Auntie SparkNotes: I Cheated; Should I Confess?
I cheated. More specifically, I cheated on a math test/quiz last year and I got half-caught this year. Basically I was taking Algebra 2 last year and let's just say that math is not a great subject for me; at one point (and I swear this only happened once) I was taking a test and was unable to finish it by the end of the period. My teacher said that I was allowed to come back and finish it during lunch, but I knew that there were two problems at the end of the test that I was having a hard time with. Right before I left I discreetly jotted down some notes about what the questions were and what I remembered about how to answer them on the cover of my calculator case, so I could study them a bit before finishing the test.
Fast forward to this year, I'm in AP Stats and my teacher decides to engrave our names onto our calculators for us. She picked up my calculator and started to engrave my name into its cover, but she saw a few words written on it that I apparently missed when erasing it last year. I made up some B.S. story which she might have bought to an extent, but the lady isn't an idiot. So basically I am now in the position of having lied to my teacher (dumb move, I know) and having cheated on a test. I know that I really screwed up, and that I got what was coming to me, but I am so stressed out.
I seriously feel like I'm on the verge of passing out right now, and I just don't know what to do. The guilt and worry are eating me alive. I know she'll probably never trust me again, but what if something worse than that happens? What if rumors about me spread? What if I get kicked out of the clubs I'm in? What if this gets back to my parents? What if I get expelled? Please tell me what to do, I'm at a total loss. Should I fess up to everything? And, more importantly than any of that, am I a bad person?
A bad person? Oh, honey. No! Of course not! Even an incident of actual, premeditated cheating wouldn't be so karmically corrosive as to make you a Bad Person. (Around here, that's a term reserved exclusively for people who knowingly, callously do harm to others… and also for people who take, like, a million years to order coffee at Starbucks when it's eight o'clock in the morning and there are twenty people in line behind them and for god's sake just pick something already you inconsiderate, dawdling buffoon.)
And while Auntie would be the first to tell you if you were a nasty, shameful cheater… well, honestly, I'm struggling to find anything all that wrong with what you did. Math questions being what they are, it's not like you were able to leave, look up the right answer, and then return and write it down; it's not like you peeked at someone else's paper in order to check your work; you didn't even copy the questions and ask a friend for help.
Basically, it's not like you actually cheated.
Of course, you did take advantage of the opportunity to do some targeted studying—which might not have been the most ethically unassailable move, but then again, neither was letting you have extra time to finish the test to begin with. Your teacher gave you an unfair advantage in letting you do that; what you did was increase your handicap by another few degrees.
And that, if I had to guess, is where your feelings of guilt come in: because you abused the trust of a person who was already giving you a break.
The good news is, you're the only one who knows you did that, you know how bad it makes you feel to have done it, and you know better than to do it again—and you have the benefit of having figured this out on your own, from your heart, and without anyone having to explain it to you. And since explaining it is all anyone would do if you were to fess up now, you can skip to the part where stop kicking yourself and start moving on, bringing the lesson you've learned along with you. You made a mistake, and you let it teach you to be a better person in the future. You could hardly ask for a more valuable experience than that.
And neither could your teacher, if she ever asks you to explain the mystery of your scribbled-upon calculator case. But she probably won't.