You may not be aware of it but you've likely been operating under a rewards system all of your life. If you do well, you earn praise and possibly are treated to something you want - your favourite meal or some money to spend on whatever you'd like.
If the rewards system in your family is so common that you're hardly aware of it, perhaps we could focus your attention on the times you failed to perform as expected or instructed. What happens when you don't clean your room, wash your clothes or tidy up after tea? The degree of the offence dictates the severity of parental wrath, right?
Dirty dishes and a failure to hoover aside, few things in life are scarier to a school kid than the trip home, knowing you’re packing an explosive school report hot enough to have you confined to your room until the next millennium... And, considering this millennium is only 20 years old, that's a long time to spend locked up in the house.
If you’re unlucky enough to have the report sent directly to your home - either through the post or online, you may not even get the chance to have a peek at it before your parents do. No matter the means of delivery, you’re going to need a few excuses lined up as to why it’s not your fault the report’s a stinker.
With tongue firmly in cheek, here are Superprof's top ten excuses - and a few bonus ones for getting out of a bad school report.
Before we lay out any reasons you might need to absolve yourself of bad marks in school, we want to let you in on what's called an open secret: something everyone knows but nobody talks about.
Your parents crave your success, possibly even more than you do.
Did you ever think that your mum or dad's disappointment in you is, at least in part, because you're not living up to their ideal of you? If so, you are two steps ahead of those who believe that their parents fuss about grades only because they're worried about their child's future.
Now that you're in the know what's behind your parents' fury over failing grades, you only need to project your poor performance on someone else. In their desire to see you as the embodiment of all their hopes and promises for the future, they'll readily believe any excuse that, on the surface, sounds plausible.
It Wasn’t Me
Your parents were students once upon a time, meaning they know that The Legend of the Wrathful Teacher is a myth. Still, the idea that a vengeful Mistress or Master who terrorises entire classrooms of children still persists. Such terror might include giving everyone bad marks for a lone student's disruptive antics.
Blame the class clown for your poor marks. Every school has one and if you don’t know who it is in your facility, then the chances are it’s you. That might explain the bad report. Saying that you were distracted all year after being sat next to the oddball might just shift some of the heat.
A variation of this excuse is that Wrathful Teacher caught someone cheating on an exam - not you, of course. In retaliation, s/he gave everyone failing marks. "Just call (best friend's) mum if you don't believe me!", you might cry out indignantly.
For this excuse, it would be a good idea for your best friend - preferably one who also earned poor marks to be in on the scheme.
They’ve All Got It In For Me
If blaming your fellow classmates isn’t going to wash, go straight to the source by blaming your teacher. This excuse is doubly effective because it plays on the Wrathful Teacher myth.
Simply say Mr or Miss So-and-So has a personal vendetta against you and no matter how hard you’ve tried, they were never going to give you a fair report. Here too, you might invite mum and dad to call on a trusted classmate to back up your story.
It can be made even more plausible if you weave a major conspiracy - not just Teacher but the entire faculty and the school's administrators, too! If your entire report card shows low grades, you may have to resort to this nuclear option.
Chances are your parents had a few teachers like that back in the Stone Age and their nostalgic sympathy may rise to the surface.
The Good Cop / Bad Cop Dodge
It’s a fact that we all secretly have a favourite parent, usually based on the length of their tether. It’s also a fact that they secretly have favourite child, too. Seek out the milder-of-manner parent who firmly believes the sun rises and sets on your golden head and show them the report first.
You might get away with it being our little secret. If not, you may ask that they intercede on your behalf when the other parent asks about your grades.
If there are neither good nor bad cops in your household, try a favourite aunt, grandpa or family friend. Surely, there's an adult who'll stand by you in good grades or bad.
It Never Happened
This is a risky strategy and definitely one to use as a last resort. After all, your parents can call the school to find out what happened to your report card.
If your parents know to wait for the mail carrier around semester's end, intercepting the post and destroying the evidence could get you off the hook. You may convince them that your report must have gotten lost in the mail or perhaps that the school must have forgotten to post yours.
If your school district hands students their report cards to bring home, you may smear a bit of dirt on your face, skew your tie and un-tuck your shirt to claim you were beaten by bullies who took all of the papers out of your folders and threw them in the gutter. Sadly, your grades report went down the storm drain too.
Be aware that those elaborations may only bring you temporary relief; mum or dad may call the school to ask for a replacement card.
While you wait for the other shoe to drop, it’ll take quite some effort to steer conversations away from school, grades and anything else that’ll trigger uncomfortable questions.
This excuse is the most dangerous one - not just because you could eventually get found out but because you may receive additional punishment for your deceptions. It could get you in a lot of trouble so be warned.
Practical, Believable Excuses
The best excuses have an element of truth woven in... oh, wait. The saying is 'The best lies contain parts of the truth'. Same difference, right?
You're a Secret Genius
Not everyone is cut out for academics; you might be such a specimen. So, while you're obeying the law - attending classes as required, your heart and mind are somewhere else.
Now, the report’s dropped through the letterbox and quick as a flash a couple of stern-looking parents have you sat at the table to explain yourself.
