Unimpressed Teachers Share The Worst Assignment They’ve Ever Received Back
Don’t deny it—we’ve all submitted an assignment deserving of being on this list at some point or another in our academic careers. If you haven’t lost faith that the future is in good hands yet, don’t worry… we’re going to fix that here. Teachers were asked to share with the world the dumbest attempts at fooling the teacher into giving them a good grade, and the results are hilarious. Strap in and prepare yourself to get bombarded by facepalms.
#1 He’s Developing His Creative Spirit
Students were asked to write a literacy narrative to discuss something or someone who impacted them as a reader or writer. In his first draft, one of my students wrote about having intimate relations with a girl in the closet of his high school’s band room. In my feedback, I reminded him that the topic had to relate to his literacy. He added a paragraph in his next draft explaining how it made him a better writer because it gave him a topic for the paper and it improved his ability to be vividly descriptive.
#2 Brief But To The Point
“There are dead things here and the soil looks like its washed away. Rivers here are nice and so is the weather. This is a nice place.” This was my student’s full essay, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a ten-page paper (with charts and graphs, etc.). The funniest part? The assignment was for a college class that I teach.
#3 You May Want To Check Your Facts There
The first history essay I ever graded was back in teacher training about Sino-US relations in the 1900s. It started something like: “Relations between the US and China were really tense during the 20th century. The worst bit was definitely when China attacked Pearl Harbor and the US retaliated with two nuclear bombs.” If I recall correctly, this was followed by a lot of good solid information and I had a hard time figuring out what a fair grade would be.
#4 Who Told Them That?
I teach history at a local community college and you wouldn’t believe some of the takes people have on historical figures. Being in the Deep South, I’m used to the ole “Lincoln was a dictator” and “Sherman was a war criminal” stuff, but “Ancient Rome was a black civilization” probably takes the cake in terms of vagueness of sources and why on earth that needs to be debated in the first place.
#5 They’re From America, Too
I was a TA in a freshman high school class. As a part of the class, the kids had to take a test on the United States. It was essentially a blank map with numbers and you would identify the state and write it down. I’ve never been so ashamed of kids in my life. This was a long time ago so I can’t remember everything well, but I remember the states “Fontana” and “Mintasota.” I can certainly understand not knowing which state was which but I do expect you’d know which states exist.
#6 They’re Learning, Give Them Time
I assigned my class an introductory short essay and they had the freedom to write anything they wanted. They just had to pick a topic something they were interested in. One of the essays read: “I am interested in blueberry muffins. Like how they are round on top and crumbly on the sides. That what I like.” I kept that one on my fridge. That was the entirety of the essay. It was a pass-fail course, and I was instructed that there were to be zero failures.
#7 Well, They Both Involve Money…Right?
What they were asked to submit: A 1,500-word essay about the impact of Milton Friedman on the evolution of monetary policy. There were sub-questions to guide their thinking and responses.
What I received: A couple of biographical facts about Friedman, followed by a 1,500-word essay about the salmon industry in Chile. I have no clue where that came from. But thanks to needing to grade on a curve. They still got 50%.
#8 Taking Advantage Of The Technicalities…Smart
Some entertaining approaches to essays include: a kid who turned in three pages with a sentence on each page (he claimed it met the requirements for a three-page essay, since nothing in the instructions said how many words had to be on each page), and a kid who put four pages of Wikipedia quotes, saying that there was no limit to how much of the essay could be quotes. Apparently, I get a bunch of future lawyers in my classes.
#9 Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
My mom has been a teacher for a long time. About 20 years ago, she had a student who wrote a book report on Jim Ryan, the US runner, and congressman who broke the four-minute mile record (among other impressive accomplishments). The front of the book had a picture of him running, with one of his legs bent backward mid-stride. So naturally, a student who absolutely did not read the book wrote a book report about “Jim Ryan, the amazing one-legged runner.” She still tells this story all the time.
