We might idolize our university and college professors as authority figures who put the pursuit of knowledge and education above everything else. However, they’re as human as you or I. From time to time, these Ravenclaws take a break from unearthing the secrets of the Universe and show their gossip-loving Muggle sides in public. Or rather—online. Because the way that some students act makes it hard not to share.
Redditor Redmambo_no6 asked the professors of Reddit to share their stories about the students they encountered that made them shake their heads and wonder how they ever graduated. And, wow, some of these have made our eyebrows shoot into our hairlines. We’d say they’re unbelievable, but we’ve met students like this ourselves. Heck, we’ve been in some of these situations.
We’d love to hear which of these posts you liked the most. Be sure to slap the ‘upvote’ button and leave us a comment so we know! Now, let’s charge head forth into the weird land of (un)education.
I worked with students in a class that was supposed to prepare them for real life. Things like making resumes, finance, etc. Part of the class was job interviews. One of the stress questions often asked in interviews is, "What's your biggest weakness?" I always told the students to have something prepared for that because the only wrong answer is, "I don't have any weaknesses."
So I'm doing mock interviews and I get to this guy and throw out that question. Without missing a beat, he says, "I steal sometimes."
I now tell my students that there are two wrong answers.
Student handed in a 1-page essay of complete gibberish. Like, utter stream-of-consciousness of a gerbil on LSD kind of garbage.
After receiving an F on this assignment, this muffin had the audacity to come to my office hour and demand that I explain this grade to them. After I walked them through their river of word-garbage, they tried to tell me that I just didn't understand their writing because I am not an English native speaker.
First time I almost kicked somebody out of my office.
I taught English as a Second Language at a community college for a decade. My colleagues and I were pretty tough on the academics, but it paid off when our students started regular classes. Often I ran into my former students around campus & asked them how things were going. I lost count of the number of times they expressed disbelief at how badly their native-speaking American classmates were at writing sentences, doing math, and giving presentations in front of a group.
The redditor’s thread got 6.5k upvotes and over 3k comments. This goes to show just how many university and college professors there really are browsing Reddit and other similar sights. This might just change how you view your own professors in the future: after all, you might be fans of the same online communities!
The anonymity that Reddit provides means that the professors can share their stories pretty much without any chance of others finding out who they are. It also lets these educators vent about their students without exposing their identities either. It’s a win-win for everyone, including online users who get to grab some popcorn and absorb all of these entertaining tales.
I once got an exam essay that mentioned how much Mandela hated the Jews. After scratching my head for a bit and wondering if I’d missed some obvious signs of his anti-Semitism I realized she meant Mengele. As in Josef Mengele, the Nazi “Angel of Death.” Hard to think of a worse person she could’ve confused him for.
My wife has had multiple students who are fundamentally technologically illiterate. Numerous students have had no idea how to use Word or Excel--including one who used their email as a word processor (the University provides students with Office). There have also been students who struggle with installing programs on computers. What's disconcerting is it's becoming an increasingly common issue--as an older millennial, the idea that kids are becoming less technologically proficient is so bizarre.
Once had identical twin sisters who turned in identical essays. Both were directly plagiarized from a Google search and received identical zeroes.
I’ve been a student and I’ve seen my fair share of coursemates and professors. Some educators were (and still are) so magnificent that I miss their lectures like Harry Potter misses Quidditch. They’re the people who still make me consider doing my PhD sometime in the future. Meanwhile, others were petty, bureaucratic, and concerned only about following the curriculum instead of being beacons of knowledge.
However, just like there’s a range of professors, from great to gruesome, there’s a spectrum for students, too. On one side we have young adults who are diligent, ambitious, and see education as a gateway to bettering themselves into veritable giants of intelligence. On the other side, we’ll find the slobs, the endless party-goes, and the cheaters who want the diploma without the hard work. It’s the eternal debate between doing things the right way vs. doing them the easy way.
