Friday, May 7, 2010

A Poor Excuse for an Excuse

As I’m sure you can imagine, being a teacher, I get a lot of excuses for missed classes and assignments. My favorite was when a student told me she was late because she almost got in a car accident.

Of course, shit does happen. I totally get that. There is traffic, car trouble, computer issues, family issues, health issues, and even death. Those things don’t stop once you are in college or get a job. Once my teacher friend’s dog actually ate the students’ homework my friend had brought home to grade.

But, between an excuse and the truth, I would rather my student just tell the truth. I would prefer an “I was too hung over to come to class yesterday” or an “I couldn’t do my homework because I got too wrapped up in Sex and the City Season 5” over a “My car wouldn’t start.”

Now, I am sure that my lie detecting abilities are not 100%- maybe the car wouldn’t start- but I feel like most of the time I can tell, especially from the emails.

So, for those of you who email your teachers and/or bosses with excuses for missed days or work, these two emails I recently received from my students will illustrate what not to do:

Email #1

I'm sorry I was absent from class, I was extremely sick and really couldn't even get out of bed. I also have not had internet access this week until now so I have attached the assignment that was due last week.

• The apology

If I am so sick that I can’t get out of bed, I am not going to be apologizing to anyone. In fact, I expect the universe to apologize to me for making me feel so terrible.

• The words “extremely” and “really”

They make her sound like she doesn’t think I believe her and that she’s trying to convince me. I think she's projecting.

• The impossible

Unless there was a natural or nuclear disaster, I find it hard to believe that there was no Internet access for a week. That’s like saying you haven’t had access to a Starbucks in a week. And speaking of Starbucks, guess what they have there besides mediocre, high-calorie, expensive coffee drinks? Internet access.

Email #2

I am so sorry I was not able to make class today. Unfortunately, I had a death in the family.

• Again, with the sorry

Another problem with the apology is that it makes it sound like the student is coming to class for me when she should be coming to class for herself. In fact, instead of an apology, I would love an email that said, “I am so upset that I couldn’t attend class today. I shudder to think of all the brilliance you imparted that I unfortunately missed out on.”

• And, speaking of the word unfortunately- isn’t “unfortunate” implied when you reveal that there has been a death? Using it in her email makes her sound rather practical instead of emotional, which is what you would be if you lost a relative, right? Unless, perhaps, it’s your great uncle whom you have never met but has left you lots of money- then maybe it is fortunate.


James Garcia Jr said...

(I'm almost afraid to begin commenting for fear of making a grammatical mistake before the first period. Lol!) What an interesting site! I was one of those few in English class who laughed when the teacher passed out those sheets that contained errors on purpose: Don't use no double negatives, fragment sentences, etc. I write this because your humor reminds me of those days, reading those sheets. What a novel idea for a site. It is the first that I have discovered that wasn't simply about reviews or their own PR. Congratulations.
Take care.

Anonymous said...

Missed Periods,

Great post. (Sorry for that fragment).
Your students sound as "colorful" as mine. Thanks for the comic relief.

Jennifer @ Pen and Prosper

beth said...


So many excuses. I don't force my kids to turn in their homework on a daily basis--as long as I get it before report cards are due, I'm fine. But still, even then, I get TONS of excuses for it not being turned in the very next day.

Talli Roland said...

Haha! The worst for me was when parents used to make up excuses for their kid's absence! So pathetic, and I'd have to try hard to keep a straight face.

Jenn said...

I was a manager in a fast food joint for a few years a while back, and the students that worked there part time were notorious for excuses as to why they couldn't come in. One guy had so many "uncles" die, that I started asking him what the name was, and at what funeral home the service was being held. So we could send flowers from all of the management team, of course! This put an end to the shenanigans fairly quickly:)

notesfromnadir said...

Are you sure you aren't also a psychologist?

I found the second 1 just a little too formal. Maybe you're right about that rich great uncle!