During the spring of 1995, I was a senior in high school. I grew up in a small Missouri town with a high school class of less than 100 people.
When you go to a small high school, one of the benefits is being afforded more opportunities to participate in an array of extracurricular activities. Between playing trombone in the band, acting in the spring play and spring FFA contests, I was missing days of school off and on throughout the last semester.
When students miss class, they miss valuable instruction, and it is often hard to keep up. I was no exception. I was struggling to keep up in a vocational class in computer programming. It has been so long ago; I cannot even remember the name of the class. I do remember the teacher, Mrs. White.
I got behind in her class and felt hopeless that I would not be able to catch up. I turned to a friend in my class and asked her if she would “loan” me her floppy disk and let me copy it to mine to get myself caught up. Mrs. White was no dummy. She caught on relatively quickly and stopped subtly at my computer during class one day and let me know under no uncertain circumstances that she knew I was cheating and that I’d receive an F in her class for the quarter. That was not even the worst of it. My friend, who had given me her disk to copy was failed in the class as well.
I was mortified. I was the president of my FFA chapter, section leader in band and the student body president. People had high expectations for my behavior and the example I should have been setting.
I had to do the walk of shame down to the vocational director’s office and confess what I had done. I owned it but I was so ashamed of myself. I am 43-years-old and I still blush when I think about that invaluable and excruciating life lesson.
As much as I hate admitting to this humiliating moment from my days as a student, it shaped my attitude toward lying and cheating today. We had a saying in our family when it came to board games, sports and school, “cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.” I will preach this to my own offspring until they are well into their forties.
My children are invested in their grades and extracurricular activities. They are excited when they receive a straight A report card or a winning place. We are proud of them but must constantly remind each child that it is about having fun and what they learn along the way. I would rather have my child bring home a grade card full of Cs and Ds knowing they had put forth a mighty effort of doing their own work. On the ball field, racetrack or in the show ring, we expect our children to emphasize good sportsmanship above any first-place ribbon or trophy.
Since cheating is a hot topic after the recent election in our great country, I thought it was probably a good time to call myself out for one of my own sins before slinging smut toward anyone else. It is not whether we win or lose in this great country, it is how well we play our game, neighbor.
Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’