I had a girl come in with a research paper bibliography that listed "my mom" as a source several times.
When I pressed, she told me her mom looked up everything and sent it to her and she just...put it in the paper. She told me she had always done it that way.
A friend who taught in the politics department received a paper about ‘gorilla’ warfare in South America. It was so poorly written she couldn’t tell if it was a typo, or if they genuinely thought Colombia had been overrun by a Planet of the Apes style revolution.
This was in the UK and English was the student’s first language.
One student wrote in a discussion board about Lord of the Flies, 'I like how they saved all the flies. That was my favorite part.' If you've read the book, you can guess the look on my face.
Being a bad student is as easy as gobbling down a greasy kebab or slice of pizza after a fun night out. Stepping up, taking charge, and being a good student is much, much harder, however. It’s less about getting good grades and more about who you are as a person and your attitude towards hardship.
I had a student include numerous emojis in a term paper.
A different student came to my office a week after the final, and asked me why she had failed the course. She hadn’t turned in a single assignment, or written the final.
I had a student put in their presentation, 'Women's suffrage has destroyed the American family structure,' and 'feminism has turned women away from their naturally obedient nature.'
My dad taught junior college biology and A&P, and at times zoology and botany, for 25 years. He has soooooo many stories, from multiple people showing up with roadkill for him to identify, asking advice on growing weed and shrooms, and thinking he was a medical doctor. The one that sticks out to me was a poor girl who lingered after class to ask "if pregnancy tests can ever be wrong, because I took a bunch this morning". He explained about human growth hormone and told her false negatives are possible, but not false positives. He said her face just kept falling as it slowly dawned on her. She told him, "three were negative". He asked if any were positive and she said yeah... he asked how many and she said, "Twelve... so... you're saying... it's not possible that I'm NOT pregnant?" He was like, "Sorry honey, unfortunately yes, that's what I'm saying. You need to go see a doctor". She came back a couple semesters later and let my dad meet her very adorable baby.
You’ve got a paper due in a month. What do you do? Do you put it off until literally the last moment, working through the night and pounding energy drink after energy drink, only to turn the paper in ten minutes before the deadline? Or do you get started right away, getting to grips with the issues, tackling the problems, and handing it in early so it doesn’t weigh on your mind? It’s everyday choices that draw the line between a good and bad student.
I had a football player in class, and he could barely write on the sentence-level. I think he had just never been expected to learn how to write since he was an athlete. When he failed his first paper, he came to me and asked how to improve. We agreed that he’d come to my office hours, and we would work through the process of writing a research paper together. Y’all, this kid worked so hard. Every week he’d show up, and we’d talk about how to write an intro paragraph or how to build evidence in the body of a paper, etc. He wasn’t going to get an A in my class or anything, but he was definitely on track for a C- (with a little extra recognition for how hard he worked all semester).
When he turned in his final paper, he had SIGNIFICANTLY improved over his previous paper. I pulled him aside and asked him about his process this time around. With absolutely no guile, he told me that he told his brother what he wanted to say, and his brother wrote it down for him.
I was bound by the Honors Council and a sense of duty to my other students to do what I saw as the ethical thing, which was to fail him, but I do think about him sometimes and that was 20 years ago. He tripped at the very last step.
One student wrote a paper about the causes of the Salem Witch Trials. She sided with the accusers because she'd 'seen some stuff,' clearly not understanding the assignment.
I was a graduate instructor for a scientific writing class, where students were trained in how to consume and report on research in the form of a literature review. One student kept quiet the whole semester and declined help when I reached out to him periodically throughout.
His term paper came in with the rest, but it was…uh…markedly different. He had written 20 pages on why science was a tool of the devil, complete with quotes from the Bible, and didn’t even format the paper the way I had been teaching students all semester. Included in the paper was a snippet of an interview he conducted with his pastor.
I gave a failing grade on the paper and recommended to him that he change majors to religious studies or something.
