19 Teachers Were Asked: 'What's the Worst Mistake You've Ever Seen A Student Make On An Assignment?'
Teachers of Reddit were asked: "What is the greatest way a student has misinterpreted one of your assignments?" Students and teachers chimed in with some hilarious answers.
1. My professor at uni told us about a time he assigned an essay on the male gaze in film. Got an essay back about 'the male gays in film'.
2. Preschool teacher here. Asked my students to tell me the first sound in "dog", almost every one responded, "woof".
3. As a teacher of a community college library course, I assigned a student the task of compiling a bibliography of books for high school students on the Middle Ages. Half of the bibliography contained books on mid-life crisis, empty-nesters and menopause.
4. Not a teacher, but as a student we were asked to write a paper for English class using the writing style of an author of our choice. I chose Machiavelli. I turned in the entire paper in Italian.
5. In debate class we had to debate euthanasia. The kid who was supposed to argue for it went first. He started talking about how necessary it was, and how terrible it was that we didn't use it more before. He was giving all these examples of people that needed to be euthanized: people who needed amputations, people with cavities, babies. It became very clear very quickly that either this kid was a monster or he was talking about something else.
The teacher asked him: "Charles, are you talking about euthanasia or anesthesia?"
The kid replied: "I have made... a terrible mistake."
6. Not a teacher, but in my Computer Science class we were learning about making graphics in java, and we were told to try to make a checkerboard pattern. A student who doesn't pay much attention (but is great at coding) only heard the checkers part. He goes of to research on his own how to make a full checkers game and turns it in. He asked why he had us do all of that learning and coding by ourselves. Needless to say, he was a little grumpy when he found out it was just supposed to just be the pattern. The checkers game worked well though.
7. Art class. Teacher wanted 12 thumbnail sketches (small rough idea of the picture) of our ideas for a painting. One girl drew her thumbnail 12 times.
8. Told my students to write the essay question at the top of their page. Fully half the class wrote 'The Essay Question'.
9. I was the student, unfortunately. Took an intro to theatre class in college. The professor randomly assigned us theatre related topics and dates for individual presentations. Mine was"Minstrel theatre," only I wasn't yet familiar with the word "minstrel" so I thought he said "Menstrual" as in "menstruation." I thought the topic odd, but who was I to know? I knew little of theatre and for all I knew there was an entire genre of plays about menstruation.
So I put the project off until literally the morning of the presentation. It was an 10 minute oral presentation with no sources required, so I figured I'd do a quick Wikipedia read and memorize a little speech in no time. I was surprised to find very little on the subject. My most common results were references to The Vagina Monologues which wasn't great, but it was something.
My name is called to the front of the class and I announce my presentation on Menstrual Theatre. "The most famous play in menstrual theatre today is probably The Vagina Monologues," I begin, and I notice my professor looks horrified already but I continue. I summarize TVM and still have 5 minutes left, so I go into speech about the importance of mentrual theatre to women's rights for "obvious reasons." I finish and sit down and the professor walks silently and confused to the front of the room. "Your topic was minstrel theatre," he says. "Right." "Then why in God's name did you spend your entire presentation talking about The Vagina Monologues and women's rights?" I'm turning red and the whole class is looking at me and I say, "It was a tough topic. That was the only play I could find that mentioned anything about menstruation." The professor was silent for a moment, then it clicked, and he burst into level crazy person laugh.
10. Several years ago my high school teacher was teaching an English class and a paper was due. He reminded his students to make the titles of their papers interesting. Sure enough, he received a paper entitled "TEENAGE NINJA SLUTS FROM HELL!!!" ; the body of the paper was perfectly appropriate & academic. He's subsequently reminded students to make their titles interesting AND relevant to the subject matter within.
11. Not a teacher, but I had a teacher tell me a 12 page assignment needed to be in "type-print". Now I had never heard of this referred to as typed, so I just assumed they meant printed in a matter so exact that it looked typed. So I ended up hand writing the whole thing as meticulously as possible that it looked typed. I was so proud of myself. Until the teacher told me no, he meant typed.
12. For a professional writing class, I had an assignment where I had students set up a professional website using Wix. One of my students somehow got it in his head that the website was supposed to be a fictional project and not actually about them so he made a "professional" website for a cat named Mittens including a fake professional profile and resume (skills include laying in the sun and knocking things off of countertops). He was really embarrassed when I told him that the website was supposed to be about his professional experience.
