Plagiarism is the classroom curse

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

What do you do when another teacher steals your lesson plans and resources? A new teacher, Oliver, spent his half-term break planning and making resources for the forthcoming weeks. He mislaid the folder they were in and asked around, but no one had seen it. Sometime later, he found that the folder was being used by his head of department - but passed off as her own.

Such an incident causes a dilemma. What should Oliver have done? Someone on The TES's new teacher website* says: "People stealing your resources and then taking the credit for it...get used to it." What everyone is teaching has been taught millions of times before - it doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheel.

How about asking at a meeting whether all planning and resources could be shared since this seems to be happening "informally". Teachers shouldn't be in competition with each other. Sharing will reduce your workload, and you'll get better ideas. However, you do need to establish rules about fairness and equal contributions.

Another teacher said: "I have a head of department who has never produced worksheets or ideas that I could use, but always nicks my stuff." Her solution is to give her a copy of everything she makes: "At least that way it's out in the open and she has to thank me for it."

Discuss rules about copyright and plagiarism. Whoever writes something original owns the intellectual copyright to it, whether it's published or not - but that doesn't mean to say that others can't use it with permission. You have the "moral right" to have your name on it. There's no official register for copyright so there's no application to make, forms to fill in or fees to pay. Just mark the work with the copyright symbol ) followed by your name and the date, to warn others against copying it without your permission or without acknowledging you. Mind you, copyright doesn't protect ideas but only the way the idea is expressed in a piece of work. You can find more information at www.patent.gov.uk.

Above all, remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

* www.tes.co.ukstaffroomSara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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