#10 Cover Your Tracks If You’re Going To Plagiarize
I once had a student turn in a plagiarized essay. It was super obvious just from the weird shifts in the language. They also left a hyperlink, which they tried to disguise by removing the underline and changing the color to black.
#11 Explosive Saltines
Not that funny, but you’d be surprised how many times I have received a copied Wikipedia article, with unchanged formatting, links, etc. I live in a non-English speaking country. One time, an immigrant student didn’t know the word for firecracker, so he looked it up in a dictionary. That would have been fine, but the word cracker has two meanings.
They ended up using the word for edible crackers, not t that is fired to the sky. The question was to name something that is explosive. The words for cracker (the edible one) and cracker (fireworks) are nothing similar in my language, so I spent quite a while wondering what the student meant. English is not my first language, so I wasn’t aware.
#12 That’s Not The Kind Of Camp You’re Thinking Of
I worked a short stint (almost a full semester) as a substitute teacher to pay the bills, and some of the sub-jobs I took were multi-day ones that required me to grade papers. During one job, I got a group of 11th graders that were doing a history unit on the Holocaust. One of the assignments was a short essay and research paper in reaction to a video about Auschwitz.
One kid in the class wrote for her paper: “I don’t understand why these people are going to this camp. It doesn’t even look like it would be fun! There are no canoes or campfires.” I wasn’t really sure what to do in response, so I set her paper aside from the other students’ and left a note to her regular teacher to discuss it with her when they returned. For what that district paid subs, I knew I wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with that situation.
#13 Seriously, Why Are They? We’re All Curious Now
A while back, I assigned my students a writing assignment in which they had to make up their own creation myth, as we had read some creation myths from different cultures around the world. Basically, they had to tell me how something natural in our world was first created. My favorite essay was titled, “Why Are Trees?” Or something to that effect. The entire paper was just one sentence. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was something along the lines of, “Seriously, trees. Why are they???” I laughed. I cried. I gave them a zero and moved on.
#14 Alternate History Where Lord Of The Flies Is Hybridized With Rambo
In my senior English class, we had to read Lord of the Flies. There was one day where we didn’t have to attend for whatever reason, but the teacher told us ahead of time that she would be reviewing questions directly from the final exam. A friend of mine and myself both attended, but this one girl who always bummed answers off my friend did not.
Somehow, this girl found out that one of the questions was to “explain the irony at the end of the book” (The children are rescued by a military ship, which had itself been off killing people before, but it’s depicted as a symbol of civilization and order). She told my friend that she hadn’t read the whole book, and asked what happened.
He told her this story about how a helicopter comes in and flies the kids off the island, but as they’re leaving, a submarine surfaces and shoots down the helicopter. Nobody makes it. It’s ironic that they were so close to safety and still lost their lives. When everyone passed the tests forward, he saw her paper and she actually wrote about submarines and shooting down helicopters and how sad the ending was.
#15 First-Aid, Boiled Or Microwaved
When I did physical education in the UK many years ago, we spent a lesson discussing the importance of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for sports injuries. Our homework was to write an essay about RICE. One kid clearly hadn’t listened to a word of the lesson, because he handed in two pages all about the different types of rice you can buy in the supermarket, how to cook it and what he and his family liked to eat alongside rice for dinner. I’ve never seen a teacher laugh so much before.
#16 He Clearly Just Doesn’t Care Anymore
I teach public speaking at a university. My second assignment is a video speech—this forces my students to really watch themselves speak and gives them an opportunity to turn in their best take! It’s usually a grade booster because they can turn in their best version. Yet, I had a student give a speech where he belched louder than I’d ever heard in the middle of a sentence and said the “s” word about three times.
#17 None Of That’s His
I was a TA for a class that was basically a science course for non-science majors. 10% percent of them were actually really interested in science but just going a different career path. 80% of them were decent students but just not science people so they worked hard to earn a decent grade and get out. The remaining 10% were people who probably shouldn’t be in college at all and left me baffled as to how they got into the university.
