Friday, April 18, 2008

"The dog ate my homework" and other excuses

"Mandy, Where's your myth?" I demanded as class began on Friday.
"Well, it's done but you see..."
"Do you have it? Yes or no?" I interrupted.
"Um. I was ..."
"So your answer is no. You'll be joining me for lunch detention. Today." And with that, I turned back to the rest of the class and proceeded giving the instructions for today's lesson.

On Monday, a big myth-writing assignment had been due in Year 7 Social Studies. Most girls turned in their work.
On Tuesday, I got a few more myths from those who'd been absent, and I nagged the last few slowpokes.
On Thursday, I announced lunch detentions for anyone whose myth wasn't turned in by Friday.
Unbelievably, on Friday there were still two girls, Mandy and Carrie, who didn't turn in their myth. It looked like I would be having 2 guests for lunch ... until Carrie announced that she couldn't come because she already had a detention with her PE teacher scheduled for that day. Mmm Hmm. Call me a cynic, but I needed to confirm Carrie's story with the PE teacher.

Then Carrie told me an even more suspicious story: Mandy's myth got stolen. Another Mmm Hmm. I'm having a bit of a hard time believing there is a black market for schoolwork. Furthermore, Carrie informed me, Mandy was too scared to tell me this herself so she sent Carrie with the news. Admittedly, that's not entirely accurate - Mandy tried to tell me herself but I kept cutting her off. I'd better go hear the whole incredulous elaborate story from Mandy. Do I sound like I have an open mind?

Mandy said her myth was at her Dad's house, and her Dad's house got robbed.
"Why would robbers want your myth?" I inquired, attempting to sound sincere, but not being entirely successful in masking my scepticism. What kind of stories will kids come up with next?
"Well, they didn't actually want the myth, they just used my school bag to load up their loot and the myth was in my school bag."
"Really. So all your other school books got stolen, too?" I am trying to sound sympathetic.
"Um, no. They dumped out all the other books but the myth was at the very bottom."
How convenient. Does she think I am that gullible? "Well, I'll be contacting your dad to let him know how important it is that you re-write it by Monday." I watched her eyes for a glimmer of panic. I expected her to start backpedalling at this moment, but she didn't. Could her story possibly be true?

I have a hard time knowing when to believe students. During 10 years of teaching, I couldn't help noticing that kids at this age (11-14) tended to blame every problem on something or someone other than themselves. When their document doesn't print, it's the computer's fault. When they get caught fighting, it was always The Other Guy who started it. When they get poor grades, it's because the teacher hates them. Then there was the time when a boy impersonated his mother over the phone. So. I get a little suspicious. Call it healthy scepticism.

First I contacted the PE teacher with the alleged lunch detention for Carrie. That part was true. OK. Maybe I'm a just little wary when it comes to students' excuses for avoiding detention.

Then I called Mandy's mum. Yes, Dad had been robbed.
Really? I'm gobsmacked. And a little embarrassed.
Sheepishly, I acted like the purpose of my call was to let her know that Mandy would be working on the myth over the weekend. Yes, thank you for your time.

And yet ...
I'm still the slightest bit distrustful. Could Mandy have asked her mum to lie for her?
Honestly, I really must stop thinking this way. I am far too suspicious.
Or am I?

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