Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stupid Is as Stupid Does, Part II

Well, here's a new one.

Thursday I gave my first final-essay exam of the semester. Naturally, a lot of students did not show up to take it, and therefore received zeros for the essay, which is worth 40% of their grade. I was very emphatic in the days leading up to it that they would have a very tough hill to climb if they did not show up; they would have to produce the essay and have it in-hand the next time they came to class, AND, provide proof to my satisfaction that their absence was unforeseen, unavoidable, and occurred for reasons much, much more important than their grade in English. If they were absent by choice or negligence, then I would not accept their essays.

About half of the 40 or so kids who did not show up to take the exam were in first period. One of these showed up just after the period ended, essay in hand, and I asked her why she had not come to class. "Because I was late," she said.

"Because..." I replied.

Again she said, "I was late."


Shrug. "I was late."



"Why were you late?"

Shrug again. "I overslept."

I shook my head. "Negligence. No good." I did not accept her essay.

Like everyone else who didn't show up, her parents got a letter from me to notify them that she would be receiving a zero and would fail the first marking period. Today, I got an e-mail from her father. In it, he claimed that her absence on Thursday "was due to car trouble that I had that morning, causing her to be late."

OK. So the child comes into school late, missing an important essay exam, with no explanation other than that she "was late" because she "overslept." Then two days later the parent contacts me and claims to have had "car trouble...that morning." Usually this happens in reverse, you see. Usually the child will claim some insurmountable obstacle to her arriving on time, and the parent will blow the whistle on it later. This time the child shows up late with no explanation, then the parent comes up with one two days later.

Is it possible that this parent is now lying to me, to cover for his child's negligence? Is that what it's come to? I now have parents who lie and make up phony excuses for their kids after the fact? Really?

Three more months... Three more months ...

UPDATE: After I responded to the parent by telling him that the reason he gave me was "not the same reason [the student] gave me," without specifying, I received the following message:

over sleeping is an everyday thing due to the anti-seizure medication that she is currently using.[Name] get dropped off and picked-up everyday by me. I felt bad,because she was up the entire night before preparing her assignment and studying for your class.

Not sure what to make of this, whether it is a subtle mea culpa for lying about "car trouble," or an unsubtle plea for sympathy. Never mind the fact that the students had almost two weeks to work on the assignment, which amounts to reading two short passages and writing a four-paragraph essay, which would seem to obviate the need to be "up the entire night before preparing" for the final draft. They'll have about two hours to do the same task on the ELA Regents next year.

Of course, the parent immediately attempted to shift the blame to me with his next sentence:

I thought that it was made clear in our last meeting, that if you had any problems with [Name], you were more than welcome to give me a telephone call.

I've written before about this bizarre obsession parents seem to have about being telephoned every time their child breathes the wrong way, as if the lack of such notification nullifies any and all misbehavior. In this case, I have no idea what he is complaining about. I notified him earlier in the term of the child's chronic lateness. I notified him that she was not doing her homework. I notified him that she missed the final-essay exam. I don't know what other "problems" he thinks I should have phoned him about. His previous message also included something about this. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to e-mail him back with the exact dates of all previous correspondence.

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