Professor Writer

The Wonderful Student- Who Did Nothing

It’s December 1st, and the semester is winding down. Wednesday will be the last day of regular classes before exams begin.

Around this time of year, we faculty members tend to huddle in little groups around our doors, in our offices, near the lounge and copier to talk for a quick minute (no one has longer to spare). We talk about our semester, finals, plans for the holidays. We occasionally share a little about a particular class.

There’s variety, mainly, but a strange phenomenon repeats itself.

Every year, from different teachers, in different subjects, I hear about yet another student who was bright, engaged, and wonderful in class- who is absolutely going to fail.

“They just never turned anything in,” the teachers say.

I’ve experienced it more than once, myself.

In the beginning:

A bright student comes to class having both read and understood the homework reading. He or she contributes actively to the class discussion, and is treated with respect by his/her classmates.

The other students want this student in their group for projects. Conversation droops during his or her rare absence.

A little later:

Me: I didn’t get your assignment. What could be the matter?

Student: (laughing) Oh, I must have forgot to turn that in. I’ll get it to you right away.

(Nothing ever comes.)

A little later:

Me: Since I’ve never received any of these assignments from you, even if your next assignments are perfect, you will be lucky to pass.

Student: Of course. So sorry about that. There will be nothing but perfection from now on.

And finally:

Me: (sends official notice that there’s no longer hope of passing the class.)

Student: (still shows up and does a wonderful job supporting his or her group members for the final presentation.)


I don’t know why it happens, but every teacher I know has experienced this student phenomenon in some form or another.

Some students linger in a teacher’s memory; They’re easy to remember, for this or that reason, but the wonderful students who did nothing have left a particular weight on my shoulders.

Maybe they were scared to show their written work.

Maybe they had something going on that deterred them.

Who knows?

They were like ghosts in the room- we perceived them, but they left no trace.


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