March 2, 2004

There’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight

Filed under: Uncategorized — tomemos @ 2:11 am

The world fell on me today, as I had the mother of all bad Mondays. There’s nothing interesting about someone’s bad day, except this particularly egregious fact: I lost a student’s paper. An in-class exam, in fact, so there’s no copy saved on a computer somewhere. I felt like the biggest fraud. Here I am telling them I’m some kind of teacher, when in fact I slept through a class of my own that morning and then lost one of their papers. I feel like a high school student in a class full of grownups.

I think there’s a solution, one recommended by my friend Glenn: I did get to take a look at the student’s notes for the in-class, so I can tell him that I’m willing to give him a good grade based on those unless he wants to take the test again for my comments. And the day looks less terrible now that it’s in the rear-view mirror. But the problem with grad school is, when a bad day is over, I’m not off the hook. Sure I survived the immediate crisis–an essay and a presentation today–but I’ve got another presentation on Friday, and an abstract due Monday, and my final papers due in three weeks, and I’ve done fuck-all on all of them. So if I want to relax I can only due it by ignoring the facts and selling out my self of tomorrow or next week.

Yes, yes, I knew it was going to be hard. Yes, this is what I want to do with my life. But only because of two saving graces: summer breaks, and tenure. If I can make it out of here without an ulcer, I’ll count myself on the right track.

* * * * * * * * *

I do have one redemptive teaching milestone to mention (and even this is sort of macabre): I had my first Dead Grandmother of my teaching career. It happened over the weekend, on Sunday evening to be precise: a student e-mailed me to say that her grandmother had died, and so she wouldn’t be able to complete a homework assignment and might not be able to make it to class. (She did, as a matter of fact.)

I am suspending my disbelief as much as I can, because it’s not fair to doubt her without good reason. And it’s not like this was a major assignment. Still, I can’t help but be skeptical. Using a dead grandmother as an excuse for missing a test or assignment is like getting out of sex because of a headache, or saying that you have this friend who needs information about herpes. Sure, it’s possible you’re telling the truth, but that doesn’t matter–the excuse has become so cliche as to be a parody of itself, just a notch above a homework-eating dog. (Look here for some research on the subject.)

Anyway, genuine or not, I’m starting a tally. No, better yet: I’m going to play Excuses Bingo. I’ve marked off Dead Grandmother, and I’ve already had Car Trouble and Indeterminate Disease; I just need Traffic Jam, Computer Crash, and Didn’t You Get My E-Mail, and I’ll have the row.



  1. Yeah, I mean come on, we all know grandmothers don’t die. And here’s a solution for that student whose paper you lost: tell him/her “Oh I just LOVED it, except that part near the middle.” And if he/she asks, “which part exactly?” you cross your arms over your chest and say, “end communication.” It’s foolproof!

    Comment by Bret — March 2, 2004 @ 9:26 am

  2. You forgot plain ol’ Feeling Sick and For The Good of the Class Didn’t Attend, Thereby Protecting You, The Teacher, From Germs excuse. Whatshername from SLC (dated Casey..?) used to come in (late) to Ann’s class looking like she’d fall over dead any second, and Ann would usually just tell her to go home and get better. She’d do this every other week or so.

    Also there’s the excuse nobody will admit to, that they’d rather be absent than show up having not done the assignment.

    You also forgot Alarm Didn’t Go Off. Double points if this is used for a mid-day class.

    Comment by kindle — March 2, 2004 @ 11:04 am

  3. Dude, what about the I GOT LOST ON THE WAY TO CLASS excuse? The student that uses this gets automatically forgiven for sheer chutzpah.

    Comment by locks — March 3, 2004 @ 6:18 am

  4. If we’re going with chutzpah, what about Sorry I’m Late- I’m Hungover As Hell? And of course, the popular Alarm Didn’t Go Off variation I Set It for PM And Not AM.

    And then we tread into Max Klinger territory. Mother Dying, Sister Pregnant. Father Dying, Mother Pregnant. Half of the Family Dying, Other Half Pregnant.


    Comment by Brian — March 3, 2004 @ 9:00 am

  5. Nice MASH reference there, Brian.
    If I remember right, Henry then says
    to Klinger something like, “You ought to
    be ashamed, Klinger,” and he replies,
    “You’re right–I don’t deserve to be in the army!”
    Or somesuch.

    Comment by Pat — March 3, 2004 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Oh yeah… talk about chutzpah.


    Comment by Brian — March 3, 2004 @ 7:06 pm

  7. what about the migraine excuse? tests always gave me migraines. or maybe it was the allnighters i pulled studying for them.

    Comment by alex — March 7, 2004 @ 9:53 pm

  8. I don’t know if I ever used the Migraine excuse, but I’d get them all the time. Somehow they’d time themselves just so, and never happened when I needed to be anywhere. Fucking migraines.

    Comment by kindle — March 8, 2004 @ 3:47 pm

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