Butch catches two boys cheating

In 1979, I was teaching social studies and PE at Darlington Middle School. Because there was a shortage of Industrial Arts teachers, superintendent Eual McCauley also had me teach 7th and 8th grade shop classes that year. When school was over at 3:30pm, I also worked my second job as a deputy sheriff for the Montgomery County Police Department from 4:00pm to midnight.

One day, I was scheduled to testify in court for a criminal trial, and the principal, Randy Quimby, hired a substitute teacher to take my place. I had planned on giving a test to the boys in my shop classes that day, and I left instructions for the sub to pass out the multiple-choice-answer tests, and then when they were finished…to have the students exchange the completed tests and grade these, as he provided the correct answers and closely supervised.

When I came back to school the next day, I looked through the graded tests. There were the usual scores…a few A’s, B’s, C’s…but then…two perfect A+ scores. A close examination revealed that two boys had graded each other’s test, and it was quite obvious they had erased the incorrect answers, and had written in the correct responses. When the bell rang and the class began, I announced, “Unfortunately, two boys in this room cheated on their tests yesterday. They will be punished, but if they come to me by lunchtime and admit the error of their ways, then the punishment will not be as severe.” The boys looked around at each other for the suspect violators. One of the cheaters looked around and tried to act innocent, while the other boy kept his head down. By the end of class, no one had come forward.

Two periods later, there was a ten-minute break between classes. While I was in the restroom, one of the boys showed up…”Mr. Dale, did those two boys come to you and admit they had cheated?” he asked with a very sober look on his face. “No, not yet, but I certainly hope they do by noon. Why are you asking?” He glanced to the side, “Oh, I was just wondering who it was. They must have been really dumb to cheat like that.” I looked straight at him, “I think they should get a whack with the paddle, don’t you?” His voice quivered, “Well, maybe they just made an honest mistake.” I replied, “No, they cheated for sure…maybe they should get two whacks.” The boy’s jaw dropped and his eyes were as big as silver dollars as he slinked out the door.

The next day…”Well, it appears the two cheaters decided not to be honest and admit their wrongs. They have until the end of this class to come clean, or this paddle on the wall will greet their posteriors.” The two boys looked at each other with glazed looks in their eyes. The quiet boy started to shake ever so slightly. No one said a word. When the bell rang and the class started to leave, I stopped the devious twosome at the door. “Both of you stay here a minute. I want to show you something.” “Why, we didn’t do anything!” the one boy exclaimed. They sat down, and I placed the two tests in front of them. “Take a look at your tests. Do either of you see anything wrong? Both of you scored perfect A+’s on your tests. That’s great…how did you do that?”

The one boy looked at me and stated in no uncertain terms, “Mr. Dale, I didn’t cheat. I stayed up until 2 o’clock in the morning studying for that test. Ask my Grandpa, he’ll tell you!” The other boy was silent, kept his head down, and started shaking again. I quizzed him, “What about you…did you study for hours for the test?” A tear rolled down his cheek. It was time for my big finale. “OK…I gave both of you plenty of chances. I want the truth, and I want it NOW! Do you understand? Are you going to be honest with me or not?” There was about ten seconds hesitation, and then the first boy blurted out, “I did it. I did it, Mr. Dale…I cheated!” as he burst into tears and slobbers. The second boy, who was shaking so hard that I thought he might fall out of his chair, mumbled, “Me, too!” as he sobbed and blew his nose.

I took both boys out into the shop room before the next class showed up. “We’re sorry, Mr. Dale, we should have told you first thing yesterday,” they implored over and over. Then I came up with an idea, “Finally, both of you were honest. That’s very important as you go through life. So I have a proposition for you…two whacks with the paddle…OR you can stay after school for the next six weeks and sweep and clean up the shop room. Well, what will it be?” It only took a second, “We’ll clean the shop room…we LOVE to sweep and dust!” That statement sounded somewhat doubtful in its sincerity, but I shook hands with the two of them and gave them a pat on the back, “OK, it’s a deal. I’m proud of both of you for telling the truth.” They smiled, “Thanks, Mr. Dale. We like you for our teacher, and we like making things in shop class. We’ll be here after last period today to help you.”

“We promise to never do anything stupid like that again,” both vowed as they wiped away the tears. Readers, you know what? I remember my brother and I, when we got into trouble at home, uttering those same words on a few occasions to our Dad….Life goes on, and we learn from our mistakes…well…most of the time.

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.