“All my life I’ve had one dream: to achieve my many goals.”—Homer Simpson.
Like death and taxes, homework is one of those things that can’t be avoided. But sometimes the hardest part isn’t completing the assignment itself. Just when a student thinks they’ve got everything checked off and the weekend can begin, pressing “Send” without abject humiliation proves to be easier said than done. From unfortunate attachments to pranks in the margins, there are no limits to the horror of homework.
Reddit asked teachers to share the worst things sent to them in assignments. Both professors and students alike stepped up to confess tales of getting too personal in the subject line or literally exposing themselves via flash drive. Who knew that getting course credit could be so dangerous to one’s self-respect? Double-check that file name for swears and then enjoy these 42 shocking stories about the worst things sent in as homework.
42. I Just Can’t Put My Name On It…
I once received a submission from a student that had another student’s name on it from the year before. They didn’t even bother to update that during their plagiarism…
41. Google Me This
I used to teach German. A lot of students don’t understand how obvious it is when they use Google Translate. But this one submission really stood out.
The assignment was just a typical weekly journal entry submitted online. I started reading this one kid’s submission and pretty quickly realized that he had written everything in Google Translate…and translated it into Dutch. Not Deutsch. The kid turned in an assignment in the completely wrong language.
40. The Pre-Bald Truth
Picture of me with hair.
39. On the Ropes
This was one I turned in and it wasn’t accidental, just a mess-up because I couldn’t manage my time.
This was in a 200-level English Lit survey course. The TA had asked for an outline for the first paper that was due in a week. I had always been able to spew out an essay, and never outlined anything, particularly not for a 3-5-page essay.
I was just walking back into my room to take a shower after a lunch shift in the cafeteria cooking burgers on the grill. I was coated in grease. And then, I remembered: in 40 minutes I was supposed to turn in an outline for a paper due in a week and I had no idea what I was going to say.
There would be no shower.
I fired up the computer and sat down and ended up writing a one-page affronted diatribe at the idea of forcing an outline in a sophomore level college course and explaining that there was no need for me to outline a short paper a week before it was due.
I go to class, stinking of stale hamburger and turn it in, already regretting it.
The only comment when I got it back was something along the lines of, “Well excuse me for offending your sensibilities! I look forward to reading your paper.”
In the end, it was a good thing. I put more effort into that paper than I normally did.
Before handing back the papers, the TA expressed extreme disappointment at the quality of our work. A number of people failed. There was only one A and no B’s awarded. I got this sinking feeling, particularly knowing how I’d pissed her off with the outline. She said that anyone who wanted to rewrite it could do so and wipe out this first grade.
Then she handed back the papers.
I had the one A.
Had I not screwed up the outline assignment, I would not have put the effort needed to get an A on it.
38. Technically Double Jeopardy
I had a student turn in a paper that was almost 100% plagiarized. It was just an obvious Ctrl+C-Ctrl+V job. I confronted her about it and she claimed she had no idea it was plagiarized. I said “Really?! You didn’t know it was plagiarized?!” She said, “Well, I mean, it’s not like I plagiarized it myself…” She had had a friend write her paper, and her friend screwed her over.
37. Now for an Intermission
I was the student. I printed my assignment at work. Someone else’s email got printed in the middle of it. I didn’t check before submitting. It looked so darn out of place halfway through the nicely bound booklet. The slight drop in grade was well worth the years of laughter about it.
36. More Power to You
A friend of mine accidentally put his electric bill in the middle of a long political science paper in College. The professor simply wrote “I hope you paid this on time” with a couple question marks on it.
35. Lost in Translation
Not a teacher, but I once sent in my Spanish HW to my history class by accident. I got it back saying “Muy Mal. –Señor Bob.”
34. The Only Limit Is Your GPA and Imagination
The teacher I was the TA for once told me that instead of a social essay, a person sent in their triple-x-rated fan fiction.
33. Songs of the Heart
My college roommate wrote poetry. Her assignment started with a B, but she sent her poem titled “Backseat Love” to her professor on accident. Very erotic poem. Noticed immediately and frantically ran to his office and supposedly caught him before he opened it. Made him delete it. She was a mess for a week after that, though.
32. Who Could Hate Mondays?
Nothing too strange. Last year I had a couple, one was a Garfield meme and the other was a photoshopped picture of Theresa May wearing a snapback. Pretty sure they were both intentional though.
31. Sweet Gesture
Not by accident, but I got a good laugh when a particularly challenging student thanked me for the course and included a picture of a cake that said, “Thanks for tolerating me.”
30. Extra Credit for Savings?
One time I printed off an essay in a hurry and grabbed all the paper that was on the tray. I was still living at home at the time. Got my essay back a couple weeks later and flipped through it and realized I’d included multiple pages of grocery store coupons/flyers that my dad had printed. Professor made no comment on it, but I felt so silly.
