Let’s be honest, it’s very VERY easy for a student to misinterpret an assignment from a teacher. Between class size, communication breakdown, and teachers being hungover 85% of the time they’re on the job it’s hard for students to get a clear understanding of what work needs to be done. The people in the stories below, well, they just bungled the ever living shit out of their assignments and it’s nothing short of hilarious.
Some people are more literal than others, some like to think way too far outside of the box, and this can result in a complete clusterfuck of failure. A bunch of teachers got together over on AskReddit to discuss the greatest ways their students had ever misinterpreted assignments, and the resulting stories have me weeping for the future of humanity. We’re headed for a state of Idiocracy and there’s nothing we can do to stop it…
When my bio teacher was in college the students were told to bring in a stool sample for analysis. Each student figured out to bring in a piece of their own crap in a baby food jar or similar small container. All except one student who shit it a 1.5 gallon glass jug. Just opening it emptied the room. The student, who may or may not have been fucking with everyone, then “accidentally” tipped his shit bomb onto the floor.
once we where told to all set up a sensible email that we could use for all university related application. Pretty easy and a useful homework. One guy though completely misunderstood how email worked. He travelled over an hour to visit a university he was applying to so that he could set up his email there as it looked better. He then thought he had to go back to that same computer every time he needed to check it. He believe it would only work on the computer he set it up on. No matter how much we told him he thought we where all making fun of him and where trying to get his identity stolen. For 2 years he did this I dont know what happened to him I like to think hes still there to this day.
Oo, thought of another one – 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’.
Told my students to write the essay question at the top of their page. Fully half the class wrote ‘The Essay Question’.
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.
Waaayyy back in high school, my teacher told us this story. Several years earlier, he’d been teaching an English class & 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.
Teacher:”Submit an assignment on “The Sun” next week.”
Student:”My parents won’t send me that far.”
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.
I was teaching a college history class and the students were assigned a book called Lieutenant Nun, about a woman who fled Spain for the new world dressed as a man and lived the rest of her life as a man. It’s about 100 pages and takes about an hour to read if you are focused.
One of my students bought the book online from half.com or something like that, and ended up reading 300 pages of dense feminist philosophy about gender roles in the 16th century. If nothing else he had some very interesting contributions to our discussion that day
For a professional writing class, I had an assignment where I had students set up a professional website using Wix. The point was to show them how easy doing that and then spending a small amount of money to host it under your own URL (which I didn’t require, I just showed them the steps) would give you a professional looking website. 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.
I was an English teacher in Japan, about 10 years ago. I worked with a Japanese person who was their primary teacher, I was mostly there to provide native pronunciations and to kinda make it more ‘fun’ I guess.
I rotated around to different locations, but the particular place I’m thinking of was a middle school second-or-third year class. Once every month or two, we’d do an in-class writing assignment. Usually they understood the prompt and the difficulty was in just expressing themselves in a foreign language. I get that; it’s hard.
This prompt was, “describe your perfect day.”
It’s meant to be about 4-5 sentences long. At the other teacher’s suggestion, I gave a sample of my perfect day, which was something like, “I went to Makuhari by train. I ate delicious steak at Outback Steakhouse. I met Yuki Kajiura. I asked her out and we went on a date.” You know, simple enough to understand but a little outlandish — I doubt composer Ms. Kajiura would actually want to date me — since it’s supposed to be “perfect”. (We talked a little in class about who she was, a lot of the kids were interested that she was the composer for Xenosaga/some .hack/Noir/etcetc. some didn’t care.)
A few kids got the gist of what they were supposed to write. The majority, though, just described… a day. I don’t know how this failed to get across, but I had responses like,
“I woke up at 7:53 am. I ate breakfast with rice.”
(actually I’m cleaning this up a bit, as I recall that one kid spelled it ‘bockfelst’, and ‘lice’. Gross, kid, don’t eat lice.)
“I woke up. I went to school. I went home. I did tax.”
(seriously kid, your perfect day is doing your taxes?)
Overall they were mostly pretty decent sentences I guess but I don’t know how they conceive of an utterly regular day as being “perfect”. It didn’t seem to be a cultural thing either; I conferred with the other teacher about this, she too thought it was weird.
Not a teacher, but the student. When I was in my first year of College, my writing class assignment was to write an objective essay regarding Dr. King’s movement. Being an idiot, and not thinking clearly, I thought the professor meant to be objective similar to a lawyer objecting something during a court case. In the end, I wrote a completely racist paper and received a 0. I had to explain myself to the dean the next day as well. I still cringe every time I think about that class.
Edit: I’m sorry guys but I can’t deliver. The paper was written about 5 years ago. All digital copies are gone and I’m sure all physical copies were burned the day they were read.
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.
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.
This one girl last year did an assignement on Hawaii, when the assignement was Iceland. She mixed up “Island” and “Iceland”, and thought she could choose any Island.
And because I’m a sharer I’ll tell you bros about the time I felt like the biggest fucking dumbass in the history of dumbasses…
The first time I encountered the word ‘euthanasia’ it was in a seminar-style class at some point in 8th grade, and the teacher must have said it about five times throughout the discussion, repeatedly asking for feedback from the class. Euthanasia wasn’t exactly a hot topic of discussion in the Anderson household, and I didn’t realize it meant ‘intentionally end someone’s life in order to relieve pain or suffering’. Eighth grade me thought the teacher was saying ‘youth in Asia’, and I was confused as hell about what we were even discussing. That is, without question, the worst I’ve ever bungled an assignment. I left the class that day eventually exposing myself for not having a goddamn clue as to what we were talking about, and even though it’s been well over a decade that’s not something I’m getting over any time soon. Youth in Asia…I’m such an idiot.