Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Homework Audit

When I was around eleven or twelve-years-old my primary school implemented a homework audit process. You were required to copy a list of homework tasks off the board and into your homework book. Once the homework was completed that evening one of your parents would sign and date the bottom of the list and you would then show this to the teacher the next day. The system was flawless.

I have a brother that's a year younger than me, let's call pick a random name for him and call him Mike, and another who is five-years-younger, let's call him Pat. At our school there were another three siblings who shared our ages and were in our classes. Two girls and a boy, let's call them Sandra, Wendy and Ian Hooball, for wont of better names.

The Hooball's parents decided to go on a long vacation to Europe over a number of weeks and it was decided that their kids would stay with us because we pretty much did the same things and there wouldn't be any extra effort with school pickup/drop-off.

The problem started on the first evening after school. Sandra and Wendy, I should add were diligent students and consistently scored As in everything. My brothers and I got by with the absolute minimum amount of work we could. If 50% was the pass mark and we got 53% then that was 3% of goofing around we'd missed out on, an attitude I'm still paying for decades later.

We were all in the living room and Sandra and Wendy quickly finished their homework and took their homework books over to my father to sign. I remember watching from the sofa and when I realized what they were doing a knot formed in my stomach and I started to feel slightly unwell.

"What is this?" My father asked.
"It's our homework book for you to sign," the girls sang in unison.
"What do I need to do?" My father asked now looking somewhat surprised.
"You need to check that we've done our homework and then sign it," one of the swots said.
"Why don't Guy and Michael have to do this?" Father now looked as confused as I had ever seen him.
"They do," was the girls reply.
"Guy," my father said looking over at me, "bring me your homework book."

Dragging my feet I took it over to him. He opened it and examined the forgeries I had perfected. In order to get Michael on-board I'd had to execute the same in his homework book.

"I didn't sign these did I?" My father asked me.

This was a tough question. It let me know that the forgeries were perfect and that he was questioning his own memory. It could have gone either way at this point. I could have insisted that he'd done them or come clean. I came clean.

To my surprise I wasn't punished. I was told how wrong it was and to never do again. We also had to do our homework until the Hooballs left and we managed to work out another work reduction program. We couldn't do that while they were there because there was a cross-audit problem between what they had done and what we were doing. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) only became possible once they had left.

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