“On Deadlines and Dead Grandmothers”
A colleague many years ago told me he always accepted the student’s report of a death. And then always sent a sympathy card to the family. If the death really happened, he often received a kind than-you note. If there was no death, well… One student’s parents were so mad at their child that they pulled him out of school. Win-win for the instructor.
That is a comment on a recent Chronicle of Higher Education blog post, “On Deadlines and Dead Grandmothers.” Like the author, those of you who teach have probably noticed the incredible uptick in deaths of grandparents at the close of each semester:
So—as I bide my time at the Minneapolis airport—it seems almost providential that my e-mail contains two unanswered messages from students who—amazingly—have just experienced the tragic death of their grandmothers, just as the semester is ending.
Both need extensions, and, most likely, special arrangements for their final exams next week. Neither has offered any proof, and I can’t recall that a student has ever volunteered to provide it in similar circumstances. Nor can I remember that a student has ever sought leniency in this way face to face; it always seems to be done by e-mail.
I think the commenter’s colleague’s approach is a great idea that I will employ in the future. I’ve struggled to come up with some plan of action that doesn’t have me second-guessing the veracity of the claim and my own cynicism. The Chronicle blogger put it best:
Maybe if I were a more open and approachable professor, with a longer history of generosity and kindness, fewer grandmothers would have to die.
What do you do?