24 Teachers Share Stories Of The Most Disturbing Essays Ever Submitted By Their Students
Are you ready for some disturbing tales? Teachers open up about the most troubling, embarrassing, and even frightening essays ever submitted by their students.
“My life at this moment”
English teacher here. Had an 8th grade student write a “My life at this moment” letter to themselves that they write at the beginning of the year, and read to themselves at the end. I always have a rule that they get full credit if I can just see writing on it and see it’s coherent English. Though if they definitely don’t want me to read it, they should staple it and I’ll just look for writing. I had a girl who went over the top to look, act, sound, and be a boy. She wasn’t trans, so I was a bit confused on how exactly she wanted to be viewed, so I just pretended she was tomboy-ish. She was also INSANELY defiant to her male teachers, and I worked my ass off to build a relationship with her. She wouldn’t have it, though I was as kind as I could be.
Anyway, the time of year came for me to pass back their letters. By this time, this girl had been moved to a digital learning lab and had been isolated from the Gen Pop. I passed all the letters out and found hers had been left unstapled, though I didnt remember reading it or noticing it wasn’t sealed. Curiosity overcame me so I opened it.
My heart broke when I read her rather detailed desire to be away from her step-dad by the end of the year and her goal for that year was to “Escape the godforsaken hell hole”. Long story short, that letter ended up being used in court to put her step-dad away for raping her viciously for many years. I felt bad for her, but hopefully she’s been able to move on, though I doubt it. They description was pretty rough of what he did to her.
Poetry For The People
I would like to tell a story on behalf of my high school creative writing teacher, because I know how much she hated one of my projects because she refused to display it with everyone else’s:
We had an assignment to write a poem from the perspective of a person facing a difficult life choice. We were to display our poem three dimensionally, however we liked (written on a pyramid, words hanging from mobile, etc etc). I decided I wanted to write a poem about a man during the The Blitz who abandons his family in terror and runs out into the night to die in the bombing. The poem (that I still remember, word for word, two fucking decades later) is as follows:
The smile that rests upon my face
shows not of my fallen grace.
You see, the Hell I was exposed
that caused my fearful juxtapose
caused me to leave my family
and save myself in time of need.
I am the doorstop to the grave
my Hellbent path forever paved.
I then took this clearly deranged poem and scribbled it in black marker in concentric circles around a very realistic plastic skull I had bought for the occasion. And I gave this crime against nature to my very nice, very liberal creative writing teacher who wondered why she had chosen to create this assignment in the first place. She gave me an A and refused to display it with the rest of the normal class projects, clearly the best decision for everyone involved.
College Level = Mind Blown
I’m an online writing tutor for a company that many big universities tell their students to use. I recently completed a mark-up on an essay written by a student in a philosophy class. They had to tell an incident that happened to them and compare it to an ancient philosopher. This girl seriously wrote about a time she did an accidental hit and run on a car and didn’t so much as leave a note. She wrote that philosophically, this was the best case scenario because it served as a catalyst for the happiness of the greater subset of people involved. This was because she only had a learner’s permit, so it was better for her to not get in trouble, and she had 3 other friends in the car whose time would have been wasted when they were just trying to get to the club. And it was really fine for the other person because they should have insurance, so everyone wins. This was a real essay. College level. Mind blown.
Emotional Story By A Refugee
I used to teach refugees in Boston, and there were a lot of casual segways into like, the death of their entire family. Assignment would be something like “compare dis character’s strugg to ur strugg” and my students would be like “yes, in this book, Gatsby believes he can get what he wants with money, but he fails. I relate to this because of the time I tried to bribe the guards to get my family out of a prison camp but instead they shot us all and I spent 4 days lying under the bodies of my children pretending to be dead. This has been my report on the Great Gatsby by John f Fitzgerald, thank you”
I worked with my 8th graders to do a research project titled “College Bound” where they looked up information on the college they would one day like to attend after high school. As expected, most of the athletes selected big name universities with strong football/basketball/baseball teams. One of the items they had to present was what they wanted to major in. Almost every male athlete I had responded with they wanted to major in a specific sport. When I pointed out to the first presenter that you cannot major in football, they all tried to argue it with me. The sole basis for their argument was “How do you think professional football/basketball/baseball players come from?” They continued to believe they could major in a sport even after they were told by everyone (including their coaches) and they looked up lists that such a major did not exist.
