This Grandfather Is As Unlucky As Uncle Ben

, , , , , , | Learning | October 3, 2019

I was a grad student at a university, acting as TA and tutor for a few sections of Calculus I. I gave quizzes over the course of the semester, always with a warning. My policy on missed quizzes was reasonable: I would drop your lowest quiz grade, so you could miss one quiz during the semester with no penalty, but you could only make up a quiz if you had an excuse — a doctor’s note or proof of some kind of conflict — otherwise, you got a zero.

I had a student who was a total slacker. He missed class all the time, turned in incomplete homework, etc. [Student] missed the first quiz of the semester. He emailed me after the next class to ask if he could make it up. I reminded him of the policy and asked if he had an excuse for missing the quiz. Nope, he’d just overslept. I told him that was fine; this could be the quiz he dropped for the semester.

A couple of weeks later, [Student] missed another quiz. He’d overslept again. Again, he asked to make it up. I reminded him of the policy and told him that he should maybe get a better alarm clock.

A couple of weeks after that, [Student] missed a third quiz. But this time, he had an excuse: his grandfather had died. I asked for proof and he sent me an online obituary. The last name matched, there was a mention of a grandson in college, and I wasn’t about to harass a grieving kid, so I told him he could make up the quiz. He did… and failed it. At that point, he decided to quit while he was behind and drop the class.

Fast forward to the next semester: [Student] signed up for Calculus I again. And he was in my section again. He started off better, showing up for class, passing the quizzes. Maybe he had turned over a new leaf!

Then, one day, the professor and I were talking about the midterm she had just given her Calculus I students. She said she had one student who walked out of the midterm for 20 minutes, and then came back and turned in an incomplete exam. She asked the kid what was up, and he said he was just really upset; he’d just found out his grandfather had died. I asked if the student was [Student]. When she said it was, I told her to get the name of the grandfather.

It turned out that [Student] had created a fake obituary for his grandfather and was using it regularly to get out of work in his classes. But the bonehead didn’t stop to consider that maybe the professor and I would talk about our students and realize he was playing us.

He dropped Calculus again, and I think he got kicked out of the university.

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