Professors see it all when it comes to students.
They see the good, the bad…and the very ugly.
And they also deal with a lot of kids who might not exactly be college material…if you know what I mean.
Professors went on the record on AskReddit and talked about the students who weren’t very bright. Let’s see what they had to say.
1. Mom said so.
“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 put it in the paper.
She told me she had always done it that way.”
2. You’re getting an F.
“One student wrote a paper about the causes of the Salem Witch Trials.
She sided with the accusers because she’d “seen some stuff in her life.””
3. This is amazing.
“A student turned in 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.”
4. You don’t know how?
“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.
There was even a master’s student once…”
“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.”
6. That’s weird.
“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.”
7. Poorly written.
“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?”
8. Oh, boy…
“I once spent an hour explaining to college junior that an even number is divisible by 2.”
9. Nailed it!
“A 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.”
10. Ummm, that’s not right.
“I once got an exam essay that mentioned how much Nelson 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.”
11. You both fail!
“Once had identical twin sisters who turned in identical essays.
Both were directly plagiarized from a Google search and received identical zeroes.”
12. Good grief.
“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.”
13. You kidding me?!?!
“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 was teaching a first year religion class and we were talking about the two creation stories in Genesis but this happened specifically when we were reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden.
I told my class that a colleague of mine joked Adam had a c-section because he wasn’t conscious when God took his rib and made Eve. The class had a giggle but one student raised their hand and seriously asked why everyone was laughing because men have the ability to regrow their ribs once in their life thanks to this original moment.
I. Felt. Horrible.
The entire class started laughing and I immediately shut that sh*t down because this student was wanting to melt away into nothingness. Was a great teaching moment because you never, ever laugh if someone has a question and is serious about it.
Turns out, their Nana was a JW and while my student generally took everything that came out of Nanas mouth with a grain of salt, somehow this fact never got examined.”
15. You fail!
“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.”
The presentation had been given with due dates over two weeks earlier. When I told him that wasn’t how college worked he claimed discrimination and told me he had accommodations for his disability that allowed him more time. Once he pulled that card I got the department head involved and she laughed.
The guy failed.
To clarify, he got double time on exams to allow for a learning disability. It doesn’t excuse him for deciding not to do the work necessary for the class.”
16. What are you talking about?
“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.”
17. Totally lost.
“For a couple years I taught first-year college students in an ENGINEERING program, the majority of whom didn’t know how to do unit conversions. Not even, like, inches-to-centimeters.
To repeat … college … ENGINEERING …”
18. You need to repeat this class.
“I was a TA for two years.
One of my students (outside of class) explained that she and her whole family truly believes that microwaves mutate the DNA of your food (they don’t) and mutated DNA is dangerous to eat (it wouldn’t be).
I couldn’t help myself for calling her out. It was such a strange thing that it didn’t even occur to me to be sensitive. I just said she clearly needed to take my biology class again.”
19. Don’t know how to write.
“I used to work at an English help lab at my university.
I had no problem helping the English as a Second Language students because they had a tough challenge working outside their primary language.
What killed me is how some of these native English-speaking kids got out of high school still writing incomplete sentences, run-ons, tense disagreements, and having basic vocabulary and grammar errors.
I went to an engineering school, so yes…some of these guys probably were good at math and bad at English, but you still need to be able to communicate.
I don’t have any one good story, but I will say that there was no pattern – inner city kids, suburban kids, country kids, east coast, west coast, south, north, midwest, whatever…all have the capability to graduate high school and still write incoherently.”
“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.”
21. Are you sure about that?
“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 was 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.”
“I took a class in my 50s about the Holocaust.
It was me and a room full of 18 to 20 year olds, most of whom had been homeschooled. This was a Conservative Christian school in Pennsylvania.
Many of them had never heard about the Holocaust!
We went to the museum in DC and most of them left in tears.”
23. A broken system?
“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.
Even worse than that is a group of students who had already graduated from university, doing their teaching requirements to become school teachers. Had more than one ask me what a variable in an experiment is (how have you got a science degree and you have never performed an experiment in your life??).
My lowest point definitely was the day when a class discussion on the difference between science and superstition dissolved into chaos. The majority of the class of science graduates agreed that science is rubbish and superstition makes more sense. When asked how they would teach science when they don’t believe in it, one student said she is just there to tell the class facts to memorize.
I was a student in that course and I honestly felt sick during that class. I want to teach, I’m a fantastic teacher, but knowing that people like this are my peers makes me really sad and angry.”
24. Student athletes.
“I hate to stereotype, but pretty much all male student athletes make me think this. Football and basketball players are the worst.
Folks who play minor sports like golf or lacrosse or anything that isn’t football, basketball, baseball, or soccer tend to be okay. The majority of the female student athletes I’ve taught have been hard workers. If they don’t do well on an assignment, they email me to discuss their grades and what they could do to improve.
If they’re not doing well in class, they’ll come to office hours before the athletics department sends out a progress report form to faculty. They participate in class. Many of my female student athletes were solid A students.
The male student athletes…I often struggle to understand how they made it out of middle school. Their verbal fluency is far beyond grade level, their writing is abysmal, they put no effort into class, they’re lazy…it’s frustrating because they have way too much institutional support.
They get their own tutors and there’s a whole support structure built up that other students do not get. I can probably count on one hand the number of male student athletes that made an A in my course and it’s really easy to earn an A too.
I try to help as best I can, in a way that is also fair to other students, but at the end of the day they’re getting the grade they earned.”
Now we want to hear from some more teachers.
In the comments, tell us your funny stories of students who weren’t too bright.
We look forward to it!