One fine member of this 10% turned in their final essay and it was plagiarized entirely. They were told multiple times that when they turn in their essay online, it would automatically go through a software that checks their writing against a huge reference base. Most papers had maybe a sentence or two highlighted, usually by coincidence because it was a simple sentence, or because they actually properly quoted something when necessary.
This person’s essay, on the other hand, looked like a majestic double rainbow because everything was highlighted. I don’t think they had one unique sentence in the entire paper. It was just chunks copied and pasted from about 10 sources. Every now and then, one of the copied areas was introduced as a quote. I can’t believe they even bothered to turn it in. Literally, not doing the assignment would have been a better choice, as plagiarism can get you kicked out.
#18 Well, Raise Your Expectations
I’m a TA at university teaching first-year physics students. For the first week, the assignment was a really simple calculation just to get acquainted with the online assignment system. One of my students just submitted a PDF with the words, “I don’t expect anyone to actually read these assignments” in big red letters. He now has to redo the assignment AND participate in an extra lab day to be allowed to go to the exam.
#19 Commas, Make, You, Pause
I taught high school for five years but by far the worst paper I ever graded came from a 35-year-old in a master’s level course that I was an adjunct professor for. This was in a semi-prestigious business and technology program at a large university in the US. He used 17 commas in one sentence. It was the mother of all run-on sentences. Imagine writing a 200+ word paragraph, but remove all periods and find a way to connect everything with commas. I should add that English is his native language. He’s just one of those people that thinks more words equates to intelligent thought.
#20 It’s Not What She Meant, Which Makes It Even Funnier
I’m an English teacher in The Netherlands. I once had a student who needed to write a nice letter to a friend. In the end, she translated some Dutch sentences literally which then became a letter I had to read while suppressing a volley of laughter. Unintended, half of the letter became suggestive innuendos. Things like, “I wish you a lot of fun reading these books!” were written as “I’ll pleasure you while you read books!”‘ Needless to say, I had a great time teaching her, because she’d often come up with those gems in assignments.
#21 Acing By Not Doing Anything
We had a first aid section in gym class. For the CPR exam, we were moved to a classroom at the bottom of three steps. Everyone had a head and a lung bag, but the dummy body was outside, by the steps. The teacher would call on a student to go out and he’d test them. This one kid went out, saying, “This guy might have fallen down the stairs. I can’t do CPR. I’m calling 911 and waiting for the paramedics.” If there’s a possibility of neck or spine injury, moving the person is only going to make it worse, so the kid had a point. He passed, but teacher announced that said stunt would only be accepted once.
#22 Brony 101
I was a TA for a 200-level college writing class. One of the guys I tutored handed me a 100% genuine examination of Brony culture. Not only a breakdown of characters and the show, but a discussion about the actual fandom from popular websites, fan creators, community hubs, significant events in the fandom’s lifespan, and the significance of, ahem, “Rule 34” content. I had people give me essays on fandoms before, but this particular one was hard to chew through.
#23 It’s Not You, The Writing’s Just Bad
Back in high school, one of my classmates’ literature class involved reading The Hobbit followed by submitting a written assignment based on given essay questions (1,500 words). Spoiler alert, the guy didn’t read the book, so his friends decided to tell him Kili and Fili drowned with their donkeys when the donkeys went mad because they couldn’t cut themselves loose.
As the plot progressed, the guy asked why Kili and Fili remained in the plot if they already died. The night before the essay deadline, everyone was trading notes and checking word counts. When asked about his word count, my friend was like, “What? I forgot what the original essay question was.” This guy turned in a 500-word essay on why Hobbits do not have to wear shoes.
#24 Conspiracy Theorist In The Making
In eighth grade we had a WWII project and my friend was assigned the topic of Mein Kampf. He’s kind of a knucklehead sometimes but overall decently smart. He told me the day we turned in our projects that Mein Kampf was a “man who wrote a biography about the German dictator from an American POW camp.” To this day, I can’t explain how he came to that conclusion—he said he used WikiAnswers and Quora as sources, so that might explain it. We had worked on the project for three weeks and I was kind of baffled that he managed to bungle it that badly after we worked on it so extensively. Anyways, I suppose the teacher had a laugh, she gave him a 50% for effort and let him redo the project, to a degree.
