Students: The dumb, the awful and the plagiarizers. Part 2

Carrying on from where I left off last week, here is Part 2 of the craziest things I’ve seen in my 10 years of teaching. Again, this in no way negates all the terrific students I’ve had in my classes but I hope you get a chuckle out of some of those who were less than terrific.

1. I teach journalism. I will repeat for emphasis: journalism. I ask my class every year what news sources they read. One student told me he doesn’t care what’s happening in the world, he just wants to be a journalist. Another said she doesn’t read the news because she prefers to be happy. I was too stunned to answer.

2. A student in a first-year writing class repeatedly fell asleep in my 8 a.m. class. I called him up one day and demanded to know why. He said, “I signed up for the wrong program by accident. My mom won’t let me drop out because she says I will play video games all day. So she makes me come to school.” Shock of all shocks, he failed.

3.  I spend a lot of time in reporting classes talking about the importance of proper spelling and grammar and using Canadian Press style. Most of it feels in vain. I do an in-class exercise where I show sentences riddled with errors and ask students to find them. One student confidently raised his hand to tell me “Friday” was a problem. “Days of the week don’t have to be capitalized,” he said.

4. A student in a university news writing class said she wanted to write an obituary about her great-grandmother for her feature assignment. I told her it had to be written without her in it, no first person, and only through the words of others. She wrote it mostly like a death notice in the classifieds but included quotes from HERSELF. Those were the only quotes. She got 11/100 and I felt that I was being generous.


5. One of my colleagues had a student rip an entire quote, word-for-word from a newspaper story and thought it was OK because it was “obviously something he said.”

6. That teacher also had a student who interviewed her landlady and then had the landlady write that portion of the story “because she knew what she wanted to say.”

7. Another colleague shared this gem: “I gave out the in-class assignment about writing a news story from a handout fact sheet about the 5Ws of a traffic accident. I think it was a hit and run. One young man spent the entire two hours labouring over his laptop and was the last to leave. When he printed it out it was seven or 10 pages long. He had written a long, twisted, embellished, fictionalized account of the incident, complete with filling in made up survivors and their names and backstories, made up quotes, along with a hand-drawn geometric diagram about how they were all related and where they were at the time of the accident. Yikes.”

8. That colleague also had a student miss a final exam who then came in to explain that he "had a girlfriend, a part-time job and played in a band" but had found a window when it would be convenient for a retake. He didn’t get one.

9. Some students work harder on their excuses than their work. One student would send an email the day after every deadline saying, "Did you get the assignment I emailed you?" For every instructor it played out the same way. No assignment was ever emailed, fictitious trips to IT were required, the hard-drive was fried, the program was corrupted, parts were needed for repair ... lather, rinse, repeat all semester.

10. Another colleague sent two students to cover an athletic banquet and told them to bring back "lots of photos.” Every shot they returned with was a selfie of them eating and drinking and sitting at the table but not one of another attendee. Ah, millennials.

– Meredith MacLeod

If you're a teacher and have some funny stories to share, I'd love to hear them in the comments below.