13. In high school English, we were reading Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice.' One of the central themes of the book was about 'class (wealth) struggle'. The teacher asked us to write a weekly short essay with "a viewpoint from a different class". A friend of mine, who always pays half attention, ended up turning in a paper from World History "class" on a semi-related subject.
The funny thing is, he got the paper back with a checkmark (meaning the assignment was complete). This info spread across the class, and people started turning in a few random papers to test the theory that the teacher wasn't actually reading the assignments. Before you know it, half the class started turning in random shit, everyone getting checkmarks back. It got so ridiculous that people weren't even turning in coherent sentences.
This went on for about nearly two months, until one day when the teacher was about to give the graded papers back, she noticed one of the papers wasn't quite right. She proceeded to read through it, and that's when half the class knew we were screwed. She called out the perpetrator's name and started reading out loud his writing. It literally was: "The grass is sort of green. The sky is really blue. Dirt on the floor filled the ground. Ice cream tastes good."
I have to admit, it was really hard for some of us to control our laughter. She then looked at the next paper, then the next, then the next. All of them were ridiculously off-topic. She flipped. Started yelling and pounding the desk with her fists. She went through and gave zeros to half the class. Thank god I turned in an actual legit paper that day as I had started getting paranoid about it when I realized too many students were doing it.
14. Not a teacher, but when I was in grade school I had basic math problems assigned to take home. My parents did not speak English so I would do my homework as best I could. The question would ask what is the difference between 8 and 5. Instead of answering 3, I would describe that 8 was bigger, even, and had more circles while 5 was odd and smaller. I don't remember who or when someone corrected me.
15. In first grade, we were assigned to go home and answer a few questions on loose leaf. Not knowing exactly what that was, I wandered about the woods near my home searching for leaves big enough for my writing. My moms reaction when she asked why I was writing on leaves was priceless.
16. I had one particular class which was very literal, and I was cracking down on homework being late. I said, "This assignment is due on Wednesday, so to get full credit, email it to me before Thursday so that I can start grading it in time before we meet again." One student asked what time it should be emailed so I said by midnight. He said midnight would be Thursday (fair point), so I clarified 11:59pm would work. Another kid said he'd be in Arizona (another time zone) and asked what he should do. I smiled and announced "11:59pm Pacific standard time." This should not have been a time crunch for anyone. This one girl emailed me Wednesday night at 11:21pm saying,"Here it is. Sorry it's early. I stayed up an extra two hours waiting for 11:59 but I'm just so tired and my dad wants me to go to bed. Thanks for understanding."
17. This happened in my first (or second) grade class. We were given black construction paper and chalk, and told to make a skeleton on the paper with the chalk. One of the kids started having some difficulty with the task and the teacher - along with the rest of us - realized he was gluing chalk in the shape of a skeleton onto the paper, and had run out of chalk pieces.
18. Was a teaching assistant for a food and culture course. One of our assignments was for students to go to an area where people were interacting with or eating food with other people, and basically make some observations and answer some questions from a worksheet about people's behavior and its relevance to human culture.
One student completely misunderstood the point of the assignment and ended up, as far as I can tell, observing two potatoes for over an hour. The first half of the assignment was describing these observations. The second half was in answer to the final question of the assignment which is something like "Say you got funding to investigate the relationships between people and food further, what would you study?" For this answer, he ended up copying and pasting the description of a youtube video on potato lifehacks:
"Remove tarnish from your silverware by first boiling a couple of potatoes. Remove the potatoes and set your silverware in the water for one hour. Then wash and rinse the silverware. Potatoes can clean silver. Why? Hold a floral arrangement in place by cutting a potato in half lengthwise and placing it cut side down. Poke holes in the potato with the scratch awl or screwdriver where you want the flowers to go, and then insert the stems. What is the advantage?"
19. When I asked a student to "Show his work" for a math problem, he actually sent me an email with a picture. A picture of him writing the answer on a piece of paper.
These are hilarious but I never want to go to school again. SHARE if you agree!
It's hard working in customer service, especially with irate customers. You need to be able to empathize and understand where your customers are coming from, show sympathy, and be willing to help them with their problem. However, if they come at you ranting and raving about an issue which clearly has nothing to do with you, well, then you're free to rant about them on the internet.