Stomach cramps. Nausea. Cold sweats. Pounding heart. Maybe even hyperventilating. Whether it be a test on paper or a trip to the doctorís office many people physically fear the word exam. They might be afraid of failing or looking stupid. They may be scared the doctor will find something they arenít ready to face. Plenty of my friends in high school would hum with anxiety when we knew we had a test approaching. Most of them were very intelligent; they just couldnít handle the pressure of being tested.
I, however, didnít have this problem. I was smart, but mostly I was a natural test taker. I had no fear. (Other than those math tests, but we wonít go there.) Multiple choice questions? My favorite! Essays? Iím a born writer! Standardized testing? Bring it on! In fact, I was so good at test taking I was often the first one done. Not wanting to look like too big of a nerd, Iíd wait until I saw someone else finish before handing it in. Any grade less than a B was rare for me and I can count on one hand the amount of times I actually failed a test. Exams? Whatever.
Until that one time. . . .
Math wasnít my favorite subject especially, Trigonometry and Calculus. I held my own though and passed both with no problems. The one subject that tripped me up was History. Donít get me wrong Ė I donít dislike History. I simply disliked the class. I found it boring. Too many dates, too many names, too many years of stuff that just left me wanting to take a nap.
Part of our coursework requirement included a class on the United States Government. This was worse than History by itself. The current Government is confusing enough. Throw in the history of how it all began and I wanted to be anywhere else for that period. Even math class!
I muddled through because itís what I always did. As a nerd, school was my thing and I really had to put effort into failing. I was a member of the Honorís Society for Heavenís sake! I could do this!
However, even the best are cowed by something and I met my match in the cumulative final exam of U.S. Government. I sweated this one. I chewed my nails to nubs. I studied for days to cram as much as I could into my overloaded, Senioritis-drugged brain. I had to pass this class! In the end, I did what Iíd never considered before. I cheated.
I took a piece of notebook paper and listed all the important facts I assumed would show up on the test. Then I stuck it just inside the cover of my textbook, put the book under my desk at my feet and left the paper visible to my eyes but not the teacher.
Did I feel bad? Yes. However, my desire to graduate and keep my pride intact overrode the fact that I knew it was wrong. What I didnít know was that the majority of this class, comprised of my fellow Honorís Students, were cheating too.
Our teacher wasnít dumb and when he started grading tests it became obvious to him that someone had stolen a copy of the answer key and distributed it to the class. When he took his evidence to the teacher in charge of our Honorís Society she was so upset she resigned. This was a first in the history of our high school.
No retribution came because there were so many students involved. They would have been punishing almost the entire senior class. We all graduated and moved on, most of my classmates probably forgetting it ever happened.
I wonít. Even though I could have stood before both teachers appearing blameless because I hadnít used that answer key, I had still cheated. I deserved the retribution as much as the rest.
That exam taught me more than all my classes combined. While we can easily deceive others, we can never deceive ourselves. Though no one found me at fault, I didnít walk away with a clear conscience.
I learned that it felt better to be the same person on the inside that people saw on the outside. Even if I fail, at least I know Iíve done so with integrity and thatís a virtue I want to keep.
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