Kids are full of surprises.
From the moment they step into your room you really have no idea how they're going to behave. On any given day things are going to change.
If you're a teacher who reads their schoolwork, you also have no idea what to expect from their work.
Here were some of those plot twists.
Awww, Das Nice!
I had a student who was obsessed with Silverback Gorillas. I mean, EVERYTHING he wrote was about silverbacks. Even fir the most random question, for example, about Shakespeare's sonnets, and his answer would somehow quite logically twist around to his gorillas. After a while he added a character - the Queen of Sanzibar. She controlled this wild and often violent band of gorillas. At the end of that year, I ended up moving away and at my farewell lunch he gave me a card which says "there will never be another story about the Silverback Gorillas of Sanzibar because the Queen of Sanzibar is moving to Australia." Blew me away. I never thought his stories were analogies of our school/students or that I had made that much of an impact on his life. Humbling.
Misheard And Beloved
When my nephew was 6 or 7 or so they had to write a description of how to make a sandwich. My nephew proceeded to write a detailed account of how to make a " Sand Witch" which includes getting a mold of a witch and putting wet sand into it ...you get the idea. The teacher said in all her years of teaching that no kid had ever done that. She asked to keep a copy because she thought it was so funny.
Something I Have Come To Know
I had a second language learner who wrote about the death of a close relative. He talked about feelings of extreme sadness, and then said, "I have come to know that this feeling is called grief." It was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever read.
Burn Burn Burrrrrrrrn
Teaching middle school, gave an "About Me" essay early in the year. One student wrote about how they had a rough home life, parents divorcing, etc. It was very well written and heartbreaking until the last paragraph where he talked about finding religion in the past year. "I've learned not to judge people who do wrong, because only God can judge... and they will burn."
One of my kids got a writing assignment to write a new ending to a story. It was a classic star-crossed lovers narrative so I figured they'd do a happily ever after.
The female protagonist ended up using the dude for his knight status to escape the thumb of her father, then killed him and went out on her own.
A Flooring Twist
A student once wrote a story under the assigned heading of All That Glitters is not Gold. It was a first person narration told as a comedy about a mother telling her daughter on her 21st birthday about the night she brought her home from the hospital. The twist was that the mother was talking to herself in what was due to be the child's bedroom, her child had actually died the night they brought her home. This. Floored. Me.
I teach high school maths, so the opportunities for stories are more limited. I set an extended assignment on mathematically evaluating what would happen in a zombie outbreak - looking at what happens to the human population based on how fast zombies can turn them, if there's a cure, if zombies can raise the dead from graves, etc.
The last part of the assignment was to model a zombie situation of your choice, come up with some survival strategies, and show mathematically how they helped humans.
Most students picked a pop culture zombie style and used that as their inspiration. No problems. At the time, there was a big election going on, so one student decided that anyone under the sway of a particular political party must be a mindless zombie, and recreated the events of the entire election in his mathematical equations. It was a fantastic spin on it that made marking much more fun!
Write On, Dear Girl
I worked at a bookstore that had a spooky story contest for Halloween and I had to read a lot of stories by elementary students.
But there was this one.
On the first pass I guess I didn't like it, but when it came back from another reviewer I happened to read it again. The plot wasn't astounding. It was actually kind of a bad story as far as that goes. What was amazing was that the student changed her vernacular depending on whether the speech was spoken by a character or part of the narration. This is not elementary stuff. It was really incredible and such a small thing that I was so surprised that I even noticed it. It is literally a technique that was considered groundbreaking when Zora Neale Hurston did it and she's one of the greatest American writers ever. There's no way this little fourth grade girl knew about Hurston. She was just doing it naturally. I was blown away.
I tried my best to advocate for that story—even suggested a special prize. My boss would not give. I hope that little girl is still writing.
Reusing A Cliche
I know there's already a lot of "I'm actually a student" takes here but damnit I want to share mine.
We were assigned to write a full length poem in a creative writing class. Our instructor constantly reminded us to avoid clichè symbolism and metaphor, the example he kept bringing up was not to write about "wearing all black in a cemetery."
Now I'm terrible with symbolism and metaphor, every time I try to write symbolically it always reads back to me as forced or cliché. I wrote and threw out three poems and accepted my fate on the day it was due.
But that morning I took out another sheet of paper and titled it "Wearing All Black in a Cemetery." But it wasn't about death and sadness, rather the main character was dressed in all black because he was a grave robber. The poem had him getting caught and sentenced to life in prison. My instructor loved it.
Teaching 8th grade English: a student was writing about a supernatural investigator. About two thirds through the story the narrator is listing all the greatest horrors he had seen. The list ended: "I once saw an English teacher named Mr.[my name] slough off his skin and devour a classroom of students. . ." It was a great surprise (and story).
When I was a kid I wrote a story about a boy who made a fully functional plane out of LEGO. It took him several tries to get it to work, but he finally did and his parents watched him proudly as he flew around their seaside cottage. Then there was a gust of wind that blew him into a cliff and a wing broke off. He ejected and died because his parachute was a garbage bag that he held open above him.
Love Love Love
We have a national literacy and numeracy test called the NAPLAN in Australia. Instead of following the instructions for the writing task, one of my very traumatized students wrote this completely random letter to tell the recipient about how much he loves his teacher. I had a big sob when I read it. Sweet kid.
Oooh, A Chemistry One
I gave my research student a day to think of something to research with. More likely a plan to come up with. BTW, I'm a pharmacologist and the next day she came up saying, Professor, I read a newspaper and found one interesting thing that I want to try. I was like great! What is it? It talked about mixing vinyl with soda. I want to incorporate two receptor with one Enzyme to see the outcome. I'm not gonna lie, how vinyl and soda mix can bring such an idea was twisting.
Words Words Words
Not the teacher, but the student.
In 7th grade we had writing assignments with a handful of words we learned during class. There was, originally (take note of this) no word or page limit.
I was a particularly imaginative kid.
I, ah. I wrote 5+ pages of a full story, because while I managed most of the words on the front page... I had a plot going and the last word wouldn't seem right unless I cut the story too short.
I hand the papers in, grin on my face, even some illustrations in there because books with illustrations at important spots are my fucking jam, and the teacher looks like I just passed her a bomb.
Long story short, I think my teacher's plot twist was the fact I could write so much when I didn't speak a single word during class (other than a quiet "Here" during roll call), and probably the fact most of the goal words were on a single page while she had to read an entire short story for the last word.
I had a year 6 student write a multi-chapter love story with a thinly disguised version of herself as the protagonist who wins the love of her best (female) friend (who was also a thinly disguised version of the writer's bff).
It was so tender and wistful and sweet that it made me teary. I showed it (in confidence) to an older teacher who was mentoring me at the time. I felt as though the student was coming out to me, and I was unsure what to do (if anything). A few days later she came out to her family, who were very supportive.
I don't know how the situation went with the crush on the bff. They both went off to high school shortly after, so I don't know if anything eventuated.
And The Band Played On
While writing about The Magic Treehouse Tonight on the Titanic, one of my students was writing about the people once they got into the water and wrote "The people in the water looked up and saw an incredible sight." and I was expecting it to proceed with how the boat was sitting out of the water at a steep angle, or how the propellers were visible as the book describes -- nope. "The band was still playing!" was what followed.
I don't get many big twists since I teach little ones but that's the one I still like to think about sometimes because it would have been an incredible sight, for sure.