female high school student doing homework

How teachers can confront student’s pandemic-era excuses for not getting work done

“The Cloud Ate My Homework” . . .

There was a time when students could sometimes get out of doing their assignments by telling their teachers excuses like these . . .

  • “My dog ate my homework.” We’re not sure if any student ever used this excuse, but it is now considered a classic for not turning in assignments.
  • “My grandfather died.” Poor old grandpa died repeatedly in some families, just to give kids an excuse to stay home.
  • “I’m sick.” Of course, students do get ill. But many more of them claim to be sick when they aren’t. It’s probably the most common way of getting excused from going to school.

Today, There Are Modern Excuses

If you are a teacher conducting classes virtually, chances are you have already heard some or all of the following excuses. They are actually the same as those we noted above (“My dog ate my homework” and the others), but now updated by clever students in our digital age . . .

  • “The cloud ate my project.”
  • “My hard drive ate my homework.”
  • “My computer is in the shop.”
  • “My little sister poured a can of Gatorade into my keyboard.”
  • “Wi-Fi went down.”
  • “Our power went out yesterday and I couldn’t complete my assignment.”
  • “I lost my password and couldn’t log into the school server.”
  • “Mom had an emergency at work, and she needed to use my computer all night long.”
  • “An incredible problem happened, and nobody knows what it is.”

How to Deal with the Cleverest Excuses

If you are a teacher, you have already developed keen abilities to recognize flimsy excuses and get students to step up and turn in their assignments anyway. But even if you have, it would be a good idea to have your school or school system draft up a uniform code of conduct about your expectations for student behavior during the pandemic.

As a rule, it is best to require students’ parents or caregivers to sign off whenever students say they are unable to turn in their work – and certainly when students want to take a day off from attending online classes. But it is also worth reviewing the policies that various school districts have implemented during the pandemic.

For example, here are some Covid-related policies that have been implemented by the South Washington County Schools in Minnesota:

Students are expected to do their schoolwork remotely for the following reasons (if not sick):

  • If a student is asked to stay home for 14 days due to a COVID-19 related reason
  • If a student is asked to stay home while they wait for COVID-19 test results
  • If a student was sent home because a sibling is required to stay home for a COVID-19 related reason
  • If a family decides to keep their child home for a non-required quarantine

Students will receive an excused absence for the following COVID-19 related reasons:

  • A student has signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and they are sent home
  • A student tests positive for COVID-19

Families should follow their school’s process for reporting all absences. This applies to students participating in the hybrid learning model and the Virtual Learning Academy. Students are required to make up all missed assignments or to complete alternative assignments as determined by the teacher. Unexcused absences include any absence by a student which was not approved by the parent and/or the school.

Policies like those send a clear signal that you and your school system are not willing to be taken advantage of, even during a pandemic. We would encourage you to meet with your school representatives to formulate policies that can work for you.


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Students who participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study will gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with their interests, passions, and aptitudes. Participants will receive information on college and career opportunities that match their interests.

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