On Student Excuses

First off, for professional dignity, I…sort of feel the need to apologize for the last manic coffee post.  Tea has been returned to work, and I am mostly mentally well again.

 

But I’m not posting to talk about my crazy this time.  Today’s topic is the student fiction contest of excuse-making.  Well-traversed territory, but worth a few minutes of my time, since I do see them as often as assignments.

 

If I’m starting out with honesty, I haven’t actually seen as many impressive excuses as some.  Most of the ones I get are the classic “my computer crashed,” “my Email failed,” etc.  But from this mine field of mundane has come my favorite excuse ever.

 

Here is how this plays out.  Student has failed to hand in some assignment or other.  This is not the first assignment that student has not given me–it has become a pattern.  So, politely, I call student up to the front after the rest of the class has left/stopped acknowledging my existence.

 

Me: You haven’t handed this in to me.

Student: I’m sorry. I’ve had XYZ going on, and it’s been really hard.

Me: I understand. I too live a real life. I too know that the universe sometimes just takes a crap on your head.

Student: *smiles apologetically, contrite and enjoying our bonding*.

Me: But I say in my syllabus that you need to keep me informed. XYZ are excusable problems, but I must hear about them ahead of time so we can make arrangements.

Student: I understand. I just hate making excuses. So I didn’t say anything.

 

“I just hate making excuses.”

 

Translation is either: “I truly am overwhelmed and felt weird burdening you with my problems,” “I didn’t even think about you/the assignment/your late work policy, whether I had legit crap going on or not,” or, most often, “You caught me and now I need a way to sound noble and silent-suffering but really I just didn’t do it and can’t think of a better excuse off the top of my head.”

 

This has shown up twice now, in two different classes, with two different students.  It amuses the hell out of me, because it is just so ballsy.  It dares me to call them out, to shame them for their toughness and willingness to silently drag their grade into the toilet without involving their teacher, who just doesn’t need to hear about their woes.  And it’s a hard one to fight.  I can’t catch them out in a lie.  The most I can do is just wag the scoldy-finger of shame, tell them they must complain to me more, and send them on their way.

 

Just once, I wish someone would throw me a good old-fashioned bald-face lie, with a magical disappearing notebook or a paper-inclined house pet.  No one has any respect for the classics anymore.

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