#25 Never, Ever Write A Drunk Paper
I knew someone in high school who got tipsy before doing an assignment on future careers he’d be interested in. He wound up writing about how he’d like to be an adult video star. After the teacher graded it, he took the moron aside and asked him just what the heck he was thinking, and he had to try and explain himself without mentioning that he’d been tipsy because he’s underage. I still don’t understand why he turned in the assignment in the first place. Surely a zero was better than that.
#26 In Case You Needed More Proof That The Education System Sucks
After about a year and a half of having this history teacher, there were patterns that my friend and I began to pick up on. This guy was a creep. He was 60+ years old. He had proposed and been denied by at least four female teachers at the school and he would host classes where his ego would be satisfied by just having students ask him personal questions.
He clearly picked favorites—he hated the foreign exchange students and their homework grades were almost always lower. The hot girls were not only all forced to sit up front, but somehow always got better grades. One day during lunch, my friend said to me: “Dude, I literally saw him take out a ruler with letter grades on it and grade a student’s homework just by how physically long it was.”
My friend decided to test it one day for Ancient Rome homework. He started the first few lines like normal. Then, he proceeded to talk about how Chuck Norris fought in the Colosseum against a T-Rex. It was a solid paragraph and a half in detail about this brawl. He then wrapped it up with a few normal-sounding sentences. He received an A. Now as much as I hated this teacher, I just took advantage of the system. I never took a risk as my friend did, but I absolutely did repeat sentences and lazily did assignments from then on to receive a B.
#27 That’s The Wrong Jane
We had just gone over Henry VIII this week to show that the students could demonstrate knowledge over the subject matter they had a choice of assignments they could do. One of the choices was to write a brief summary or draw something related to one of Henry VIII’s wives. Following that, they had to write a quote at the bottom of the page. A kid wrote a quote from Jane Seymour, which sounds great until you realize she wrote a quote from the actress, not the third wife of Henry VIII. In case you are wondering, the quote was: “Even though I make those movies, I find myself wishing that more of those magic moments could happen in real life.”
#28 That’s More The Teacher’s Fault Than Anyone Else’s
There was a professor I had that said he’d only look at the cover page, the first page, and works cited. The topic was hard to research and write on because there weren’t many scholarly sources, and we had to turn it in as a paper copy with no digital file. I did the cover page, sources cited, wrote half a page of content and blew it up enough to cover the first page, and I left the rest of the pages blank. Got an A on the paper and in the class.
#29 Athletes Are Awesome, But Not That Awesome
For a researched argument essay in a college-level English Composition class, this student’s thesis statement was: “People should eliminate their negative views of student-athletes because, as we all know, student-athletes always give 110%.” Her argument was basically that student-athletes should receive more resources than other students because they work so much harder (even though they, you know already do).
I did a pretty thorough job explaining why this thesis was problematic, and my students had a total of three drafts for this assignment. But rather than working to improve the problems with her argument, she doubled down on them, and in the final draft, her thesis had evolved to, “You should eliminate your negative views of student-athletes because…”
#30 He’s Not Bad Now, But He Was At Some Point
I went back to school at 35 years old and was in an autobiographical writing class with 20-year-olds. We had to peer review each other’s papers and this one kid wrote about how he wanted to be a professional soccer player. It was absolutely riddled with spelling and grammar errors, especially for a 300-level college writing class. He spent a page describing how in his country it was called “futbol” and not soccer.
He claimed English wasn’t his first language but he spoke it perfectly. The weirdest thing was that it seemed to be out of date. He made reference to how he wanted to keep playing until 2014 (even though it was 2016), and it referenced him still being in high school. I called him out for submitting an old essay he wrote for a different class but he never responded. In fact, no one was really all that harsh on him. Most of the comments (it was online and in-person) were positive and how they liked the story. So I guess I was a jerk. His other essay was MUCH better, and I still stand by the fact that he just handed in something he previously wrote.
