Monday, September 24, 2007

Plagiarism run rampant

I've just spent the last four weeks showing my year 9 SOSE class how to search on the internet, read the material and then write the important fact in their own words. At the end of that time they submitted a 400 word essay describing one aspect of the Middle Ages.

All but four students in the class submitted work that I subsequently found in toto on websites. They had simply copied and pasted, then presented the work as their own.

They didn't get it. Throughout the four weeks each and every student asked me why they can't just copy the material. It's on the web, available for everyone, so they can use it as they wish. Right? It's the same story with referencing.

It's demoralising. I feel like I've just wasted an entire month. Sure I might have got the message through to four students, but what about the other 26?

How can people honestly believe it's ok to say you did something when you didn't? Isn't it obvious that it's lying?

Friday, September 21, 2007

My philosophy of life

I was talking to a friend the other day and he asked me what my philosophy of life was. It was an interesting question because I don't think I've ever really taken the time to think about it in those terms before. My philosophy isn't something that is brought out to discuss at cocktail parties. I don't spend a lot of time questioning the meaning of life or asking myself what makes a good human being. I just live my life, trying not to waste those short precious moments on things that are pointless.

I have plans and goals and ideals but they aren't what my life is about. They're just a part of it. If that was all my life was about there wouldn't be much of a life, would there. I want to be able to get to the end of my life (hopefully with enough time to look back) and be able to look back and say:

1. I was a good human being - the best I could be at the time and in the circumstances
2. I enjoyed, if not every moment, then as many moments as I could find something enjoyable in (you'd be surprised how many of those there are)
3. I touched the lives of people who love me and, in turn, was touched by those I love.

I want to be able to leave a mark on my small part of the world. I don't have to be rich or famous to do that. All I have to do is live in the memories of those I've known, however fleetingly (the knowing and the memories). Perhaps some of those people will tell their children about some small thing I did or said that made their lives better and my impact will carry through a generation or two. Perhaps they will begin to live their lives a little more peacefully because of it. That is my dream.

Of course being rich and famous would have its benefits ... :)

So when my friend asked me about my philosophy I jotted down a few 'rules to live by'. Here they are here, with a few more added - just for luck. There's no order for priority - if there's a need, there's a rule. I make them up as I go. Being calm and happy with what I have is my goal.

Rule 1: Don't let yourself dwell too much on things that irritate you. If you do that, you'll start to slip into a depression and that's a horrid feeling.

Rule 2: Pick your arguments. I apply this to any situation. It could also be interpreted as 'don't sweat the little stuff'. Some things simply aren't worth getting angry or worried over. How important is it going to be in 5 years time? If it's not even going to be a memory, forget about arguing for it, let it go.

Rule 3: Focus on the little things in life - they're the ones that bring the most joy. They're also the things that keep life in perspective. An hour with my daughter, sitting quietly, is worth huge amounts of success at work. Going out to my garden every day and checking how big my tomatoes are - watching things grow regardless of the chaos society is in around them. What we do in life is often artificial and unimportant in the whole scheme of things. It's life, it's what we do, but it's not worth high blood pressure or heart disease.

Rule 4: Look at nature and see how it responds to things - a river particularly. A river will always get where it wants to go but it always takes the line of least resistance, winding around obstacles. Its focus doesn't change but it enjoys the views along the way. Since I realised this, I've stopped giving up on things. I don't care if it takes me a long time to achieve something I really want. If I want it badly enough, I'll do it - I'll find a way around the obstacles.

Rule 5: Help others wherever, whenever and in whatever way you can. That doesn't mean you have to be a hero. I'm a certified coward! I don't have what it takes to rescue people from a burning building or pull someone from a car accident. (I'm the one who always checks to make sure emergency services have been called and that 'someone' is looking after the people who need it.) But if someone asks for directions or if they just look like they need a smile, I offer it.

Rule 6: Appreciate others. I'm almost obsessive about making sure I thank anyone who does something nice for me. I smile, I gush, I tell their boss. It doesn't take long, it's not much effort, but it makes me - and them - feel so much better about the day. (I also tell people when I think they need to improve something, but that's for another blog, I think.)