Student Excuses

It made me laugh last quarter when a student with less than a 50% attendance rate complained that he was having trouble remembering things.    He asked if there was anything he could do to help with that. I told him to show up to class, and actually stay til the end.   Somehow, he never got the message.

Students will try to get away with things.   I will tell you a deep, dark secret about most teachers:   we don’t care.

I don’t care if your dog is sick.

I don’t care if your grandmother dies.  Again.

I don’t care if you are going to an interview.   Although why you would schedule an interview during your class time is beyond me.

If a student is gone, I am not going to track them down to give them the lecture notes and latest homework assignment.    This is one of the reasons why I like teaching at a community college rather than a high school… I can expect students to behave like adults.

I’ve gotten all kinds of involved stories to explain why they weren’t there.   My personal favorite excuse was “my boyfriend is in a coma,” delivered so cheerfully that I wasn’t sure if it was an admission of guilt, or just the first thing that popped into their head as a plausible excuse for a two day absence.    Considering this was the third week in a row that she had skipped classes, my bullshit radar was already on overdrive.

I must admit, I had to learn my lesson about student excuses the hard way.    A few quarters back, I had one student who came in during the second week of classes and begged to be allowed to enroll in the class.  He was painfully sincere, and he seemed like he genuinely wanted to take the class.   So I signed off on his enrollment, and started that days lecture.  The next week, he didn’t show up for the exam… or even for any of the classes that week.   When he finally showed up in class again, he asked to be allowed to make up the exam and the homework.   I went ahead and set up a makeup exam for him.  He showed up for two days of classes that week, and skipped out on the makeup exam.   Two more weeks go by before I see him again.   He tells me a sob story about how he ended up needing to take an extra night-shift so he could pay his rent, and that his pregnant wife was coming to term soon.   Again, he begged me to allow him to make up his missed exams.  I told him that he had a week to make up his exams, to which he promised me very earnestly that he would take them the very next day.     He didn’t show up again until the week before finals.   He asked to take all of the exams, quizzes and homework he missed in the previous nine weeks.   He begged.  He pleaded.   He apologized.   And you know what I told him?  “No, you can’t take all of the class in a single week.”     Incredibly, he actually stayed for classes that entire week.  He also took the final exam (incidentally, the ONLY exam he took in the class).   He earned a whopping 12% on the final.

He was mad at me for failing him.

It was after that, that I started asking for doctor’s notes.

I know that my student’s live complicated lives.  It is part of being a student..  Life happens.  So deal with it!

 

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