#31 One Of The Stupidest Things On The Last Project
I teach music production at a state university. One of my classes is titled MIDI and Digital Music Production. I wrote the entire curriculum based around using the software Ableton Live. Every project throughout the semester is done in this software. For their final project, I asked them to use all of the knowledge they have gained from the previous projects in order to create a finished song. For his final project, one genius student turned in the DEMO project that Ableton Live defaults to upon opening up the software for the first time. I laughed out loud.
#32 At Least Put In The Effort To Meet The Minimum Requirements
I have this one lazy student. At times he gives more effort trying to avoid work instead of actually working. Cue our music exam. Question: “Name four different brass instruments.” Answer: “Trumpet, trumpet, trumpet.” The kid would have gotten full credit for this question if he weren’t too lazy to write “trumpet” down four times,but no, it had to be three times. He got zero on this one and on most questions. The kid managed to fail the music class.
#33 Essays From Yesteryear Are Much Better Than Those Today
One of my college students submitted a plagiarized essay that was an exact duplicate of an essay written by Vinton Cerf (co-founder of TCP/IP) in the 1960s. The first clue she had cheated was that all of her citations were from arcane journals from the ’50s and ’60s. The second clue was that the paper was clearly written by an academic while the student herself was a non-native speaker. The best part is that she swore up and down she wrote the paper herself and would give me dirty looks whenever I saw her outside of class. At the end of the semester, I smugly told her to have a “D”elightful summer.
#34 The Effort It Would’ve Taken To Do That…Just Why?
A couple of years ago, I was a TA in a French Phonetics class. The students had this worksheet where they had to transcribe a series of sentences into IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). Enter this one guy, who turned in a LITERAL PHOTOCOPY of someone else’s (handwritten) worksheet with his name written at the top of the page. It still baffles me.
#35 Word Of Advice: Make Sure That Paper’s Not Going Anywhere First
My friend didn’t really know what he wanted to do after high school, so he picked a random degree at the local community college. He realized a few days in that he was training to be a garbage man, which he didn’t want to do, so he stopped taking his classes seriously. He had an English assignment for a two-page paper; the usual intro paper about who you are and what you want to do with your life.
He wrote about half a page on the topic, then copied that paragraph to round out the page, and then finished with a whole page of lyrics to Wonderwall. He went to class assuming he would toss the paper on the teacher’s desk and drop all his classes later that day. He wound up reading his paper in front of the class. Not a good move on his part.
#36 The Younger They Are, The More Creative They Get
I teach primary school and in a mental maths book, there was a question about which instrument you’d use to weigh the flour. The kid put “tuba” and drew a picture.
#37 Plagiarism Never Pays
My experience TA’ing for college classes is that there are so many students who don’t understand what plagiarism is. For one of the first classes I was a TA for, I gave the class a bonus assignment to write a research paper on the topic of their choosing. This was totally for bonus points so not only was it optional, but receiving a 0 on it did not affect their grade whatsoever.
I gave them a detailed rubric of how it would be graded and an outline of how to structure the paper. I spent 15 minutes of the class giving a lecture on plagiarism, what it is, and what are common things students do that they might not realize is plagiarism. I then told the class if they did plagiarize, they would receive a 0. About 150 of the students did the assignment and from my memory, less than 10 students got zeroes for plagiarism.
That’s not too bad, but it was still disappointing given that each one of their violations was things I covered. One student in particular, who had a very high plagiarism score because she had mostly copied and pasted her entire paper from two sources and had little original writing, complained to the professor. It was her first year teaching and she asked me if I could regrade this student’s paper. I flat out told her no.
Not only was she one of the worst offenders, but it wouldn’t be fair to the other students who I gave zeros to. Also, in my opinion, this was a very teachable moment to show the seriousness of plagiarism and she should be grateful it wasn’t an actual assignment that would hurt her grade. The professor ended up agreeing with me so I wrote the response email back to the student telling her exactly that. She dropped the issue.
