I am much more sympathetic to students who are "having a tough time" when they aren't obviously lying, or even lying at all. That's almost never, but it does happen. I still never give makeup exams, or accept late homework, even for legitimate reasons. Those get marked "excused," with the grade for the exam or homework missed voided, and the remainder of the grade counted as 100%. I rather need to do this, with a section of general-ed-intro-astronomy-for-non-majors of 100, a section of third-semester-calculus-based-physics-for-engineers-and-scientist of 80, and whatever other upper-level astronomy classes or labs my department needs. (The downside of the job security entailed from being the only person in my department who can teach these classes is that my department always needs me to teach them. This makes going out of town for field work, NSF reviews, and sabbaticals interesting: I stopped going to conferences years ago.)
I've heard so many sob stories from students. While I realize some of them are serious issues and I do what I can to accommodate those students, the vast majority are either minor issues they should be able to deal with as adults or elaborate fictions created to absolve them of responsibility. The difficulty sometimes is telling the difference between the two, but it's usually pretty obvious.
Some time ago, a non-traditional student about my age gave me a sincere sob story about her son's drug problems, so would I please excuse her from her homework this week so she can do something about it? I said yes, and marked her "excused." Nevertheless it occurred to me: the work still won't get done this way.
And my husband had to take cover from white phosphorous and zealous soldiers putting people into Abu Ghraib whilst completing his Bachelor's Degree. I have no pity for fakers. I just keep pleasant for the evals.
The fakers don't tend to show up for class and, as such, don't tend to fill in evaluations. Well, at least that's been my experience, I can't really speak to yours.
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