I ran across this poster yesterday at school. Based on the picture and the ceramic-tiled wall it was taped you, you can probably guess where I saw it. Specifically I was in the Gaylord building at OU, home to the school’s journalism, mass communications, and professional writing students.
I cheated on a writing assignment for school once. I was in third grade. Our teacher gave us a week to write and illustrate a limerick. I struggled for several days to come up with a good one, but came up blank every night. The night before our homework was due, I wrote down a limerick that I had heard before on a record:
A furry blue monster named Herry
When asked “Are you strong?” replied “Very!”
Then just for a laugh
He tore 3 cars in half
Now I ask “Is that necessary?”
I modified the first line slightly to read “There once was a big man named Harry,” but that was the only change I made. Lest you think this experience didn’t make an impression on me, the original song was called “The Limerick Song (Come On and Sing Along With Me),” and it appeared on the Bert and Ernie Sing Along Sesame Street Album. It starts at the 40 second mark, if you want to listen to it.
My teacher thought the limerick was great, and hung my paper along with a few others in the hallway outside our classroom. I was terrified that someone would recognize the limerick and tell on me. I felt so bad about it that I got a pit in my stomach every time I walked past the picture. Worst of all, I felt bad about deceiving my teacher. I swore I’d never do it again.
I was eight years old.
A recall a few times in high school where friends of mine and I would share answers on “busy work” assignments like word searches and crossword puzzles, but I never again cheated on any “creative writing” assignments. Why would I? I love writing!
Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget that I am a 42-year-old college student and not a 22-year-old one. I’m paying for graduate school out of my pocket, and it ain’t cheap. I’m in school because I want to be there. My goals are to learn, to get feedback, and ultimately, to improve as a writer. None of those goals involve cheating.