“An Open Letter to My College Student Frantically Trying to Complete Last Week’s Homework During Class,” Anita Gill

Sep 7th, 2016 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Dear Student,

I regret to inform you I cannot accept your homework. I am aware it is due today, but I don’t think you clearly grasp the purpose of homework. Allow me to explain it more fully to you.

Homework is defined as a set of tasks or assignments that are to be completed outside of class. Pay attention to the phrases outside of class and the word home in homework.

So, I must express my surprise when I announced at the start of class to turn in your homework, and while the room became filled with the sound of rustling papers and unzipping backpacks, your eyes got wide and I could see the question mark and exclamation point bubble pop out of your head like a character in a comic book. It’s a shame that you didn’t write down the homework, nor did you check the syllabus, nor did you check our class website where I post the homework right after class, which was four days ago. I guess I didn’t warn you adequately enough. I should have done my duty and driven to your house, knocked on your door, had tea with your lovely parents (tell Steve and Alice hi, by the way), until you woke up, came downstairs, and I could talk to you in person. Lord knows I am paid too well in this job, and I should spend more time reminding you of things you need to do.

Or perhaps I should get your phone number? That way, I could contact you every hour and provide you the necessary reminders you require to stay on task. I mean I know that you are very diligent about checking your phone to make sure there are no fires you need to put out. In fact, I applaud your use of the phone even after I say at the beginning of every fucking class to turn off all phones and put them away like the goddamn recording before the theater dims the lights and the movie starts. I can only assume that you are the exception to the cellphone rule, and that you can multitask successfully by simultaneously absorbing the lecture and responding to your friend’s text to get Chipotle later.

I have observed your problem-solving skills firsthand and while I am glad to see you can work under pressure, deception isn’t your strongest suit. When I picked up everyone’s homework at the start of class, you kept your head down, pulled out a piece of paper, and started to write out the exercise answers at a frantic pace. You didn’t notice, but I made an audible sigh and stared at you with your cap hiding your face. I bemoaned that it was lost on you that homework helps prepare you for deadlines and practicing time management—things you’ll be required to do in a job.

After I assigned everyone into groups, I walked around to each cluster of students to see how they were doing. I couldn’t help but notice you were scribbling maniacally in your notebook like you were possessed with some deep inspiration. I hoped that I was mistaken in my primary assumption and that you immediately had to pen that lightning strike of an idea that you would then share with your three other classmates, perhaps a firing pistol into one of the greatest group discussions ever to grace classroom 105. You didn’t notice me behind you, and you didn’t realize that I could clearly see the half-completed homework partially in English and partially in what looked like Arabic written during an earthquake. Nonetheless, I do applaud your collaborative skills when you did raise your head to ask your peers the answer to number 8. I’m sure they were more than happy to help a fellow comrade!

I realize that you are handing in your homework during class, but listen. Our class is only one hour and 20 minutes long. And now, with only 20 minutes of class left, you walk up to me while I’m in the middle of lecturing and hand me your homework. You decide that while I’m clearly busy trying to convey important information to 25 brains, it was a good window to walk up with your paper, clearly ripped right out of your notebook, fringe from the ripped holes dangling on its edge, and place it nicely on the pile of homework that everyone else had found the time to complete in the four fucking days they had between class. Did you notice that I’ve been in the middle of teaching a lesson for the last fucking hour? Did you even pay attention to anything I said? Oh wait! I’m sorry! I forgot that you are my one exceptional student that can multitask.

So thanks, but no thanks. I will now return to your homework ungraded and untouched. You will get a zero grade for that homework assignment, but please don’t bother to start with your well-rehearsed argument of why I should accept your homework, your primary reason being that you totally did it at home. My Master’s degree is in English, which in Latin is Detectus Bullshiticus.

Don’t forget to complete the homework. Or forget again, and do this same shit next week. You know I love routine.


Professor Gill


Defenestration-Anita GillAnita Gill was given this name when she was born so that her grandparents could pronounce it, but they called her “Annie” instead. She has an M.A. in Literature from American University and is currently earning an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from Pacific University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Hippocampus Magazine, and Eastlit.

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