Gotcha!

"Clint, did you finish your homework already?" Angie asked her 12-year-old son.

"It's all taken care of, Mom," he replied. "Zak and I and some other kids are doing a project together. So, I'm going to his house, okay?"

"Jeff, something strange is going on with Clint lately," Angie told her husband that night after the kids had gone to bed.

"What do you mean, Angie?"

"Well, he doesn't seem to be spending much time on his homework and yet he says he's completing it and turning it in."

"Has his teacher told you that he's falling behind in his work?"

"No, and on his last report card he got all A's. I'm puzzled. How can he be spending so little time on homework and yet getting such good grades?"

"Well, you know he grasps things very quickly. He's a smart kid. Obviously, he takes after his mother."

The next morning, while Clint and his younger brother, Jeremy, were eating breakfast, Angie picked up Clint's backpack, which he had left by the front door. Just as she started to open it to take a look at his homework, Clint appeared.

"Mom, I need my backpack! I have to get to school early today. Zak and I need to work on our project."

"What exactly are you working on?" she inquired.

"It's complicated, Mom," he replied nervously. "I can't explain it right now. I have to go!"

When Clint arrived at school, Zak was already in the cafeteria.

"Did you get it?" Clint asked anxiously.

Zak held up some sheets of paper. "You owe me 10 dollars for this."

Clint reached into his pocket and took out a 10 dollar bill.

"So, whose turn is it to do the homework tonight?" Clint asked.

"It's your turn," Zak replied.

"Again! I just did it a few days ago," Clint responded angrily.

"Sorry, your name is next on the schedule. You can't back out. We all agreed to follow the schedule."

"Well, maybe it's just as well. My mom was snooping around my backpack this morning, and lately she's been asking why I'm not spending more time doing my homework. So, I guess I'll be putting in lots of hours tonight doing the assignments for all our classes. Maybe that will satisfy her."

"Hi, Steffi, Josh, Emily, Pete," Zak greeted the other members of the study group.

"Here are all the homework assignments that are due for today." Steffi passed out a copy of the homework to each member.

"I hope you guys appreciate how hard I worked on these," Steffi commented. "I was up till midnight getting the assignments done."

"Zak, you're definitely a genius!" Pete remarked. "First, you convince the teachers that allowing us to form a study group will improve our grades and ‘expand our intellectual horizons,' as you put it."

The other kids laughed.

"Then," Steffi continued, "you tell them that our group will turn in extra-credit reports in addition to our usual homework."

"Yeah, but the best part," Clint remarked, "was when you told them that we would each do our assignments on the computer and then print them off."

"The teachers are thrilled to get printed homework and reports, rather than messy, handwritten ones," Emily added.

"Yeah, one of us can do the homework, and then print it off for the rest of us."

"Zak, what were you giving Clint when we walked into the room?" Josh asked.

"Well, if you must know, I hacked into Mr. Drake's files and got a copy of the science test."

"You're living dangerously!" Emily remarked. "He may have some way of detecting that you've accessed his files."

"No way!" Zak retorted. "If you want a copy, it'll cost you 10 dollars each."

"Not me," Emily responded. "Sharing homework assignments is one thing; stealing tests is wrong."

Steffi, Josh, and Pete agreed with Emily.

A few minutes before school ended, one of the school secretaries delivered a note to Mr. Drake, the science teacher. After reading it, he asked the members of the study group to remain after class.

Steffi, Josh, Emily, Clint, Zak, and Pete stayed in their seats as the other kids filed out of the room.

"You have been turning in high-quality work," Mr. Drake commented. "I've decided to exempt you from having to take the exam with the rest of the class."

"That's great news!" Clint remarked.

Clint was relieved because his conscience had been nagging him ever since he paid Zak for the test.

Mr. Drake continued, "I've gotten the principal's approval for each of you to do a research assignment, which you will find more challenging and interesting. You may discuss your assignments with each other, but I expect each of you to write your own report. Some of the teachers have mentioned to me that on any given day all your homework assignments appear to be extremely similar, even identical." He stressed that last word.

The kids stared straight ahead and didn't say a word.

"Of course, we all know each of you is very bright. If any copying of homework were to have occurred, it must have been due to boredom and a lack of interest in the assignment. So, I guarantee that you will find your research assignment to be stimulating and challenging."

He handed an information sheet to each student, listing the research topic and explaining the requirements.

"You have three weeks to complete your paper. Instead of handing it in to me, each of you will be giving a verbal presentation to the entire faculty at our quarterly meeting. Do you have any questions?"

When no one responded, Mr. Drake concluded, "I am certain that when each of you has presented his or her report to the faculty, any concerns the teachers may have had about copying one another's homework will have been resolved, particularly since the teachers will have the opportunity to ask you questions about your report to ensure that you fully understand what you have written."

As the students stood up to leave, Mr. Drake looked Zak in the eye. "Someone apparently got into my science test files. If that were to happen again, I would have to report it to the principal, and the student would be expelled. After all, stealing is a crime."

For the next three weeks, the members of the study group worked independently to complete their research reports.

Clint practiced presenting his report to his parents.

"We're impressed!" Jeff told his son.

"You've worked really hard," Angie commented. "Why don't you invite Zak over to play video games?"

"No, I'm not hanging out with him anymore. He's a bad influence on me."

Finally the day the group members had been dreading arrived. The faculty called them in one at a time. Clint was summoned first.

After presenting his paper, he waited nervously, hoping that none of the teachers would ask him questions.

"Do you feel that doing this research paper was a valuable experience for you?" Ms. Singer, his English teacher, asked.

"Yes, it was. I learned a lot," he responded.

"Then, you are dismissed," Mr. Drake told him. "Thank you."

Clint waited on the school steps for the other group members.

Steffi, Josh, Emily, and Pete all received a "well done" for their presentations.

"I'm never sharing homework with anyone ever again," Steffi commented.

Josh agreed. "Yeah, doing this research report and presentation was much harder than just doing homework."

"I've thought a lot about what Mr. Drake said," Clint responded. "The teachers knew what we were doing all along. We're lucky that we didn't get kicked out of school. I don't want to be a thief. The Bible says stealing and lying are sins."

A few days later, Clint heard the news about Zak.

"Zak got his report off some Web site that sells term papers," Steffi said. "He thought he was too smart to get caught. The principal kicked him out of school for dishonesty and for stealing the science exam."

Clint shook his head. "How could someone who's so smart refuse to learn?"

By Nancy A. and Howard W. Stevens

© by Nancy A. and Howard W. Stevens