One of my favorite parts of teaching is the ridiculous excuses that students and parents try to throw at me. Sometimes they are so detailed and specific that I wish they would tell me less or just lie to me altogether. During a normal school year, students try to use excuses to leave early, not be marked late, get an absence excused, or get an extension for schoolwork. But during remote learning, they had a whole new bunch of reasons to create excuses. They needed to get creative as to why they wouldn’t be able to turn their camera or microphone on. What shocks me the most is how so many of them just flat-out gave a true reason, regardless of how ridiculous or inappropriate it was.
I need to leave online class because…
One of my all-time favorite excuses is so general it comes off as ridiculous. A student interrupted the remote class to say, “Is it okay if I leave early because I have to get in the car?” That’s it. That’s the whole excuse. The car could be going absolutely nowhere, and he might plan on just chilling in the driveway for all we know. Sometimes kids were just 100 percent honest, which almost made me wish they would lie to me just a bit. Take the student who sent a private message saying, “I’m at the mall, and I don’t have enough battery to stay on zoom. Can you mark me present though?” This kid clearly has her priorities in check. I take back what I said about my favorite excuse being about getting in a car. It’s definitely this one: “My dog turned on the stove somehow I have to go.” It just brings up so many questions. Is your dog really capable of this? Did he do it on purpose? Why do you need to leave class and not come back just to shut the stove off? Is your dog baking something delicious?
Global pandemic means vacation time!
When a kid is going on vacation on days that school is in session, you can bet they are going to say something obnoxious when they tell you about it. For example, “I can’t make it to class Thursday and Friday because I’m going to a resort, and I didn’t come today because I was packing. Can you tell all my other teachers?” So, not only did this kid miss class to pack for a trip, he wants you to act as his personal secretary and let everyone else know because he can’t be bothered? Psh. How about this kid, who “will be in Hawaii for the next two weeks and won’t be bringing my laptop”? He wants to know what he should do, Miss! Obviously, you should just excuse him from the next two weeks’ worth of assignments because he won’t be bringing his laptop! The parents who let you know their kid will be on vacation are even worse. “My daughter will not be at school for the next 2 weeks because she will be celebrating her birthday. Please excuse her, and she’ll try to make up some assignments.” Oh, isn’t that nice that maybe her kid will try to do a few assignments if you’re lucky? How about the audacity of this parent: “My son will be on vacation for 3 weeks. We planned this trip a year ago, and I told him he wouldn’t have to do schoolwork because it wouldn’t be much of a vacation then.” Isn’t it so courteous of them to let you know about this situation?
Some students put beauty above all else, like the young lady who said, “I can’t turn my camera on because I’m at the nail salon. Just mark me present.” Or how about the young man who was embarrassed by his brother’s choice of entertainment? “I can’t turn my camera on because my brother is watching Dirty Dancing.” If it’s the version that I’m familiar with, I don’t know why it would prevent him from showing his face, but I’m old now and don’t have a good grasp on what’s cool and/or embarrassing. One of my favorite excuses for a student leaving his camera off was, “I’m staying with my grandparents at their retirement home, and the old ladies are doing Jazzercise right next to me,” which is very relatable, though I’m sure the class would have enjoyed the footage!
Truly odd situations
Either the students were using their creativity to the max during remote learning or just have strange home lives. One student said, “I can’t log on tomorrow because I accidentally locked my cat with my brother’s cat, and I don’t know if my cat got pregnant, but I think she is because she tried to go under my bed, and she never does that.” I’m not entirely sure why this would prevent remote learning, but it does sound like a complicated situation! This next young man had a very pressing matter to attend to during class: “Sorry I missed half the class, my mom needed help putting cucumbers in the fridge.” I don’t know what kind of cucumbers these were or if they had massive amounts of them, or if “cucumber” is a code word for something else but I’m definitely curious.
There was a kid who said they couldn’t attend class because they “need to talk to my dad because my pimple is crusty,” and another kid who showed up late because “I was eating Takis and I rubbed my eyes,” which is extremely relatable. How about the kid who couldn’t attend class because her “lips were stuck together”? That sounds like a serious situation involving crazy glue or liquid cement since it took an entire class period away! There was one parent who said, “Sorry he is missing so many assignments. Ever since his mother and I broke up, he has been smoking weed,” which is a difficult email to reply to for the teacher.
My favorite excuses during remote learning involved pets and other neighborhood animals, like the student who said, “Sorry I was late to class. My dog doesn’t like going to the bathroom alone so I had to watch him.” I find that adorable and I would definitely accept that excuse as legitimate. Another student had to leave class early because the mom “had a cow in labor, and it was stuck in the hips of the cow, and I couldn’t get it out myself.” I know nothing about cow pregnancy and labor but it seems perfectly logical that more than one person would be needed to get a baby cow out of a small opening. Some students just found their pets distracting like the girl who said, “I’m with my guinea pig right now, so just know that I’m not listening,” or the student who said, “My dogs were sunbathing and wouldn’t come inside.” I don’t know if they were using class time to try to usher the dogs back inside or if they were just watching them sunbathe because that is something I enjoy doing myself. There were more pressing pet-related matters, such as the dog who pooped and the “baby brother fell in it.” That is definitely something that needs to be attended to urgently.
Of course, it’s understandable that kids have to go to the bathroom during remote learning, but for some reason, they felt the need to share a lot of details about it, such as the young man who got to class late and said, “What are we doing? I was late because I was doing a massive poop.” How about these instances of TMI? “I have to poop cuz I had Taco Bell yesterday!” “I need the bathroom cuz I had beans last night,” “I was constipated,” or the statement that, “I was late because I needed to take a shower because I took a sh*t. The sh*t stink, what was I supposed to do?” What, indeed, was this young man expected to do in this situation?
Honesty is NOT Always the best policy!
Like I said, kids were really creative and/or too honest with their excuses for missing online class. One girl simply sent a message to her teacher that said, “I’m eating toaster strudels. Leave me alone.” Another young lady said, “I was getting married in the SIMS and completely lost track of time. The wedding was beautiful tho,” which I think is kind of cute. Some excuses were really annoying such as, “I’m going to the beach now. At the beach they don’t have good wifi so can you mark me present even if I’m not there?” or “My 24 ban from Call of Duty ended today and I need to get some rounds in. I might pop into class for a minute or two.” I’m not sure how to feel about the young man who missed two weeks of class because he “was practicing playing guitar so I could play a song for my mom’s birthday.” That’s sort of nice but sort of ridiculous too. Then there was the kid who stated, “My part is really itchy and I need a shower,” to the whole class. I hope they all encouraged him to cleanse himself as needed.
Overall, remote learning was a ridiculous circus, but the creative excuses and cute pet cameos made it a bit easier to deal with. Other perks included the mute-all button and the ability to throw kids out when needed. I think most of us would agree that it isn’t a method of schooling we’d be eager to return to.
Jane Morris, Author
Jane Morris is the pen name of a teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is afraid she’ll lose her job. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in writing from an even fancier (more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh.
She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.