In my first period math class, I had this student who gave me a lot of trouble. She had a bad attitude, hated math and would just generally be super sassy. But her friend, also in the same class, liked me and was helping to temper the attitude a bit. One day, I let them start their homework early and these two wave me over. I go over thinking they are going to ask for help with the math and instead the girl with an attitude presents me with a paper full of words and asks me if this poem seems bad. Her friend looks at me and says it’s concerning. So the two of them are going back and forth about “it’s just a poem!” “but what you wrote is still scary. I’m scared for you” “it’s just words, I don’t necessarily feel that way!”
So as I’m listening to them, I start reading this poem that the attitude girl had written for an English assignment. The poem talked about being unhappy with her life and not being sure she wanted to be here anymore. I agreed with her friend that it was kind of concerning and gave the paper back. Later that day when I had a free moment, I stopped by the counselors office and talked to her counselor about the poem. The counselor had a talk with her the next day. And you know what? After that, the girl had a lot less attitude in my class. So I think even though she denied feeling the way she described in the poem, it was helpful for it to be reported to a counselor.
I have no idea, though, if she ever turned the poem in to her english teacher. Hah.
An Annual Scary Story Contest
8th grade English here.
I do an annual scary story contest and damn, eighth graders can get nasty. One story was about a family meat processing business, and when the kids are old enough, they learn the family secret which is, of course, that they butcher humans for their signature meat. Another one was about some teenagers camping and the windigo got them. The detail was amazing though… blood spattered over their tents, etc however, I have gotten plenty of extremely sad stories. We do a memoir about a “moment when time stood still” and there have been many stories about CPS coming to take kids away, or parents going to jail. One student was in a car accident which took his grandpas life.
It’s Confession Time
I’m an English teacher and I’ve had a ton of these. I even have instances where, instead of actually writing the assignment or assessment, they go on a long confession. There’s something about me as a teacher — lots of my students wind up telling me some pretty disturbing things.
Once I had students write on the prompt: “write about your biggest fear.” One student, who’d been in Thai refugee camps (as had much of the class), wrote about being in camps and being afraid to use the bathroom at night because he was worried he or his brothers would get shot. He then ended the essay, almost as an afterthought, with, “I am also afraid of taking tests.”
I had another student who wrote an essay about her boyfriend breaking up with her and how she “doesn’t want to be here anymore.”
Another student wrote an essay about starvation and its effect on the body, complete with graphic details about death from starvation.
Another student wrote about her mom’s new boyfriend and how she didn’t like him because he would “look at her all the time.” This student’s English wasn’t great, but when I talked to her, I found out she meant that he was watching her while she was getting dressed in her room.
Another student wrote a detailed and accurate description of the history of the AK47, which I suppose isn’t disturbing in and of itself, but I am still keeping an eye on this particular kid.
13 Reasons Why
I teach English and ENL. One of my major assignments I give to my students in the beginning of the year is a realistic fiction short story. One particular student submitted his realistic fiction story about surviving a rape. It was quite vivid and detailed which made it difficult to read. When I pulled him aside and asked him about it he just said it was a story and shrugged it off. I told the admin and tried to get the guidance counselors to talk to him about it but it just made him resistant to speaking and discussing about it. In the end, he was just emulating what he saw on Netflix’s at the time and wanted to write in the perspective of a rape survivor after watching 13 reasons why. Smart kid but that story was very difficult to read through due to the nature and details that were presented in his work.