Excelling in your studies requires discipline and having structure in your life. If you wake up whenever you want and only study sporadically, in between parties and meeting up with your friends, you’ll be relying on luck rather than skill.
My old History of Modern Art prof loves to tell the story about an exam essay featuring the topic of "the male gays" instead of "the male gaze".
I have taught numerous students who are unable to read for meaning. They can read the words on a page out loud to you, but ask them to explain what they just read, they will repeat the words on the page. Our country's education system is very broken.
Teaching an English subject on academic writing, including the structure and importance of paragraphs, and a student then handed in a first essay that looked more like poetry - one sentence per line.
When queried, she insisted "they don't have paragraphs where I come from".
Turns out she was British...
The more orderly and less chaotic your schedule, the easier it will be to focus on your studies. Naturally, that means avoiding distractions like having Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter open while you’re supposed to be doing research. Multitasking isn’t as efficient as focusing on one thing at a time because you’ll have your flow broken. (Pssst, this works for everything, not just devouring books and articles for your studies.)
Two girls were swapping thoughts on the exam and a asks b who she wrote about. B says ‘I wrote about Lenin’. A says ‘really? I don’t remember him mentioned in the lectures a lot’. B says ‘oh I know but I know a lot about him. My mum is a huge fan of his music.’
She had written about John Lennon. Not Vladimir Lenin, who’s name was clearly printed on the exam paper.
This is the same girl who, while we’re being taught about the Holocaust and shown pictures of dead inmates, said ‘what diet do you think he was on? I want my ribs to show like that’.
We were in a teaching degree, btw.
I used to cover for some of my profs in their intro classes. I thought it was ridiculous, but one of the profs decided she wanted to test her students on the states.
Yes, a map of the states that they just have to fill in the name of the state. The students knew a month in advance and she said they did a lesson on it.
I had to proctor and grade the test 3 times. The international students passed with flying colors just as consistently as the American students epically failed. She kept making them retake it until they, at the very least, made something more than an F.
I used to TA for undergrad organic chem lab courses. Had a... challenging student once who was not great at reading directions or thinking critically. We were setting up an experiment that required GENTLE heating of a volatile solvent. I explicitly told the class, multiple times, “only turn your hot plates up to 2 when heating, these things get very hot.” Maybe 30 minutes later I’m making my rounds through the lab and I pass said guy’s fume hood and notice his reaction is smoking. I look closer and see that all of the liquid in his flask is gone and its just a charred, black smoking mess (which is still heating). I ask, “Student! What’s going on with your reaction??? What’s the temperature set at?!” The guy goes, “oh, I wasn’t sure how hot to heat it, so I just turned the plate all the way up to 10. Is my reaction going to be ok?” No, no man, it’s not going to be ok... he literally boiled the thing dry
Meanwhile, being a good professor has more to do with how you communicate with people rather than how disciplined and orderly your life is. Even the most brilliant specialist, a true Einstein in their chosen field, will be derided by their students if they’re full of themselves, dismissive of others’ views, and poke fun at their ‘colleagues-in-learning.’
There have been disturbingly high numbers of students on a performance based music degree who can't read music. Not musicologists or conceptual composers who could in theory get away with it. No, these were people turning up expecting to study western classical performance.
In undergrad I was taking an American history course. Our professor was from Maryland and was probably in her early forties. This kid asked her if she was one of the pearl harbor survivors. He couldn't grasp the fact that she was very much not alive at that time and that Pearl Harbor was not a harbor in Maryland.
I was teaching a class about college campuses in the 1960s and 70s centering on protests and activism during that time. The final paper asked the students to take an example from that time period and compare it to a more recent instance of activism on campus.
One student chose to write about instances of Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting college campuses to speak on issues of equality. That's when the student said that he had won the Nobel Prize in Sports and I just had to stop. I reread that paragraph about 10 times before I confirmed with myself that this student did indeed write what I thought they did. The rest of the paper was equally well researched and, needless to say, they did not get a good grade.