29. A Purr-Fect Grade
I sent in a hastily written (late maybe?) essay for my jazz history class with a picture of my cat attached. He now apparently uses it as an example of a good essay, cat picture and all.
28. Student Feedback
My roommate emailed our prof an assignment that had been extremely confusing and a waste of time. She had named the file “Dumb” and forgot to change it. Prof emailed back like “Interesting file name” and still gave her a fair grade for it. We thought it was hilarious.
27. Everything Is Better in the Browser
The weirdest thing, to me, is when students copy and paste their entire paper in the email instead of sending an attached file. Seriously? In 2018?
26. The Law of Primates
Somewhat relevant story. I worked as a graduate assistant for a university for their history department. I was basically a glorified paper grader, but I enjoyed it and it paid pretty well. Students had to write a 2-3-page paper on the Code of Hammurabi. One person wrote a paper on Harambe.
25. The Real PowerPoint Is Self-Confidence
I once sent out a picture of myself instead of my presentation.
24. The Quantum Dynamics of Bless You
I was texting my friend about the weird fact that I sneeze constantly when aroused. I hit the wrong chat box and actually texted it to my online physics teacher. To this day, I’m mortified.
23. The Sweet Taste of Course Credit
Not a teacher, but the idiot who did it…I once got thanked for the recipe. I printed out my paper in college and didn’t realize my mother’s recipe was stapled to the back. Got an A and a “Thanks for the recipe, it was delicious!”
22. The Real Test Is Motherhood
A student had her water break on her assignment. Turned it in. Did not touch it, gave 100% credit.
21. Barbie’s Nightmare House
I’m a student, but I once sent my friend an email with a pic of a few dolls attached, with a question like, “What weird stuff should I do to these? I’m thinking of hanging them from my ceiling on tiny nooses.”
Looked at it again a few minutes after sending and realized I’d hit the wrong email in autofill and sent it to a teacher with the same first initial. I apologized quickly. He didn’t respond.
20. Wash Your Hands Before You Grade
I turned in physics homework that my dog peed on because I didn’t have enough time to redo it, and the teacher was eating nachos while grading it.
19. The Fat Wookie Sung But No One Heard
I once pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper during exams week, my brain was so fried. My roommate had been helping me edit it, so I was giving different versions different titles.
The version I ending up submitting was entitled, “itsnotoveruntilthefatwookiesings.docx.” Roommate noticed it right after I sent it. I about died then slept for 4 hours.
Professor never said a word. I can only hope they too were so burnt out they didn’t care.
18. Always Thinking Ahead
An unfinished term paper that had directions to a kegger written on the back.
17. An “A” for Enthusiasm
Once I sent some gay Supernatural fanfiction I’d been writing instead of my English final paper. It was awkward. It was 11th grade, all I can do is cringe.
16. What Do I Roll to Ace This Assignment?
I once sent in a little over a dozen pages worth of D&D notes for a campaign I was running instead of a presentation on peyote for my health class. Nothing bad happened, but my teacher laughed for a bit before telling me what happened.
15. Cat Memes Helped Me Graduate
Went to submit the file for my senior paper before graduating high school and it was 3 am, and I had a terribly slow computer. I was filling out the submission process and hit “add file,” and it had the option to check multiple files.
As I was tired and frustrated, I hit the file with my paper over and over, and as it was uploading my computer sorta froze for a bit. I kept trying to scroll up and down while furiously clicking because I wanted to sleep, and then it said it sent, so I went to bed only to discover when re-checking in the morning that I had also sent pictures of weird cats, like the one with a cat in tinfoil with butter on it or the cat being eaten by that weird blowup fish, etc.
Turns out my literature teacher was a 70-year-old man who enjoyed memes, and he actually noted on the paper when he printed and returned them, “Was a bad paper but you’re graduating so here’s a 90, thanks for the laugh.” I’ve never been so relieved and offended at the same time.
14. I Like Big PowerPoints and I Cannot Lie
Once I had a presentation in class and had my PowerPoint on a thumb drive. I plug in the thumb drive and while the projector is displaying everything on the screen, I click around looking for my thumb drive on the computer when I scroll to something that just says, “I Like Butts.”
I remembered my girlfriend messing with my computer earlier in the week and opened that and then my presentation as quickly as possible. I think my professor noticed because I saw her smirking, or maybe I imagined it.
13. Justice League: Iambic Pentameter
I’m a student, but in my creative writing class in high school, I accidentally submitted my rewrite of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice instead of a deep poem. Luckily, I realized my mistake as soon as I submitted and submitted my poem right after with an apologetic comment.
12. Tenured Enough to Get Carded
Guy I went to college with sent his fake ID information in a PDF instead of a presentation. Professor made him pull it up in front of the class, it was hilarious.
