Creative Excuses For Being Late To Class Essay

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A very, very, very long time ago (like, before you were probably even born), we published a post called “The Best Homework Excuses” (circa February 2011).

Since most teens complete their homework at warp speeds (with correct answers), it’s not uncommon for the homework to spontaneously catch fire and burn up. Thus, you need an excuse, or reason, why you don’t have your homework, making that post one of our most popular posts ever.

It occurred to me, though, that we’ve totally forgotten to give you good excuses for being late to class. I mean, that’s another problem teens face: we’re usually so wrapped up during passing time with helping other students find their own classes, polishing lockers, and meticulously picking crumbs up off the hall floor that we sometimes lose track of time. This means we’re late to class, but our teachers won’t believe those stories.

So, in an effort to make your life easier, and your excuses more believable, I give you the best excuses for being late to class.

First, you need to know what some of the common and over-used excuses are, so you can avoid them. They include:

  • I was in the bathroom
  • I tripped going up the stairs (sorry)
  • I fell going down the stairs and had to pick up my stuff
  • I bumped into somebody else and dropped everything
  • I tripped on the carpet and fell on my face
  • I was talking to another teacher about a grade
  • I forgot my textbook so I went back and got it
  • I was getting a drink

I’m sure you’ve heard all of those before. Most people have. Consequently, they don’t usually work, unless you are a really good actor or have some major bruises on your face from falling.

No, instead I recommend that you resort to some of these fresh, new, updated excuses:

  • I tripped as I was using the bathroom
  • I fell down while getting a drink and hit my head on the water fountain, knocking me unconscious for exactly two minutes
  • I forgot my face so I went back and got it (sorry)
  • I bumped into my textbook and dropped everything
  • I was talking to the stairs about a grade
  • I tripped over another teacher and had to pick up all 72 sharpened pencils they were carrying

But let’s say that you’re really late. By really late, I mean weeks, maybe even months late to class. School might be out. It might be dark outside. The teacher may be leaving for the night, furious that you haven’t yet shown up for class. In that case, you need to resort to your one-time-use-only, guaranteed-to-work, best excuse for being late to class:

I was getting a drink when another teacher body-slammed me, making me fall down two flights of stairs. At the bottom, I rolled into the bathroom, which I needed to use anyways, but then I realized that I’d forgotten to bring a toilet. I was going back to get it when the carpet grabbed me to talk about a grade (sorry). At this point I was running because I was pretty late, and I tripped seventeen times trying to go back up the stairs. Eventually I just had to crawl up them. Sorry I’m late.

I know, I know; they’re all brilliant. Don’t waste time thanking me, though. I’d hate for you to be late to class.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to leave now (on Sunday) so I am only a few minutes late. I think I have a test coming up.

Last year we were still thinking about school starting. More specifically, School Registration, or should I say Airport Security in Training. Why? Well, you’ll just have to read that post, but you probably know the answer from experience.

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It’s the beginning of the semester (or quarter) and already you are experiencing the problem. Maybe it starts with just one student, who every class comes rushing in late. Or perhaps a small group saunters in just as your lecture or discussion is getting going, fresh coffees in hand. Then there is the snowball effect—it starts with one or two latecomers to your early morning class, and then gradually the numbers increase until the disruption of late arrivals is too much to ignore. Whatever the scenario, is there a solution?

The answer is yes, but how you choose to handle the situation may depend on the size of your class, the culture at your institution, and your teaching philosophy. Some instructors take a hard line approach, others may attempt to deal with each offender individually. The latter concept, to speak individually to students who arrive late, is worth considering. If your institution has a large campus, or several campuses from which students may be arriving, it could be that they don’t have sufficient time to change classes. Or there is the possibility that another instructor is consistently running late, leaving students to race to their next class. It is appropriate to work with students to find a solution, before penalizing them and before getting too far into the semester when habits may be harder to break.

Advice from various sources provides a range of strategies. In Late Again? (The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 5, 2015) Stephanie Reese Masson, an instructor of language, English, and communication at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, recommends talking to your class about lateness and potential motivators for punctual arrival. She chose two tactics—marking late students as absent with a grade reduction after four absences and periodically offering unscheduled, short, in-class, extra-credit activities at the start of class. Her essay includes other ideas as well.

Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence has a page of advice on reducing late arrivals, including arriving early yourself so that you can interact with students as they come into class. “If you arrive to class early, you show your students that you value your time with them.  By arriving early, chatting with students, answering questions and starting on time, you build rapport and model proper classroom etiquette.  Do not try to embarrass late students in front of the class.  Statements such as “I see you’re late again,” or “Why are you late, Mr. Watson?” beg for a reply and can easily domino into greater classroom distractions.  A better approach is simply to welcome the late student.  A welcoming recognition of a late student lets the student know that you are aware of his/her lateness without giving opportunity to spiraling incivility.  If a student is habitually late, ask to talk to the student after class and express your concerns to him/her in private.” Other suggestions include starting class with an activity or with something that will intrigue your students.

The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University has a section on their website called Solve a Teaching Problems, which is a great resource for a range of issues instructors are likely to encounter. For each issue, potential reasons are identified and appropriate solutions and strategies are offered. For Students come to class late, possible reasons include: students don’t take responsibility for themselves, students’ expectations are out of line with the instructor’s, students don’t recognize how their lateness affects others, students don’t perceive the beginning of class as important, there is no consequence to being late, students are trying to challenge the instructor’s authority, students are experiencing emotional or psychological problems, and students have physical or logistical reasons for coming late. Each link will take you to a page with applicable strategies.

The key take-away from all the advice offered is that to solve the problem of student tardiness, you must first understand the reasons that students are arriving late.


Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Classroom Management and tagged late students, Macie Hall, tardiness, tardy. Bookmark the permalink.

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