start to recognize the signs of someone being a good friend to you and the signs that they are only trying to use you. This situation you are in is a good first step toward reaching that point. Would a good friend ask to copy your work, when they know you would get in big trouble if it ever came out you had allowed them to do so? No, a good friend would not. But perhaps more than that, you need to be a friend to yourself by behaving in a way you know is honorable and right. You want your parents and friends to be proud of you, but you also want to be proud of yourself. And what could be more honorable than adhering to an honor code? With that in mind, know this– every honor code, in every high school and college these days, says the exact same thing: giving people the answer to tests or sharing your homework is considered to be just as much cheating as getting the answers (or homework) from someone else. And even if your school does not have a code that spells that out, there is nothing wrong with you wanting to start following your own personal code of honor now. Let your classmates ask someone else or, better yet, do their own work so they can learn or grow. But you are better than that. You have honor.
The best thing to do with your classmates may be to think of a phrase in advance to use next time they ask to copy your work. If you have this in mind already, and even practice saying it, then you won’t be put on the spot when they ask and not know what to say. The answer has to sound like you, but maybe these might help (change into your own words): “I’m sorry, I can’t help you. But good luck.” -or- “I’d rather not be involved in something that the school might consider cheating. Sorry.” -or- “You’ll have to ask someone else. I can’t help you. Sorry.” Your parents might also be able to help you come up with a good phrase to have in mind. They will be proud of you for standing up for what’s right.
If your classmates push you on it when you decline to help: simply repeat the same phrase again and again until they get the message. Or you could even offer to tutor them or help them study, if you have the time and it doesn’t take away from your studies or what you need to be doing. Finally, explaining about academic honor codes to your classmates, if necessary, might help, but remember: you don’t owe them an explanation. You have a perfect right to behave honorably. It takes strength, but you can do it.
The most important thing for you to remember about this situation is to make sure you are not violating either your school’s or your own honor code. If your school has an honor code, privately asking the teacher to talk about it in class one day might help. I would also encourage you to ask them about how to become a volunteer tutor or teaching assistant, rather than sharing materials to your classmates without the teacher’s awareness. That way you can be a friend to your classmates in a genuinely helpful way– and being a true friend is the best way to inspire someone to like you back.
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