A Sentence Or Two
I used to teach kinder and asked students to draw and write a sentence or two about their week to turn in as homework. One girl turned in a drawing that she later told me her mother had sent her from prison. I don’t remember the exact phrasing anymore but it had a lot of phrases like “you’re ugly”, “you’re dumb, I don’t miss you”, and “stupid girl”. She was so happy to turn it in, I don’t think she had any idea what it really said and only knew her mother had send it to her.
I was teaching a Year 9 class (13/14 year olds). We had spent a few weeks on creative writing skills and their final assessment was to write a piece with the title ‘Trapped’. Most kids wrote about being in prison, or trapped on a mountain side or something, but one girl wrote about being trapped in a bedroom while her dad molested her. It was quite graphic and some of the things she said just seemed too real. I really didn’t think it was made up. I went to see the school’s safeguarding officer who made copies of the piece, but said that I had to give feedback as normal and not to tell the girl that I’d escalated it. I found this really hard, as I thought that it was probably a cry for help and she was reaching out to me, and I hated that she might think I’d completely missed it and just treated it as a normal story.
The police and social services were involved and it turned out that the story was true. The girl and her five siblings were removed from the home and placed into care. It also turned out that her parents were having a lot of parties, and were allowing her to be abused by other people.
I left that school a few months later. In the following years, I got married and had a baby. A couple of months ago I was collecting my daughter from daycare and the girl from my class was on a college placement there! She’s 18 now and getting her qualifications in childcare. She looks well and seems happy. It was so good to see her. So glad she got out.
“Dear Mom and Dad…”
I taught English in Korea for a short time to 5-7 year olds, and one of the kids was literally the sweetest little human. Big heart, wiped tears from his classmate’s cheeks when they were upset, and always strove to use English whenever he could. Altogether a really good kid.
His birthday came around, and all of the students in his class wrote birthday letters to him which would then be laminated and presented to him as a book. While we did that, this student wrote a letter to his parents, and what he wrote absolutely broke my heart.
“Dear Mom and Dad,
Please come back please. I loves you.”
Picture of the letter: https://ibb.co/4KmB5jb
I later found out that both of his parents worked overseas frequently, and he lived with his grandmother. He only saw them once a year or so. My heart. Poor, sweet child. I think of him often.
“It started pretty mild…”
I once had to write up a middle school student (I don’t remember for what, but it was serious since I hate writing up) and they turned in their assignment for that day with none of it done. In its place was a half page description of all the things their dad would do to them if he found out they were written up again. It started pretty mild (say, take the phone away) to more serious things like no food or water.
By the time I saw it, they were already out the door so I hopped over to the councilor and let them have a copy of it. Not sure what happened after that since it was out of my hands, and I’m not sure if it was even true or not (they tended to be over-dramatic and stretch the truth in class), but I took it very seriously! I’ve definitely been more purposeful and welcoming in my interactions with them from here on out. Got to make sure that the classroom is a safe and good place for them.
I was working with a small group of Year 7 students, and we did this exercise where the kids had to create a story using a randomly assigned setting, character and theme. So this one boy ends up with a war-zone, a princess and unrequited love. He proceeded to turn these innocuous prompts into a hilariously messed-up story.
Set during World War 2, it’s told from the perspective of the Princess of the UK, who wakes up on a battlefield to find Nazis shooting her. Suddenly someone behind her kills her attackers. She turns around to see her rescuer – and it’s Hitler. In fear, she runs into a medical tent, Hitler in close pursuit. In the tent, she decides to confront Hitler, but, upon locking eyes with him, realises he’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen, falling in love immediately. Hitler, however, walks right past her and kisses a passing nurse. Furious and jealous, the Princess of the UK kills the nurse in a fit of rage, then flees the medical tent, returning to the battlefield before the sad and baffling conclusion to the story – “And then I died.”
So not disturbing as such, but certainly unexpected.
