Oddly trivial things that impressed your teachers

In a high school English class once, my teacher had given a fascinating lecture on the various types of nouns, and assigned for homework a worksheet with a series of Mad-Libs style phrases where you had to insert the right kind of noun.

For example, “[Proper noun] threw the [concrete noun] with great [abstract noun].”

And you’d have to fill in something like “Bob threw the ball with great dexterity.” So, not even as fun as Mad Libs.

The last exercise in the set was, “[Abstract noun] is the [abstract noun] of [abstract noun].”

So I thought for about three nanoseconds and wrote down an answer.

The next day, we engaged in the harrowing schoolroom activity of going around the classroom so each student could read one of their answers aloud. The last question fell to me, so I looked at my paper and read my answer: “Courage is the foundation of honor.”

My teacher was completely taken aback, and quickly declared this to be the most brilliant and amazing answer to any grammar exercise in the history of man. He spent much of the rest of the period interrogating me as to how I came up with this.

“Uh, I just thought of it?”

“Who inspired your line of thinking in this case?”

“I dunno, sounds like something a Klingon would say, I guess.”
After school, I was walking back towards the dorm and saw my English teacher, who ran into another teacher of mine and started regaling him with tales of my brilliance, and how my unique perspective was influenced by the great Klingon philosophers…

The whole episode struck me as rather bizarre.

T(N) = n(n+1)/2, derived when the music teacher gave us the busy work of adding up the twelve days of Christmas. I felt special and smart. Until I found out that pretty much everybody who is a Christmas celebrating computer programmer/engineer had exactly the same experience.

My 4th grade teacher asked the class for the name of the old baseball player that cut the sleeves off his uniform due his large biceps.

I got it right - Ted Kluszewski. I have no idea how or why I knew that.

My geometry teacher enjoyed how staunchly I defended the four-color map principle against my classmates. (Same teacher to this day has his students use the abbreviation for “theorem” I invented, a capital T with a circle around it.)

I don’t know if the teacher was impressed or not, but back in first grade, our science class was covering basic plant biology. The teacher asked the class “What makes leaves turn colors?”

Being the baby Doper that I was, I’d been reading encyclopedias at home, and I knew the answer. I raised my hand, she called on me, and I started to explain that a thin layer of cork grew between the stem of the leave and the branch, and it restricted nutrition and water getting to the leaf, and as a result it turned colors and eventually died.

She looked at me with a funny look, and said like “Well, I suppose that’s true, but what’s another reason? Anyone else?”

Another kid raised his hand and was called on. His answer? “The leaves turn colors because winter is coming!” Teacher smiled. “Yup, that’s the right answer!” :smack:

Thus began a long history of pretending to be dumber than I really was when it came to public displays in the classroom.

In my 7th grade social studies class (this would have been around 1977), every Friday afternoon we played a trivia game called “Focus.” The teacher divided us up into teams and we answered questions based on current events. My team almost always won (I was really good at trivia). One time the question, which I no longer remember, had the answer “Sarah Bernhardt.” I think they spotted us the Sarah part, but my teacher was utterly amazed that I got that one. Honestly, it just popped into my head as a possible answer and I blurted it out. But it still felt good to be regarded with awe by not only the kids, but the teacher too–especially since it was a bonus question and got my team a whole bunch of points. :slight_smile:

In another example, my 10th grade English teacher was quite impressed when I suggested that evil had to exist because otherwise we’d have nothing to judge good against. I think this was during a discussion of “Moby Dick.”

In my early days of college, for a critical thinking class, my part of a group presentation was to demonstrate the difference between making a logical, well thought out decision versus jumping to a conclusion. I recorded two scenes from Monty Python And The Holy Grail and showed them to the class: the witch burning scene* and the killer rabbit scene. I’ve never seen a teacher laugh so hard. I got an A in that class - the only A I got in my I-don’t-really-care-about-college days.
*The assignment didn’t specify that the logic had to be sound.

Grade school english. Our teacher put into practice this little game at the beginning of each class; she’d offer the beginning of a quote and whoever could finish it would get extra credit or some shit.

First day, the quote was: “To err is human …”

So I put my hand up and responded, “… to forgive, divine.”

She was duly impressed with my Shakespearean knowledge.

I’d heard Ritchie say it to the Fonz earlier in the week.

Long ago, in a high school around the corner, we had a class called Modern Problems. Sort of a social studies/poly-sci class. The assignment was to use the 7 forms of propaganda in written form in a way that showed you knew what they meant. You know, ad hominem, appeal to authority, etc. But the instructor said it didn’t need to make any sense, just show that you can use them properly.

So I whipped up a masterpiece of one paragraph in about 15 minutes while the rest of the class spent the whole 2 hours on it and many still did not complete.

The paragraph was used as an expample of not only the proper use of the 7 forms, but the time saving results of following instructions. Everyone else was laboring to write an intelligent report while I nailed it with a paragraph of almost gibberish.

The instructor used mine as an example for several years after that.

Apparently I was the only 9th grade geometry student my teacher had ever had who had figured out how to use auxiliary lines in proofs before being taught.

I had to take a second science class in college, so after Bio I took Astronomy, not that I was all that interested in it. The teacher was asking some question about how you measure space (I don’t remember exactly how he phrased it) and no one was answering. He called on me, and my brain popped up the word ‘parsec’. He said, “Right! Now, what page is that on?” I said, “I have no idea. I got it off of Star Trek.” He was not happy.

