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Saturday, April 18, 2009

the ol' homework excuse

Today I'm rerunning an old column from my stint, this time about unusual homework excuses. Seems to be appropo, since we are coming right up on the state math test and we will be giving plenty of homework next week.

This column, titled Homework, Shmomework originally ran on December 18, 2007 at

Did anyone ever really try to use the excuse, "My dog ate my homework?" I never heard anyone use it when I was in school, and I certainly never had a kid try it on me.

At any rate, dogs have better things to eat nowadays, and kids have more imaginative excuses too. Here are the Top 5 I've encountered during my tenure.

1) "My mom/dad/primary caregiver didn't understand how to do it."

Um, that's why your mom/dad/primary caregiver is not getting anything written down in my grade book. I think it's fantastic for parents to show interest in what their child is bringing home and even to offer help if needed. I wish more parents at my school would show such an interest! But the homework is always something similar to what we've practiced in class. The kids never say, "I didn't understand how to do it." They'd much rather blame a family member. Which brings us to number two...

2) "I couldn't do it because my little brother drew on it."

When I hear this excuse, which is thankfully not very often, I always ask to see the homework in question. Usually, there are a few thin pencil lines drawn across the page. Sure, that sort of thing would ruin a Picasso original, but it hardly renders a math worksheet undoable. It's the equivalent of telling someone your car has been totaled when you spill coffee on the passenger seat.

3) "At the Day Care, they don't give us much time to do our homework; we have to go out and play!"

Sometimes those evil Day Care staffers really annoy me. I mean, the nerve! All these kids want to do is finish their homework assignment in a thorough and timely fashion, and these despicable adults are forcing them to play! I can't help but imagine a scene in which an Oliver Twist-like urchin meekly asks, "Please, sir, can I have some more time?"

4) "Since the homework isn't for a grade, I didn't do it."

Huh?? This is a new one, and has only been used once, and bizarrely, that one time was in front of the girl's mother! I have no idea how she got the notion that she wasn't getting graded on the homework. Especially since she heard me say, "OK, then, that's a zero for you," every time she didn't do an assignment. Maybe that wasn't clear enough, and she thought I was stockpiling Coke Zero for her in the classroom fridge.

5) "It's not in my backpack!"

This little gem is the one I hear the most. The kids make this exclamation in a tone that suggests that they most definitely would have completed the assignment if only it hadn't magically disappeared. I would love to be able to use this one in my life:

"Sir, that will be twenty dollars, please."

"It's not in my wallet!!"

I imagine that teachers will be giving homework and students will be making excuses until the end of time. I'm just looking forward to hearing something truly convincing. Like maybe, "My mom/dad/primary caregiver ate my homework."


Jen said...

I have also never had a student use the "dog ate my homework" excuse, but in a bizarre twist, MY dogs did render a stack of assignments I had brought home to grade un-useable so I got to tell my class that "my dog ate YOUR homework".

laura said...

I did have a student use this excuse! She said her dog chewed up her project. I told her that she should have brought it anyway and she would have to turn it in the next day for a late grade. Her mom showed up an hour later with the mangled mess of what had been a beautiful tri-fold presentation of her science experiment.

Jason Oller said...

I could have sworn my other comment was in my backpack.

Unknown said...

I had a student tell me that her brother threw up on her homework, which I was willing to leave at that.

Then she proceeded to produce a gallon size ziplock bag with the assignment. I hastily assured her that I did not need to see it, and that yes, she could have another copy of the handout.

My all time favorite excuse though was when I worked in a very wealthy school "I don't know, I was working on it last night while my parents were having a dinner party, and now I can't find it. I think the caterers threw it away" (no, I didn't believe it).

Melissa B. said...

"My Mom recycled it." I've gotten that a few times! PS: Please make sure to come over & Share the Caption Love for Sx3 today!

Anonymous said...

Mom says I don't have to do it and you can't punish me because of separation of Church and State. Apparently I was violating the 1st admin. by giving homework on a Wednesday.

Mom tried to push this with administration who backed me. Kid was in the YMCA after school program and was telling the staff there she didn't have homework.

Mister Teacher said...

Wow, what fantastic comments!!

Jbuttars, that's the kind of irony that makes for great story telling, right? ;)

Laura, I had a comment on the original column back in 2007 that was very similar. That person said that their child had gotten a 3-D assignment, and the dog actually HAD eaten it -- TWICE!! Maybe that was your student!!

Jason, nice. :)

Katie, DAMN THOSE EVIL CATERERS!!! Also, have you ever had a kid throw up on TAKS day? They make you put the test booklet (stained and all) in a ziploc baggie and send it back to Austin. YUCK!

Melissa, nice to know you have such "Green" parents, but you should tell those kids, "Your parents may be GREEN, but I'll be using RED for your grade today..."

Kherbert, that is REALLY ballsy. Church and state, give me a break. Unless you typically give homework along the lines of 3 Hail Marys and 2 Glory Be's, I don't think that excuse has legs to stand on. said...

I use the last one a lot, but the teacher doesn't make a problem out of it when you didn't do it. It's our own responsibility and it would be our own fault if we fail at the end of the year!

Sydney said...

I have used the "My god ate it excuse" It wasn't an excuse though. I did my homework the night before and brought it to school in a plastic bag- dog slobber and all. My teacher still didn't believe me.

siobhan curious said...

So great. As a college teacher, I get stuff that's a bit more ingenious. Check out these excuses for missing class: