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15 English Teachers Describe the Most Disturbing Essay They Received

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Teaching is a hard job, so I can only imagine what extra struggle these 15 teachers went through after sitting down to grade paper and seeing some of these pop up in their piles.

The truth is below…are you ready for it?

#15. A heartbreaking story.

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.

#14. I kept reading anxiously.

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!!

#13. She begged me not to say anything.

I had a junior write a memoir in her daily journal about getting raped by two other students.

This was seven years ago and I still get emotional when I think about it. She was always super quiet and a great student. She wasn’t aware that the journals would be turned in and she begged me not to say anything to her parents. I spent a lot of time making sure she got the help she needed.

She’s doing much better now. She’s an RN in a local hospital and she took care of me a year or so ago when I was in the ER.

#12. A safe and good place for them.

I teach, but not English. 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 overdramatic 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.

#11. Just edgy murder fantasies.

Nothing much, just edgy murder fantasies.

I’m just glad they’re writing more than three sentences and using (somewhat) correct grammar.

#10. The letter ended up being used in court.

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 didn’t 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.

#9. I’ve not been the same since.

Someone wrote fan fiction of her and Kermit the frog and I’ve not been the same since.

#8. So weird.

Not an English teacher but when I was in junior college 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!

#7. I don’t know what happened to him.

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.

#6. A broken habit.

We have middle schoolers put together a portfolio at the end of the year of all their readings logs and the essay they are most proud of and a revision of their essay that they think could improve the most. It’s a big culmination project that includes a letter at the beginning to the grader where they need to explain what they’ve learned and how their habits have changed and stuff like that.

Easily some of the funniest shit I’ve ever read in those letters and I still have pictures of my favorite intros, but the most “disturbing” one was about a boy who explained in detail that he broke his habit of not doing his reading by reading while he takes shits.

#5. You might be shocked.

Abuse, and more abuse.

Assigning anything that asks them to reflect on something personal or write something creative has a high chance of yielding stories about abuse. Those stories very likely reflect real experiences. Many a visit are paid to the guidance counselors and school therapists.

If you don’t work with kids, you might be shocked to learn just how many people are abused in some fashion. If you add in how many kids aren’t abused but just have a bad upbringing, it gets really, really depressing.

#4. Literally an axe murderer.

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.

#3. I just can’t be reading something like that.

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.”

#2. Certainly unexpected.

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, realizes 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.

#1. I was put on suicide watch.

I was the student.

We were told to create an invention that’ll help the human race. Basically write 3 paragraphs down and turn it in. Several classmates came up with machines to stop cancer, medical equipment, things to help homeless people.

Im at a loss. So I decide to rip off the suicide machine from Futurama and basically wrote down that you can choose fast/slow/painful/painless death. It can help people who have painful diseases die for just a quarter.

Needless to say, I was put on suicide watch and had a counselor until I graduated high school.

I wasn’t ready, but I can’t un-read these now!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!