Yes, your instructor *has* heard it all

Really, we have

It’s Rosh Hashanah, and I thought it would be a good time to share one of the biggest busts I, as an instructor, have ever made of a student’s lying. You teach long enough, you really do get to hear it all, sometimes repeatedly from different students who truly think that they’re coming up with something novel as an excuse. Everyone’s got an extra grandmother lying around, waiting to give up the ghost on exam day. Everyone’s got a case of mono that magically strikes on test day or presentation day or big-report-due day. And many reckless students see fit to book flights home before the semester begins, invariably booking the flight during the already scheduled final exam period. And no, I cannot change your final exam time because you did that. Sorry.

But only once have I had a student manufacture a lie this bald, this daring. We were at a Catholic university, but the student was Jewish. In fact, the university has a relatively good-sized population of Jewish students, many of whom were always careful to let me know if a due date conflicted with their religious calendar, and we’d make mutually agreed upon adjustments. This particular student did not do so.

The Big Lie

Instead, after missing an exam a week or two after Rosh Hashanah–and really, you’d have to be living under a rock, gentile or not, to not know in that atmosphere that Rosh Hashanah had come and gone–he emailed me. His family, he explained, had bought him a surprise plane ticket home so that he could celebrate Rosh Hashanah with them, and not wishing to waste their money, he’d chosen to use the ticket rather than to be present for the exam. To go home to a city not too far away to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. A week or two after the holiday. He even described in some detail what fun they’d had together that weekend. He clearly assumed that as a non-Jewish instructor, I wouldn’t know Rosh Hashanah from Hanukkah and would believe this story.


But I do know a bit about it. So, I busted him, he ‘fessed up and received a zero for that exam grade. Frankly, from that time, I couldn’t view that student as anything other than a reckless storyteller who’d lie about his own religion and family in a cynical belief that someone who was not a member of his faith would be utterly clueless about it and believe his lie. Not the best way to impress an instructor, that.

While grandmas (for some reason, it’s never grandpas although it is occasionally a beloved aunt), mono, stomach bugs, and the sporadic dead-honest “I slept through it” top the excuse list for frequency, that bold, easily checked gambit from this student tops my list of dumbest excuse attempt ever. Never try to use a major religious holiday that can be easily checked with the click of a mouse as your reason for missing a test. My advice? Stick with mono, and try to look really, really tired.

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