Sometimes You Need To Notify Somebody
Basically a manifesto about how the student felt ostracized from the school and how he wanted revenge. This was a community college, and he was a freshman.
Over the semester, I could tell he struggled yet he was also insanely talented. Some other students in the class bullied him in my presence, and let’s just say I didn’t tolerate that at all.
I spent extra time talking to him and trying to help him one-on-one. One day, he turns in an assignment talking about his desire to exact revenge for his marginalization. He was triggered when everyone on his floor conspired to trick him to go outside (at night and the middle of the winter), then they locked him out of the dorm. Assholes!
I spoke with him immediately about it, and he assured me it was just hyperbole. Regardless, I did have to notify my supervisor. I also spoke with his RA, but the RA couldn’t care less. The student ended up dropping out shortly after this. We stayed in touch for a bit, but after awhile, I don’t know what happened to him. He was probably the smartest student I had in that class, yet he couldn’t make it because of his own personal problems and torment from other students. Ugh.
A Defining Moment
I have my HS students write a “Defining Moment” memoir about a moment where their lives changed in a significant way. I generally see some stories about childhood abuse and things of that nature where I make sure our social work team is aware of their claims, they’re getting support, and that’s basically it.
However, I did once get a story about the first time a girl in my class had smoked marijuana. EXCEPT, the whole thing was written with the weed anthropomorphized as a beautiful woman named “Mary” that she met and took on a beautiful all-night date. This thing was about 3 pages long and graphic— we’re talking full anatomical descriptions of lesbian sex as an analogy for the experience of getting high for the first time. It just kept going and going, and it was extremely well-written to the point that I was really uncomfortable reading it and had to put it away.
The worst part is she was so excited for me to read it and came in the next day like “Did you read it? Did you like it? I’m super proud!” And I had to basically say, “yea it’s super well-written but honestly I just can’t be reading something like that written by one of my students.”
I was a TA for a Psych instructor and I read and graded essays. There was an assignment for students to create an experiment where they trained themselves to create a habit by rewarding themselves after the task (think Pavlov). One male student wrote about his experiment- he chose to train himself to masturbate more often and his reward was masturbating. And he wrote about it in detail. Very sustainable system but so weird to submit to your instructor!
A Semi-Human Squirrel
It might get buried, but I need to chime in, mostly in the hopes that this student finds my comment and knows how much his story stuck with me.
The first paper assignment of the semester was to write about life at the university through a sociological lens.
This guy who was social, well-liked, in a frat turned in this shocking story.
He was writing about how hard his life was. How he had to scrounge for meals from the trash while seeing all the other students eat happily in the dining halls.
He described how he’d seen his friends struck by cars on the winding mountain roads on campus.
I was so taken aback, and I kept reading anxiously to see if his story would take a turn.
… A squirrel.
The student was writing from the perspective of a squirrel.
This kid was a GENIUS. I told him later how impressed I was, and he shrugs in a very “bro” way, stating “that’s the worst thing I’ve ever written.”
If you see this, Matt, that’s still my favorite paper by a student!!
American Horror Story
Students were annotating old news articles about a very famous axe murderer from the late 1800s. One student includes an annotation about how the article reminded her of her father. She helpfully included his name for me to Google, and yep, that is how I found out my student’s dad is literally an axe murderer.
Second place goes to a student who wrote from the POV of the Zodiac killer for a creative writing assignment. It was incredibly well written – if it hadn’t been, it honestly might have not been so disturbing! But being in the killer’s head as he ties up and stabs young couples to death? No thanks.
Oh, and last week someone submitted a horror story in creative writing. I swear to god, she could be a writer for Saw movies. The deaths were graphic and gruesome and…creative? I had to take breaks while reading it because I’m pretty squeamish.
