When a Teacher is Asked to Cheat

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, April 23 — Yesterday we gave the final exam in Spanish literature for seniors at the high school where I teach. For them, this was the last step before graduation. Giving the test was a complicated process as there were nearly 200 pupils that had to take it though there are only three teachers of the course in the entire school.

Minutes before, the three of us met in the administration office to make last minute arrangements and develop our strategies. The principal — with the test in hand — made comments about how difficult it was, especially considering the low levels of our students.

Also present was a municipal educational methodologist. Listening to the instructions, what took me aback was that I was asked to give certain information to the students while they were taking the test. This was information they were being tested on, which, incidentally, had been prepared by the Ministry of Education of the municipality.

The principal appealed to us saying, “I’m not asking you to give them the answers, just a few…hints, because otherwise they’ll be clueless. Plus, it won’t be good for us if any of them has to repeat a year.”

The methodologist agreed, adding a few comments about the students’ weaknesses. What struck me was that he was speaking without the slightest trace of guilt or responsibility for the academic ill-preparedness of the students.

“They come here with certain gaps from junior high,” he said, as if all of us weren’t part of a collapsing educational system.

At the indicated time, I did my job. They asked me to become that little bird that always whispers secrets and whose identity is never discovered.

I helped the students as best I could, trying not to out-and-out cheat. Still, it’s difficult to oppose a cycle of negligence on the part of families, their previous schools and society in general, as well the vulnerability of youth to playing the game.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.