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Dead Relatives

The number of "deaths in the family" among my students increases exponentially with the number of assignments due. I had two dead grandparents today. Guess what? There was a paper due. Students come to me and say "I haven't been in class the last couple of weeks because I've had a death in the family" and I say" ... oh yeah?" not in exactly those cynical tones, but almost. I mean. really. If you REALLY had someone desperately dear to you die wouldn't you have let someone know BEFORE the day there was a paper due? And how many dead relatives really require an absence of two weeks?? I know that sometimes there really ARE grannies or aunties or cousins whose deaths are really meaningful. It amazes me that students invent dead relatives as an excuse for a late paper with such thoughtlessness. I mean, doesn't it occur to them that they might be tempting fate?

And a variation on these for me is dead dogs... One student came to me and said that her dog had died so she was having trouble getting work done. Well. This had me nearly in tears. Then, over the next few weeks I had a couple more. Obviously word had gotten around that this one was a sucker for dead dog stories... Honestly, it makes you want to spit, or hit something.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
Isn't it amazing how people will ALWAYS take advantage if you let them??!?!?!?!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 21st, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
What annoys me is that if someone just came to me and said "hey, I have three other papers due, and I'm having trouble getting this one done; can I have an extra day?" I would say yes, probably. But when they lie, I get less and less sympathetic, and it makes _everyone_ seem less credible, which is really unfortunate. What if someone genuinely DID have a death in the family - all these invented ones mean that someone might get less sympathy for a real family emergency!
Mar. 21st, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
I know! The problem is that we feel like absolute jerks if we say, "well, I'm going to need some documentation." I have avoided this so far because I don't want to live in that kind of world.

A year and a half ago, a student told me she was having trouble in school because her father had died a month earlier and her mother relied on her because she was an only child ("It's just me and my mom now"). Of course, my heart just broke for her, and I made all kinds of allowances until she finally faded away. Last term, she showed up in a different class, and within a month, she came to me and said that her father had died! When I said, "I thought your father died last year," she said "I meant my sister." I said, "I thought you were an only child," and we sat there silently for a minute before she shamefacedly shuffled out of the office.

Not long after, she was back in the office telling me she needed a B- in the course. Why? She wanted to be a teacher, and English was the one thing standing in her way. I couldn't help but think, would I want THIS person telling my kid what's right and wrong?
Mar. 21st, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
I had one student tell me she had _three_ grandparents die in one term. I realize that this is not impossible, but it is statistically unlikely.
Mar. 21st, 2007 08:06 am (UTC)
I get an astonishing number of hard disk crashes and faulty printers.

Oddly, dogs no longer eat homework as they did twenty years ago.
Mar. 21st, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's funny how in all the years I've been using a computer I've only once actually lost data to a crash. It's astonishing how often it happens to my students. Also laptops get stolen with amazing frequency right around the time papers are due.
Mar. 21st, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
It's probably part of the great conspiracy. Laptops are stolen, work is downloaded and sold on the internet or eBay and thus plagiarism occurs with no volition of the original writers...
Mar. 21st, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
. . . and students are frequently hospitalized. Some of my students have been in hospital several times in a year. No wonder the health care system is strained.
Mar. 22nd, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)
On the flip side...
When my cat passed away a couple weeks ago, I really did get all messed up. He was my best friend in so many ways. I'd had him 18-20 years, and through all the moves I've done, he's been the only friend that's been there through it all, even through my parents splitting up. His death came suddenly and it broke my heart. I'm still not all right.

So then I hit the dilemma of what to do about my assignments that were coming up. I actually spent three weeks on one paper -- I'm more of a last minute, all in one or two days kinda person -- so three weeks was a crazy amount of time. But it was because I couldn't think. I'd sit down every day, and write a few lines, then panic, freeze up, and go nowhere. I felt like I was having some sort of breakdown.

I'm sure it wasn't just that... I've got a number of other stresses in my life, the better of which is that I'm getting married in a month and a half... but when my cat died, it pushed my limits, and I'm still a bit of a mess...

And then I look back on all that I've just said, and know it's all 100% true for me, and know that to the wrong person, that either sounds like total bullshit, or "who cares? it's just a cat". So I told my profs that someone I was very close to passed away. Which is true. I know at least one of them flat-out didn't believe me. But at this point, I just have to let that go. I feel like I've done something wrong, but I really just needed some extra time to sort myself out.

I've also noticed that everyone seems to be dying lately.. maybe it's the age? I dunno. Two or three years ago, my aunt had an aneurysm within two weeks of Paul's aunt having an aneurysm. Paul's passed away; mine is severely disabled in a wheelchair. A few months before that, Paul's grandmother passed away. A few months after it, mine passed away. About a year ago, a close friend of our family passed away. I've also had a couple friends pass away in the last couple years, maybe not people I was super close to at the time, but had been in the past.

So I dunno, maybe it's just me and the people around me being doomed.. haha.. but I'm sure at least some of these people are genuine. And hey, how can you not feel sorry for the girl whose father and sister died twice?? :) Okay, so maybe not everyone deserves sympathy.. :)
Mar. 22nd, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: On the flip side...
I know, I know. That's why it's so hard for instructors to dismiss these things. Sometimes they are real. Also, I'd have to say that anyone who says "it's just a cat" would upset me more than someone who lied in a moment of stress. My cat died last summer, and I still miss her, still think I see her out of the corner of my eye--you know what I mean. They're beautiful, expressive, warm, faithful, and intelligent. You did indeed lose someone very close to you. My deepest sympathy on that loss.
Mar. 22nd, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Re: On the flip side...
You're absolutely right. And one of my students, in whose class I'd given a little rant rather similar to what I've written above, actually lost a grandparent, and I felt AWFUL. Anyone who knows you as a student would find it hard not to believe you were sincere. And I know if I lost one of my dogs I'd probably have to take at least a couple of days off work (and I think the FIRST of the dead dog stories was genuine - it was the "taking advantage" ones that made me cross)
It's the crying wolf ones that make it hard for honest students, just as plagiarism makes us more suspicious of good work in everyone (don't get me started on that one...) But all of them show an edge of desparation that is often pitiable (not always, but often).
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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