One of the many benefits of being a teacher, besides the high pay and universal acclaim (thank you, Gov. Jindal), are the excuses students give for missing class, not turning in assignments, failing exams (The teacher always maliciously gives the student an F, the student never, ever earns it.). Sometimes the excuses are sad, sometimes legitimate, sometimes even true, but sometimes, those rare times, they are absolutely so ridiculous or so dumb they are positively hysterical.
What follows, then, are a few of the ridiculous, dumb and hysterical ones. I start with one that really wasn’t an excuse but more of an admission. At the end of the semester, I had just turned in the final grades when I heard a knock at my office door. A student from my history class came in and the following ensued:
Student: “Dr. Chiasson, could you tell me what I made in the course.”
Me: “What do you think you made in the course?”
Student: “Gee. I don’t know.”
Me, as I pull out my grade book: “Let’s see. You made an F on the first test. An F on the second test. An F on the third test. You didn’t do the term paper, and you made an F on the final.”
Student: “Uh huh.”
A long pause.
Me: “So I guess that means you failed the course.”
Student, quite loudly: “Doggone it. I knew I should have bought the text book!”
Actually, that’s not my best student story. That one occurred a few years ago when I was teaching at Loyola University in New Orleans. A female student came into my office crying, and explained what I already knew. That she had missed several classes. What I didn’t know, she explained, was that her mother had cancer and was dying.
I told the student that I understood and I would just ignore those absences. I told her she couldn’t miss any more classes, however, and she said she understood. And then she proceeded to miss the next three classes.
Then midterm came and her midterm grade was the only one I could give her, an F. A day later I received a phone call from her mother, who was quite upset that she was paying about $20,000 a semester and her daughter was being held back by me. Now I was caught between a rock and a hard place. The woman was blaming me for the F, and, on top of that, I felt awkward talking to the woman about her cancer. So I simply said that her daughter received that grade because of her many absences, but that I thought her final grade would not be an F once she got through the difficult time.
Mom: “What difficult time?”
Me, the sucker: “Uh, you know, the difficult time.”
Mom: “No. What difficult time?”
Me: “The cancer.”
Mom: “What cancer?”
Me: “Your cancer.”
Mom: “I don’t have any cancer.”
Me: “Well, Mom, your daughter told me she was missing classes because of your cancer.”
Mom, now a bit breathless; “What does this mean?”
Me: “It means your daughter just failed the course.”
Like every other teacher, I have had my share of excuses but a few weeks ago I e-mailed Nicholls instructors and asked for some of theirs.
Here are a few with credit given to my colleagues:
One of my students asked to be excused from his absences because he had spent a few days in prison. (Tiffany Duet, Languages and Literature)
After missing three consecutive weeks, a student said this: “Sorry. I was sick the first week then I had car trouble.” (Duet)
On constantly missing his Friday speech class: “Sorry, Fridays just aren’t a good day for me.” (Patrick Fries, Mass Communication)
I got these two from Tom Cooper at Nicholls. No. 1: “I think I may have died yesterday.” And No. 2: “My buddies chained me to a wall for two days.” (That one I believe.)
After missing several evening lab sessions, a student said this: “Well, you gotta understand. I tend bar during the afternoon and when my buddies get out of class, they come in and start drinking. I get off at five and when I finish my shift I like to have a few drinks with my buddies. So by the time lab starts, I’m too drunk to come to class.” (Dave Schultz, Biology)
A student took two of Shane Sanders’ (Finance and Economics) classes two semesters in a row. He made a B in the first class and a B in the second class. After the second B, the student sent Sanders several e-mails seeking an A. “You don’t understand,” he wrote. “This will be the first time I’ve ever received a B!”
One of my favorites excuses came from Luke Cashen (Management). “I was not able to attend class until the third week of the semester because I was performing in a break-dancing tour in Las Vegas and California. Break-dancing, not business, is my passion.”
And we end with a scientific excuse courtesy of Alyson Theriot (Teacher Education), who said that as a field experience coordinator, she assigns student to public schools to observe and teach. One student went dressed in pajama pants and when Dr. Theriot called the student in to discuss the dress code violation, the student said: “I was abducted by aliens last night and didn’t have the time to return home to change my clothes before heading to the school.”