11. Don’t Go With Your Gut
I taught a sociology course a few years ago and had a student submit an assignment with, “Screw you, you sexist witch” as the response to a question. When I asked her about it later, she told me that she often writes in her initial responses or thoughts about questions, and she must have forgotten to delete/change this one!
10. Nothing to Hide
I was the graduate student teaching assistant, and I was assisting my advisor in an undergraduate statistics lab.
I was helping a student when my advisor walked up to me, flustered and red in the face. He pointed at a woman sitting across the lab and said, “Could you please go help that student find her syntax file, and for God’s sake teach her to put her files into folders!!”
I walked over and looked at the student’s flash drive where she had saved her syntax file. It was full of nude photos of her. Like, all the thumbnails were clearly visible. I helped her search for the correct file extension and then we had a chat about folders.
9. Too Cute to Fail
My student sent me pics of her new puppy by mistake. Cuteness overload. It made my day lol.
8. Double Dare Me to Translate
A little late but there is no way anyone has this beat.
I am a Spanish teacher. I used to have this “Select-Your-Project” assignment where I had like 50 mini-projects that each had individual point values possible. They had to do 10 points worth of projects to get full credit. One of the 1-point projects was to find a Hispanic recipe in Spanish and translate the recipe into English. To make it a 5-point project, you could cook it and bring it to class.
So this kid turns in what I can only summarize as the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in 11 years of teaching. Literally, nothing was correct. First off, he didn’t find a recipe in Spanish; it was in English. Second, the recipe wasn’t Hispanic; it contained Spanish rice and was some goofy non-ethnic cuisine. Lastly, and most egregiously, he knew he was supposed to translate it, and he wasn’t sure what to do since it was already in English, so his genius solution was to go to Google Translate and translate it into Chinese.
I was sitting there staring at these Chinese characters and looking at him and then back to the paper, then back to him again. I asked him what he could have possibly been thinking, and he started crying, saying that it was too confusing.
Oh, and he also didn’t turn in any of the other projects, so he would’ve only gotten 1 point out of the 10 anyway.
7. At Least He Asked
I accidentally submitted the lyrics to Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” instead of my physics homework. I had just written them because I was bored and had time to kill.
When the professor handed the homework back, he wrote on my paper “Are you ok? Do we need to talk?” Which was nice and all, but I darn near died of embarrassment. It still bothered me intensely for like eight years afterward.
6. B for BBQ
I had a take-home midterm for Spanish class. It was a huge packet that was all hand-written. The night before it’s due, I was reviewing it in the kitchen where my mom had been cooking dinner.
I stupidly tossed it down on the stove after reviewing, not realizing the burner was hot. It burned a coil pattern halfway through the packet. I turned in the charred packet anyway and my teacher just laughed and showed the whole class. I was embarrassed but still got a B.
5. Accepted With Some Revisions
In college, I left a paper I had finished writing open on my laptop and went out for the night.
Next morning before class, I printed the paper and handed it in.
Got it back a couple weeks later covered in red pen with stuff like “butts” and different words for male anatomy circled throughout the paper, and my prof had written “roommates got to this?” at the top of the first page.
4. Withdrawal From the Spank Bank
Had a student plug in their USB drive to pull up a presentation. The guy opened the wrong folder and dozens of dirty video icons were suddenly projected on the screen for the whole class to see. Now I cover the LCD until I can see what is going to be projected.
3. The Caped Ctrl+F Crusader
A friend in college changed every instance of the word man into “Batman” in one of my papers. I noticed and did a find and replace for every instance of “Batman.” I didn’t anticipate there being “Batmen” as well.
2. Slack to the Future
Kind of related. My senior year of high school, we had one assignment where we had to write a letter to our future selves and our teacher would wait 5 years and send them out. I got my letter this year and got all excited to read what I had written.
Imagine my surprise when I opened it and there were two pieces of scratch paper. I had totally forgotten until that moment that as a perennial slacker in high school, I hadn’t actually done the assignment and just turned in a sealed envelope with two random papers… the only thing I wrote on the paper was “I hope you don’t procrastinate anymore” and the year with my name. I played myself.
1. Kindergarten Horror Story
When I was 5, the teacher asked us to write something about our weekend.
My mother had had a miscarriage that weekend. Since I had heard panicked shouting from their bedroom, I had toddled in there to see what the fuss was about. I saw a grisly scene involving blood-soaked sheets and unhappy faces. My parents spun me a bizarre lie about my mom not feeling well that attempted to explain what I was looking at.
For the assignment I wrote down my naive version of events, filling in the details with my confident “knowledge” of human reproduction and adult language.
My poor teacher was so shocked, she called my parents in immediately to confront them. It was probably the most messed up story of all time. Imagine skimming through twenty vignettes about lemonade-stands and tree-houses, and then finding this scene from The Exorcist, written from the perspective of an oblivious child.