Why Ukrainians Cheat in School

If you ask me now - cheating is bad and you should not do it. That said: I cheated a lot back in school cause cheating is kind of a part of the culture in Ukraine. Here are a few reasons why (to my mind):

1. Original thinking and creative thinking aren’t really a thing
I used to have this awesome Lit teacher who would honor all of my personal ramblings (opinions) with a positive grade. When I had to write an essay or a response to a book we read I would go all out. That included me creating a poem response (granted, I was never good with rhymes but back in the day I thought I was). Something that we read in class would ‘inspire’ me to create and I would go for it. One horrible year this teacher had to leave the country and we got another one. On the first assignment I tried my old tricks - pouring my thoughts out onto the paper and guess what? I got a C (well, the equivalent of). I tried submitting my own thoughts a couple more times (because Lit class was one of the few I actually cared about) but I kept getting unsatisfactory grades. So, for my next assignment I copied someone else’s thoughts word for word. And got an A. You can guess that starting that day and until my graduation day I was not original and indulged in plagiarism. It was so easy to do too - back in Ukraine we have these big books with essays on school’s required reading published. There are hundreds of them. You can purchase them or go to the library and check one out. The library, Carl! And of course, things got even easier when the Internet rolled around. I am still so damn sad about it.

2. Accessibility
Just like the books with all the essays you might want there are books with the answers to all school math problems, Physics, Chemistry, History, English - you name it. If your teacher is using a standardized program - all the answers will be in those books. It is hard for a 14 year old to exercise willpower and go against the system when all the resources are right in front of you.

3. Boredom
Don’t get me wrong: I think we have a great system of education. It is just a tad soviet and a tad outdated (alright, a lot outdated). For someone like me, who enjoyed Lit and languages - Physics was something out of this world. It was hard to understand and felt unnecessary (at the moment). It was easily solved by cheating off my classmates and/or the Internet. It got me a decent enough grade that allowed me not to worry about it affecting my overall GPA. Do I wish I knew more in Physics? Yes, yes I do. Unfortunately, I can’t go back the time.

4. Barter
As weird as it sounds (and jumping on what I said in point number 3), cheating is a kind of currency. I will give you my English homework to cheat off of and you will give me your math. As easy as that school years became a fruitful marketplace. Where in America it would have been solved with methodological tutoring - we found an easier way out.

5. Teamwork
I know it sounds weird but hear me out. My school did not offer sports or fancy extracurricular activities. Cheating off someone’s homework a few minutes before the class, getting that adrenaline rush of a teacher catching you in the act and getting away with it - was our kind of sport. Was it healthy? I don’t know. But it did create friendships and bonds for life (well, at least for school life).

When I first got to the US I was terrified to cheat or to even think about cheating. Numerous lectures from the people who did foreign exchange before me echoed the words ‘expulsion’ and a far worse one ‘deportation’. I didn’t cheat a single time during my studies here in the States and not that I am proud of it - I am definitely satisfied with my choices. Granted, the educational system was a bit easier here and not cheating wasn’t a big thing I had to overcome. That said: I still saw my fellow classmates cheat in the US classroom like it was no one's business. But for me the biggest obstacle in Ukraine was always the fact that my original thoughts were judged by others and most times were not accepted by my educators. In the USA I had freedom to say whatever I wanted without thinking about it twice. So please, value your freedom of expression, my friends. It comes at a high price for others.

Tell me: did you ever cheat? What was your best trick to not getting caught? I promise I won’t tell…

Undiscovered Language Aspects


Before we begin take a look at these wonderful reviewers and replies:

And now that I got your attention:

The other day I had to write a response to a not-so-flattering review. It became clear to me that I have two sides when it comes to telling people off in writing: sassy or sappy. This task got me thinking about a specific area of English language that always fascinated me: an ability to professionally tell someone they are being a jerk. I call it  ‘SuitAss’ language.

Hear me out: I deal with happy and not-so-happy people on a daily bases. I love it and hate it at the same time and have conflicting thoughts about it. All that grownup stuff. When I have to talk to someone face-to-face at least I have body language on my side. Writing is a bit different. This specific niche of English is so fragile and so precious to me since I can’t really grasp it. Is this ability something I had to be born into? Like liking sweet potatoes?