This is when you claim that you've fallen behind in your required studies because you’ve secretly been learning a new language, how to play a musical instrument or how to dance. Said excuse will require a passable demonstration, mind, so make sure you know enough stuff; it’ll melt their hearts.
If you've not engaged in any extracurricular activities to demonstrate, you may go with helping out at your local community centre as a part of your burgeoning philanthropic bent - you're trying to find a way to implement some radical idea that will save humanity. Or you may explain a sudden interest in the cosmos which supersedes everything else in your life.
Such a plot is not so far-fetched; it worked for Jake Gyllenhaal's character in October Sky...
Seen To Be Bereaved
The passing of a much-loved family pet is always a sad occasion and one likely to play on your mind for a while. It’s quite natural for your schoolwork to suffer after the tragedy that took Tiddles, the gangrene that got the gerbil or the murder that mangled the mouse.
The thing is, there has to be an actual Tiddles, gerbil or mouse to mourn. Otherwise, your parents will know that this excuse is nothing but a fabrication. If push comes to shove, you may claim deep sorrow over someone else's beloved pet passing on, the state of the world today or the gravity of this pandemic.
It’s All About Timing
If you’ve been sent home with a dodgy report and need time to formulate an excuse, try a delaying tactic.
Your parents will know the report is due so plan something in that’ll keep you out of the way until bedtime. An engagement at an after-school club, doing homework at a friend's house, an evening at the library to research your next paper... anything to keep out of sight.
And then, just before bedtime, produce the report then hop it – it’ll buy you some time to think of something and give them some time to cool off.
If you need a bit more time, stretch things out until the weekend. When your parents ask about your report, tell them it's not available yet - a genuine truth, all while skilfully skirting it. On Sunday night, as you're reviewing your homework, hand it over while explaining that you clean forgot about it until now.
Do The Ground Work
Had a bad year and know there’s a rubbish report on the horizon? Get your excuses in early – the classroom’s too small, the teaching’s too bad, the work is too hard, the pandemic's wrecked everything...
Invoke whatever you can think of about a month ahead of reports coming out. Weeks of moaning will soften the blow of bad grades all while making your poor performance acceptable.
You might think that these tall tales wouldn't wash because, well, there is nothing fun about education. However, exercising your creativity is never a bad thing and, remember: your parents once stood where you are now.
They may admire your quick thinking enough to give you a pass on all of the academic subjects you did poorly in.
The Love Bug
Gross as it may be, claiming you’ve been absent-minded due to some fine filly or handsome lad could just work.
Again, you mustn't forget that mum and dad were in love once too - or, at least, infatuated. They likely know the score. As with most of these excuses, a sound working knowledge of acting skills will come in handy for this one.
Alternatively, if you're too young for love and earned stunning marks in one subject but not several other, you may profess a love so deep for the class you got a good grade in that all of your other classes suffered.
Pull A Sickie
Can you manage to make yourself look green and wretched at will? How convincing can you be about a stomach illness or having growing pains?
We know that getting the old sympathy card out the bag might be a long shot but it’s worth a try. It’s difficult to be angry at anyone who’s ill, let alone someone who feels as bad as you do and all you have to do is claim illness as you hand over your report and slink off to your room.
The Dog Ate It
This story works (sometimes) when you forget to do your homework; it may work just as well if you can convince your parents the family pet loves snacking on a bad grade more than their shoes.
To make things more credible, you should have a dog - but a cat will do, in a pinch. And then, you have to get your furry friend to chew on your grade report, preferably right where Teacher filled in the marks.
This reasoning might hold water even if your report comes via the post, if you have the kind of letter slot that allows the mail to fall to the floor.
Excuses for the Digital Age
Your parents likely had an easier time putting their parents off of getting grades reports. These days, more schools send or post students' marks online, presumably leaving little room to craft plausible reasons why you're doing so terribly on the education front.
For the most part, schools have adopted a system wherein each student has an individual account s/he can log into for all kinds of school-related information, including your latest marks. If yours is such a school - and your parents don't know your password, you're golden. You get to choose how and when to tell your parents what your marks are.
Other systems may make things trickier but, even if the school emails your parents your report directly, you still might have a few inches of wriggle room to operate in. See how you could make these work:
- You've been hacked: someone logged into your account and changed all of your grades
- The school's been hacked: along the same lines but more general (and possibly more believable)
- There's another kid with the same name at school; Teacher mistakenly gave you their grade
- Did Teacher input the grades you earned or just random numbers?
- That isn't my student ID number - a bit far-fetched by may still fly
- Print and Modify
That last one is particularly devious as it calls for falsifying an official school document. However, computers make such manipulation so easy that we just had to throw it in.
Bear in mind that this entire article is meant to be more fun than instructional. We at Superprof are no strangers to irony; imagine us building our business on promoting education only to present you tips on how to get around educational mandates.
Now that all of the fun has been had, let us state in no uncertain terms, that the best thing to do is to come clean and talk to your parents.
Whether at semesters' end or anytime during the school year, they need to know about the areas you’re struggling in and any other problems that might be affecting your schoolwork.
Who knows? You might luck out and get to study with a Superprof tutor if you really feel you could do better in school with just the right kind of help.