The Dog Ate My Homework, Really

I wonder if my students have ever used the innocent excuses that peppered my school career.  I remember holding the thermometer against a nearby radiator to convince my mother I was too sick to go to school.  And of course the dog came in for more than her fair share of blame too.

Today I had a student come up to me after class to explain why he hadn’t been in class the last two days.  A friend had come down from the city and got sick and my student had to stay with him – first iteration of the story.

Then it turns out the friend had started showing signs of being mentally ill and my student was afraid to leave him.  I asked whether the friend was a danger to himself or others, and my student said he thought so, since he was from the city and was “into all that.”

Then my student told me that his friend had originally said he was coming down to check out the college, but it turns out he was on the run from someone.  And my student didn’t know what to do, so he called their high school dean back home, who called the police who came to get the student and take him to a hospital for evaluation.

So… he was sorry he had missed class, and could he get the assignment that is due tomorrow?

We so often have no idea how complex our students’ lives are and what they are wading through to get to class, much less to do the work.  Granted, there are parties and sleepy mornings, but this semester I have already had two arrests, a student with a bipolar parent off her meds, and the death of a sibling touch my students, my classes, and my heart.

photo © 2009 by apanoply, made available by Creative Commons license