Some Creepy Stuff Indeed
Second hand account from colleague submitted during workshop in a undergraduate non-fiction writing class:
Story was about 18 pages, and was submitted by a 50-ish male. Talks about a twelve year old girl who is not the man’s daughter but belongs to him and his wife. Talking about how they like to stroke her and caress her naked body and make her eat things out of their hand. They put collars on her and constantly refer to her perfect hairy pussy and so forth. The rest of the class read the story for workshop and in disgust and horror e-mailed professor (colleague) who immediately cancelled the workshop and contacted administration about the student.
The thing is – everyone was so shocked by the pedophilic nature of the story that no one got to the very last line in which it is revealed that “the girl” is a cat.
Obviously the student was looking for some sort of reaction, which he got.
Had a student submit a paper about growing up with an addict teen brother. He had the room next to her and sometimes when getting clean the parents would lock him in his room and he would have raging withdrawals. She was very young so I imagine there was a lot of medical care and therapy going on that she didn’t know about, she just remembered that her brother was screaming and crying in the next room and she would sit in her closet all night long terrified he was going to break through the wall and get her. It was such a heart-rending story and it made me view what families go through in such a different light.
“Running in the woods…”
In a university English class, we had weekly peer review assignments. One dude in the group I was assigned turned in a story, a fiction about werewolves and college student best friends out on a pregraduation cabin in the woods party, and it was baaaaad. His writing style was so terrible, and…immature? We all ended up messaging the instructor individually to find out how much work we were expected to put in editing his story. Normally we would comment on the story, with whatever little corrections may need to be made, but this thing was all run-ins, and wrong your/you’re/there/their/they’re/it’s/its. It was nuts.
Ex: The friend was running in the woods as the other guy was driving at her as he tried to hit her as the other friends screamed as the werewolf chased the car as he hit her as she rolled up on the roof of the car and the werewolf found her body as she was trying to get up…
It was brutal. He was taking the class to be a screen writer. I still feel bad for him, and it’s been over a decade.
A Very GRAPHIC Tale
I teach HS creative writing, and I gave an assignment where students had to rewrite a fairy tale from the perspective of the villain or smaller character. (Like, the giant or golden goose in Jack and the Beanstalk.) A young woman asked me if she could submit a fan fiction she had already started, and I said of course as long as she finished it and followed the instructions. She submitted a Tangled fan fiction, but it was actually a story where the Prince goes in and rapes the evil queen. And it was GRAPHIC. I had to call parents, counselors, principals. It was a whole thing, and very awkward. From that point on, I had to explicitly tell students that I was a mandated reporter (and what that means), and that they had to keep everything PG.
“I may have been that student”
I may have been that student. English teacher had us reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. For those who dont know, that would be her autobiography that includes a graphic account of her rape as a child.
Our teach tasked us to write about ourselves at that age, comparing the priviledge of being rich white girls to poor ole Maya. I was attending a fancy private girls school. On a massive scholarship, lol.
Like this shit has anything to do with race or tax bracket. So I wrote about my own rape.
And my conclusion was basically how fucking DARE she presume we were immune because most of us were white and most of us were rich. We arent. Statistically, at least five other students in the class were just as hurt and confused by her glorified, “of course your lives are blessed!” attitude as I was.
I read that shit out in class. Most people cried. She did. And fled the room and didnt come back. And I was wrong. Eight other students. I got to hear all their stories. Including a girl who was chased across an exclusive country clubs golf green and gang raped after being knocked unconscious with a rock. Her story stuck with me the longest.
I tried to start a student group for survivors of rape incest and sexual molestation. I was told by administration that there was no point because only good girls attended the school. Fifteen-twenty years later the student in the grade above me that was violently sodomized by a teacher she was naive enough to believe she was in a real and consensual sexual relationship with was told her parents “knew what she had done and were disgusted by her” and chucked on a one way bus out of town. They gave the teacher a nice recommendation and quietly got rid of him.
This shit happened when I was 16/17. I’ll be 45 soon. And I still get enraged when I think about it. Fuck you, you smug officious bitch. (Adminstrator, not teacher. Teacher was actually pretty sweet, just not thinking).