In 10th grade, we had a religion assignment to make an illustrated version of a parable. I can’t draw a carrot, let alone Biblical figures, so at a family birthday party, I dressed up my cousins and aunts and uncles in bed sheet costumes and took photos as they acted out the parable of the Good Samaritan at my direction. (There was saran wrap covered with ketchup “blood” even.)

I glued the photos onto construction paper and bound it together in one of those plastic binder sleeves, and my teacher absolutely raved about it.

When I saw my classmates’ crayoned and magic markered offerings, all on single sheets of paper, I could see why. I went waaaay over and above.

In 8th-grade Social Studies, we had been studying Jane Goodall and her Amazing Chimps (I know … great band name!). Ms. Goodall had shocked the world when she reported that she had observed chimpanzees from one group lying in wait for chimpanzees from another group, and then attacking them. The astonishment was that up to that point, it had been supposed that only humans would commit premeditated murder.

On the final test, there was an essay question about some of the similarities Jane Goodall had observed between chimpanzees and humans.

I answered, “Chimpanzees have been shown to engage in guerrilla warfare,” and then went on to describe it.

The teacher gave me extra credit for the pun.

Does graduate school count?

One day I was in the lab, when in comes the boss with a visitor, a friend from Germany. They tell me that they had met 11 years prior at Yale, where my boss was working in his PhD; the German had gone there on a NATO-sponsored “researchers exchange program”. It’s a pretty sweet deal, NATO has to dedicate a large % of its research budget to non-military stuff and they figured out that this was a good way to do it. Instead of the usual financing process, where you have to convince some people you never get to meet that the research you want to do is worth financing, you basically have to write a letter saying “we’re Dr. A working in NATOmembercountry1 and Dr. B in NATOmembercountry2 and we’d like to exchange our students C and D.” The money isn’t a lot, at the time it basically paid for the plane tickets.

Thinking out loud, I said “oh, that’s nice, and being an exchange means that if the German student came here and one of us went there at the same time, they could exchange rooms as well, so there isn’t even a need to look for an apartment and you don’t need to pay double rent to make sure you keep your room here… uh, what? What have I said?”

They had been part of the program for 11 years, but the idea of switching beds as well as lab benches had never occurred to them.

Average length of stay for that program, at the time (I imagine it must have gotten better by now as the idea spread): 4 weeks. By the way, that’s also how long it took for me to get an email account in Germany, I was doing computer Chemistry, and the paperwork to request necessary computer access couldn’t even be started until the email had been assigned; under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been able to do bupkis.

Time I spent in Germany: 11 weeks, followed by 1 week at home.

When I was in college in a programming course, we were taught (in a textbook, no less) how to convert hexideicmal to decimal by using binary as an intermediary. Having already written a few programs in my time and being an ubergeek, I couldn’t understand the need for such nonsense, so I asked them why they didn’t just convert straight from hex to decimal and back, something I’d been doing for years by then using a simple mathematical formula. The profs were apparently unaware how to do such a thing, since the books certainly didn’t explain it, so they bade me write a paper explaining it. So I did.

I still don’t know how they didn’t know this.

It’s probably just as well for her that she was impressed, since the phrase was actually from Alexander Pope, not Shakespeare, although the idea goes back to antiquity.[/nitpick]

I had a grad school professor (teaching database development) who was shocked I knew who Ignaz Semmelweis was. I assumed everybody knew. My mother was a obstetrics nurse and considered him a personal hero.

A few years ago, I was typing on one of my Philosophy department’s computers.

One of my favorite professors was sitting next to me reading his email or something.

After several minutes, he turned to me and said, absolutely sincerely, “Kris, wow, I’m impressed.”


“I can’t believe how fast you can type.”

I was always a lazy student. I started college after my term in the Air Force. While still lazy, I was more interested in the stuff I was being asked to learn.

The USAF was paying for me, my husband and my son to live, as well as school, and all I had to do was carry at least 15 hours. I also worked a few hours a week in the microbiology lab, doing class prep. Occasionally I’d help with other labs.

By my last year, I’d taken most the science classes offered, so, to round out my 15 hours, I took a 3 hour Ecology course. The proffessor was one I’d helped a few times. My boss was also his boss.

It was spring. It was late afternoon. There were only 9 people in the class. I fell asleep every day, and every day the prof told me how much he’d hate to explain to our boss he’d failed me.

At the beginning of the semester, he assigned a final paper that was based on 7 field trips. We were supposed to take voluminous notes, draw graphs, take or draw pictures. We were expected to produce at least 30 pages. We were to work on it everyday.

I started two nights before it was due. I made the graphs and drawings from memory. The only notes I’d taken were a few measurements.
A week after I turned it in, I was called into the office. I was sure he had called me in to tell me I’d failed the class.

What he wanted was to keep the damn paper to use as an example for upcoming classes.
I started to tell him how shoddy the work really was, but he just shushed me, saying he didn’t want to ruin the illusion that he’d actually taught me something.

My sophomore history teacher was impressed that I knew who the Governor General of Canada was (Ray Hnatyshyn, at the time.) I guess I was the only student in any of his classes that knew.