It seems like every language has one thing or another that is a bit difficult for foreigners. In Russian, you can have a full on conversation with someone that consists only of cuss words. If and when I see a foreigner having a convo that includes only profanities in Russian - I will be so so impressed. I don’t even think I can do it and I was born to speak the language. I keep thinking about what to do if I need to tell someone off in Russian. What aspect of the language do I use? Which phrases? I realized something a bit sad but completely true to the environment I grew up in: I can turn on my rudeness like no one’s business. Sometimes you have to fight if you want your spot under this burning sun (Global Warming y’all. Look it up).

But let us go back to ‘SuitAss’ language. I am at awe in front of people who can bring their SuitAss skills like a hammer. A quality (or a skill?) that lets you courteously tell the other person he is being a whining baby looks like a superpower to me. Honestly, telling a person to bug off while making him feel on top of the world has to be a superpower. It just has to be! Otherwise I don’t believe in miracles any more.  

I was trying to trace the moment American adults grasp this precious knowledge and I think I might have the answer. I believe Americans face rejection way more than a standard Ukrainian does. That being because an American is actually trying to apply to things no matter the consequence. The wisdom of the SuitAss language gets taken from the numerous rejection letters, unsatisfying phone calls, someone saying ‘no’ directly to your face. An average Ukrainian will not apply for something without being at least a little bit sure he is going to get it. That is a sad truth but it is what it is. Ukrainians like to be sure in their future, I guess.

While making attempts at SuitAss I end up either turning my Ukrainian on (let’s face it: that response will be way too harsh to read) or I get overly apologetic (which is not how I feel but what I have to accept since I am still a SuitAss trainee). Both of these options are not satisfactory to me as a part of American society and as someone who takes pride in studying languages. How do you tell people off? How do you cushion rejection? And can you help a Ukrainian out?

Not Everyone Can Be A Winner

I wanted to start by talking about this American Dream. But forget it - you get enough of this talk from the current election. But it got me thinking: the US has a very strong culture of winning. Trophies and constant races leave little space for those who feel comfortable without a pedestal. What does this culture leave those folks with?

I am probably the least competitive person you will ever meet. I don't care about Pokemon Go or any other game for that matter. I am not good at sports (granted very few opportunities were provided while I was growing up). It always feels like I had this comfy place inside of me and I like it. It resembles the rocking chair on my porch - it is there and I enjoy it. But for some reason when I got to the States many situations and people keep trying to make me feel bad for 'not wanting more'.

I understand the point of the American Dream, I do. And I do believe in it in some way. That said, I don't want to be a millionaire, I don't want to be the first woman president, I don't want to participate in the Olympics, or Eurovision for that matter. My inner peace allows me to put on my about-to-fall-apart Converse, open my door, step outside, and place my behind on my rocking chair. What do I do next you ask? Well, I enjoy. I don't rush and I don't think about money. I don't want to be the first at things. I want to sit in my rocking chair.

Of course I am not a flower child and I do not throw caution to the wind: I work, I pay my bills, and I budget. I work out (liar) but I don't want to compete. I blog but I am not trying to make my writing a business. I am not careless - I am centered. Or I want to believe I am. Is a capability of true and pure self-discovery really possible for simple humans? We might be just delirious. Everyone loves play-pretend.

Last time we visited Texas Andrew had to pack up his childhood room due to his parents’ moving. While sharing tiny pieces of memorabilia was so touching and so honest there was something that kept bugging me. Participation trophies and recognition ribbons were the things that got me thinking (just to clarify: my husband has a lot of 1st place ribbons and trophies as well. And no, he didn't make me write this, he is just a badass like that). Not everyone can be a winner. Not everyone will be a loser. So why is it so important to get something out of a race, a competition, or whathaveyou? Why is it so important to be recognized for ... what exactly? For taking your time? 'Cause of course an 11 year old has so much on his social calendar . The part of 'having fun' and 'enjoying yourself' got mixed up with 'recognition trophies'. And unfortunately, the trophies won. In this scenario we didn't just lose 'fun' - we lost ourselves. I am making attempts at finding me. Do you want me to feel bad about it?

This world is so fast-paced, especially in such a developed country like the US. Compared to my family's childhood stories I have no right to complain, but for the sake of this post I will a little. Growing up in Ukraine, when I needed a new shirt I had two options: black or white. And with a choice of those options came a recognition that half of my class will be wearing the same shirt. In the US you walk into a department store and how many options do you see? 100? 150? Give that shirt a quick Etsy search and you got 100 more. You end up taking 3 hours from your day to figure one which shirt will be the best for you. There goes your time in a rocking chair, your ‘me’ time, your precious minutes of discovering your place in this Universe. Or you know, an extra episode of Stranger Things.

Participation trophies do make one feel included, but isn't it better just to feel loved?

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