Learning Lessons the Hard Way

A not-so-funny thing happened when I saw one of my student’s Web assignments. I read the word “sh!t” in it. I’m not kidding. (It was actually spelled out, though.) Can you believe that?? Just to make sure what the student’s intentions were, I even substituted it for “stuff” and it still made sense! Dumbfounded as to why a student would think that it was OK to turn in an assignment with an expletive in it, I decided to have the student stay after class to explain.

I could tell that the student was nervous. I mean, who wouldn’t be? This was the second time I’ve had to call the student out on unacceptable behavior. So I showed the student the passage with the word in it. I asked the student to find the mistake. The student then said, “I don’t see it.”

that girl: Really? Read it again.
student: I’m not sure… I don’t see anything.
that girl: Are you playing with me?
student [clearly flustered]:
No, I promise. I’m not.
that girl: OK. Let me highlight it for you.

Once it was pointed out, the student let out an audible gasp.

student: Oh my gosh! I’m so embarrassed! I can’t believe I did that.
that girl: Mmm. Hmm.
student: That was supposed to be “shot.”
that girl: Mmm. Hmm. So what kind of lesson have we learned here?
student: This is terrible.
that girl: Yes, it is. I suppose you need to learn to read over your work more carefully. Clearly you did not take the time to read your work, did you?
student: I can’t believe I used the s-word in an assignment.
that girl: Yeah, try substituting that word with “stuff.” See how it still makes sense?… Do you understand how mortified I was to read this, especially since I had just emailed people, including my boss, the link to our website?
student: I’m so sorry.
that girl: Well, now you have a story to tell your friends, share your embarrassment and teach them the lesson you have learned.
student: I’m so sorry. I promise that I will read over my work in the future.
that girl: You bet you will. Your slate is clear, but if I catch a mistake like this again, you will be on the top of that list you accidentally wrote out, if you know what I mean.


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