The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a somewhat amusing article on the statistics surrounding the death of grandma at midterm time (or final exam week). In my nearly 20 years of teaching, I can attest to this phenomenon. It is remarkable how often students will write the day or two before an exam telling me that grandma had died and that they need to reschedule the exam. In fact, on at least one occasion grandma died twice in the same semester. I'm not kidding.
The statistics are alarming. Every grandma who has college student should take note:
After collecting data for 20 years, Adams concluded that a student’s grandmother was far more likely to die before midterms than at any other time of the year. More specifically, his research showed that grandmothers are 10 times more likely to die before a midterm, and 19 times more likely to die before a final exam.
How to address these requests from students does take some tack. Of course, as the article points out, one cannot take death lightly. And like the boy who cried wolf, one cannot alway tell when it's real and when it's not. The article offers several sample letters that professors wrote to students in this situation. It is worth a read and it's a good laugh.
Poor grandma. Here is the link