I Swear Undergraduates Weren't So Infantile When I Was One ...Right? ...Right?

I teach two courses of European History, and my students are all "second years" (sophomores), which for some reason compels me each year to expect a certain level of responsibility, competence, effort, anything.

But really I just need to keep reminding myself that these little pink treasures are selling like hotcakes in the school bookshop. They say "Warwick undie-graduate".  Which, really, says it all.

I love teaching. I love it so much, I would do it for free most of the time. And I absolutely love having students who couldn't have cared less about, say, the Hundred Years' War when they walked into my classroom, who walk out thinking it's interesting, and/or would make a good movie. I never get sick of it.

However. Part of this sweet teaching gig is putting up with all their ridiculous excuses.  It's not the lying that bothers me--it's the sickening lack of creativity. I mean, am I the only teacher listening to their pathetic excuses who is dying to say, "shut up. Stop insulting my intelligence"?!  I mean, have a sense of decency. If you are going to lie, to my face or (more commonly) in an email, make reading it worth my precious time!

Or--here's an idea: tell me the truth for heaven's sake. Just admit that you stayed out at your mate's house and got so drunk you couldn't even walk home and then in the morning discovered that you couldn't go home to change because someone thought it would be funny to hide your keys in the local cemetery and there was no way you were going to show up at uni with morning breath and puke stains on your sweater, and one shoe. I would so much rather read the details of that adventure than have you insult me with another story about "feeling ill".

Here.  read a sampling and see if they make you want to gouge your eyes out.    
[stuff in this script is my own commentary]

* * *

Dear Katie,

I must send my apologies for being absent in today’s 3:00 seminar. I have been ill for a number of days now, and though I had made it onto the campus this morning, soon began to feel much worse and felt my condition warranted returning home and trying to recover. If it is any consolation, I had managed to do as much reading as was possible, and felt that I understood it all [the reading list was over 30 books and articles].

Hopefully I will be better for next week!

Oliver [this kind of formality is not unusual!  eeew].

Dear Katie,

I am very sorry this is short notice but I have gone down with some kind of flu. I returned home this afternoon as I was feeling awful and didn't want to affect my house mates. Once again I apologize as I haven't in fact met you [this was the third week of the term and he had yet to show up] as of yet but I felt it was best to get away from everyone else, not to drag them down with me.

I hope this is OK?

Any problems, please let me know.

Many Thanks,


thought i should apologise for not being in the seminar today - me and my housemate went and got fast food on tueday as we could not be bothered to cook and both have got really ill from it and are still recovering. Also i was going to hand in my essay on tuesday as i wasnt here on monday but getting ill stopped that - i gave it to someone to put in your pigeon hole today but i am not sure they got it there.
hope thats ok

Hi Katie,

Sorry for the late notice, but I'd just thought I'd let you know that I won't be there tomorrrow. It's my Mum's birthday and I plan on surprising her! I'll do my presentation next week instead?



Dear Katie,

I'm not feeling too well at all today and really don't think I'm fit enough to come in for the seminar, but I have attached notes I wrote for my presentation [so....I'll do it for you?].

I feel I should explain why I'm behind with my workload at the moment. I'm heavily involved in One World Week [a student-run international festival, actually the largest in the world] this year and I think I have taken on way too much.  I think this is also why I've fallen ill as I'm missing meals and tiring myself out.


Hi Katie,

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the seminar this afternoon due to illness. I could have the mumps. Hopefully I will be feeling a lot better by next week.

Best wishes,


Dear Katie,
Sorry but I wont be able to attend the seminar this afternoon, I've a terrible headache. Apologies once again.

Hi Katie,

I know the essay was due this week but I haven't yet started it. Sorry about the lateness, this weekend i participated in warwick jailbreak for children in need - where you have to get as far away form campus as possible in 36 hours without spending a penny on travel and i managed to get to marrakesh morrocco - so i stayed a couple of days before coming back to do my essays!!!


[this one was actually true, and, unfortunately, so is my personal favorite, below.]

Dear Katie, 

I am so sorry I missed the seminar today. I couldn't remember which room it was in, and after spending about half an hour walking around the humanities department checking rooms I gave up. I know its not much of an excuse but its true! Unfortunately, the history secretary was away for lunch at that time so I couldn't even check there.
Apologies once again,



Singletonmd said...

He had to get as far away from campus as possible? ha ha ha. I felt like that in college all the time, but never had the guts to do it like he did. Never knew one could get that far on so little. Amazing.

TheBenandKaties said...

High school students don't even bother trying to make up excuses. The are offended that you assigned them a writing assignment in English class and feel that they should be able to turn it in whenever they want for full credit. When you tell them that you will have to take points away, they get all huffy and threaten to have you fired. They they call you a name - yesterday a student said that I looked like a goat - use some form of the "F" word and storm out.

Katie said...

Oh dear oh dear Ben. New perspective. I'll take insulting excuses over actual insults any day. I hope you slammed this person up against the locker and said all kinds of screenplay-worthy, perfectly phrased threats. In any case, I bet by the end of the year the kid will worship you. 'Cause you're that kind of teacher.

Katie said...

P.S. Just got an all-new excuse in my inbox today: can't turn in the essay tomorrow because he has asthma.


TheBenandKaties said...

I would send the following reply to that student:

For your next term paper, I suggest using a typing technique called "find and peck." To properly employ it, simply eliminate the use of all but the index finger on each hand. I'm sure that you will find that typing in said manner is much less strenuous. I am using that technique for this reply and have barely broken a sweat, my heart rate is low, and my breathing (although elevated) is definitely under control. In case of emergency however, (like if you have a particularly brilliant insight that you must get on paper) be sure to keep your inhaler on the computer desk. I'm sure that you'll find that (unless you are typing at sea) the inhaler will probably not roll away. I'm truly sorry to hear about you respiratory affliction, and hope that my tip will be of benefit to you for years to come. (And you thought that all I knew was history...)

marc said...

lol Ben.

my personal favorite is "I could have the mumps." At least it's obscure enough that you think, wow that has to be true, no one would dare make up an excuse that seems so made up.

Super L said...

I was just going to say, what are you complaining about, you have students with mumps! That is SO MUCH more interesting than H1N1.