#38 It Is Nobler Than It Sounds
For my college’s supplementary application, one of the questions was: “What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received?” One of my friends wrote about how his grandfather told him to appreciate small breasts on women, and all the ways they were superior. Like, I know my college is liberal, but I still wonder how he got in.
#39 Technically, They’re Not Wrong
I just started teaching and I have already had two really fun assignment answers. I asked my 17-year-old students in a beginner chemistry course how to find out if a beaker of water contains salt or not without tasting it. One kid suggested putting a freshwater fish in the beaker to see if it survived. Another student suggested putting her finger in the beaker and, if it burned, it must have salts in it as they ramp up the pH value of the water. How could she know about pH yet and not what salt is? And you should never put a finger in a solution you don’t know what is… ever!
#40 Nobody Should’ve Been Tricked By That, Let’s Be Real
I took a class called “Appreciation of Theater” in college and the professor would give us pop quizzes every couple of weeks. One week, we were covering Shakespeare, and the extra credit question on the pop quiz was: “Which American president was in office when Shakespeare was writing plays?” Two people answered Andrew Jackson and three people answered Lincoln. The professor was so mad.
#41 Good Things Happen To Those Who Actually Do What They’re Supposed To
I was a TA for a professor who gave me a standard rubric for grading. One student, who was known for not following rules, handed in his paper with no citations. According to the rubric, citations accounted for a quarter of his grade. I handed back the papers and I was expecting flack from him since most people had gotten A’s. He came up to me and said, “So if I had cited anything, I would’ve gotten a 99 instead of a 74?” I said, “Yup.” He nodded, then walked away with a vengeful smirk on his face. A few weeks later, on the next assignment, he caught me completely off-guard He got a 100 on his next paper. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS PEOPLE.
#42 Plants Are Polluting Everything
I got a paper from a high school sophomore about how we needed to ban greenhouses because they were causing global warming. It was hilarious to read, but I had to give him a bad grade because he had clearly failed to do sufficient research.
#43 Students Sabotaging Each Other Results In Hilarity
At high school in Biology class, our teacher would upload online exercises on a drive and share it with all the class for us to do them all, print them and give them back to her. She used to upload the answers of those exercises as well the night before the deadline so many people would just copy those answers the night before.
One day, a friend and I decided to upload our own answers to the drive in the same format our teacher did, sharing it to everyone in the class the afternoon before the deadline, so our made-up answers were online some hours before our teacher’s. On those answers, we wrote really absurd stuff like: What is a mitochondrion?
Then our answer was the sound the male deer made when mating (all of that stuff in good language). That’s just one example as the homework was two to three pages of questions. It worked perfectly. When our teacher finished correcting, she couldn’t help but laugh.
#44 Do Not Screw With Military School
This was for an Armored Troop Leader Course (learn to command a tank unit). Students are young officers who have finished their degree and have been through basic training. One student had a Blue Falcon moment. Not serious enough to trigger the punting him for lack of ethics, but bad enough to trigger initial counseling and generate some corrective training.
The student was assigned a 3,000-word essay on making ethical decisions. No computers in the field, so it was handwritten. And for some unfathomable reason, the student chose to write in alternating red and blue ink. First-line in blue, next line in red, repeat. When asked why, he said if we were going to waste his time, it might as well be pretty. He did not remain in the Armored Corps.
#45 Awkward Ancient Greek Drama
Last year, I taught the seminars for a course on Ancient Greek drama. Along with my exciting foray into the world of teaching came the experience that is marking essays. The students were asked to write an essay on an element of Aristophanes’ comedies. The recommended title (suggested to those not interested in petitioning me with an alternate essay topic) was a question on Aristophanes and political comments within his plays—given that this student did not put a title on their work, I assume that was the question that the student attempted to answer. Amongst the spelling mistakes and strange absence of all punctuation, there lay one line that I will never forget. Confusing Socrates with another, far less philosophically inspiring object, my student had written, “Aristophanes encourage audiences to laugh at sad philosophy Scrotum.”