On the plus side, Martin Luther King, Jr., sports superstar, has become a running joke among my friends who were around at the time.
‘Inside Higher Ed’ suggests that educators should look at students as real people and complex individuals instead of a grey and problematic mass that’s full of the new generation’s issues. There’s a lot to be said in favor of treating people as, well, people in all areas of life. Crafting genuine connections with others will always, always trump a purely mechanical approach where every student is seen as interchangeable and a ‘temporary nuisance.’
When a professor sees their students as partners in learning (however cheesy that might sound!), learning becomes a collaboration, an unending brainstorm of ideas, a feedback loop where everyone’s a learner and a teacher at the same time.
I worked at my university writing center and saw a lot of really terrible writing. SO MANY poorly written essays. I really don’t know how you can graduate from high school without at least being able to perform simple tasks like “Point to your thesis statement.”
The whole point of a writing center was to teach students to correct their own work, but there was a direct correlation between how awful a paper was and how likely the student was to throw it at you and say “I’m going to go have lunch. Will you have it fixed in an hour?” then try to leave.
The tutors all got really good at an authoritative, “Stop right there! Sit down. Now let’s talk about how YOU are going to improve YOUR paper.”
The most frustrating papers were the science majors. I could never tell if the paper was terrible or I just wasn’t following the details of their experiment on chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons or whatever.
The absolute worst was the ENGLISH MASTERS DEGREE STUDENT who came in several times with absolute gibberish. To be fair, English was his second language but... are you absolutely sure you do not want to consider a career change, my good sir?
One time we had an indigenous guest speaker give a lecture about misrepresentation of First Nations culture in media at my art university. During the Q&A a student MEANT to ask the question “how do you feel about cultural appropriation of imagery from your culture by corporations?” Instead she asked “how do you feel when like H&M sells like... underwear and stuff that has like feathers on it” I have never cringed so hard in my life. The guest speaker had no idea what she was even asking him.
Professor at a middle of nowhere medium sized state school with a 80-ish% acceptance rate. Had a graduate student who couldn't code for the life of him but was a software engineer at an undisclosed incredibly large aviation company. He couldn't accept that other students who didn't have jobs were better than him and that the people grading him "didn't have jobs". Sent death threats because we failed him on an assignment where his code didn't run.
He complained to the higher ups and got a C.
However friendly a professor might be, they still have to have authority in the classroom. So if their students are taking advantage of their good nature or trying to pretend they’ve read a text when they clearly haven’t, the educator has to risk being blunt and call them out on this. Politely but firmly. Bluntly but with a knowing smile.
I taught a new remedial algebra class for students who had a non-traditional pre-college experience or who hadn’t taken enough math in high school to take even basic college level math.
An early section on exponents really tripped up one student. When a professor saw his grade, he instructed me to meet with the student to try to help get him on course. Upon reviewing his exam, I realized he had problems with negative numbers. I quickly sketched up a lesson about how exponents worked with negative numbers, but I was floored when his first question was “What are negative numbers?”
I spent an hour and a half working with him to no effect. I’m not even sure he even believed there was such a thing as a negative number.
As a college freshman I took Advanced English with a student who didn’t know how to write a research paper or even possibly read (I don’t know). When I realized she didn’t know how to research, I gave her my sources and showed her how to navigate them. The next class when we were supposed to edit each other’s rough drafts. I handed her my paper to edit, she gave it back to me after 10 seconds without reading it and said it was good. She then handed me her “paper” and it was just a list of random dates.
I had a student who told me, being 100% serious, that he wouldn’t be presenting on his assigned day because he 'didn’t do the assignment and he’d go the next day.'
Note: this post originally had 106 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.
Which of these stories did you enjoy the most, dear Pandas? Are any of you professors? If so, we’d love to hear any similar stories if you’ve got any. Meanwhile, if any of you are students, let us know about the strangest and most ridiculous things your coursemates and your professors have done.