This week was final exams week. I’ve been busy and haven’t prepared anything to share with you. However, through last night’s drunken haze, I remembered this little anecdote. Since I’ve been in teaching mode all week, here is a teacherly story.
Have you heard the old adage (I just made up): Women are from Venus; men are clueless. University students, more than other demographics, embody this truism. Most remember university as a time of growing sexual awareness and exploration; a time to test new-found freedoms. As a university instructor I have a bird’s eye view of these mini-dramas unfolding during the most [unintentionally] comedic period of human life. It’s fun.
One of my sophomore classes had a reigning king and queen. The pair were the most popular kids in class. It was easy to see why. Sylvia was on the school’s cheerleading team—a big deal at that school. She was fit, attractive, bubbly, and smart; the class spark plug. If there was anything fun or exciting happening she was at its center, making sure everyone had a good time. She was universally liked. Stan was tall, muscular, ridiculously handsome, charming—dumb as a stump—and super personable. As his teacher I should have found him irritating; he definitely wasn’t the sharpest nut in the candy dish, but it was impossible not to like him. They were LANG-208-47-B5 class’s power couple.
As a teacher, standing at the front of class, you see everyone’s reaction to everything. It gives you a strong sense of what’s going through student’s minds. On this Monday, our hero looked like the goose that swallowed the golden egg. He was the picture of barely contained giddiness. Sitting beside him was Sylvia, and there was definitely something rolling through her head too. I couldn’t quite read her expression, but the wheels were clearly turning.
I gave the class a writing assignment—in one page describe your weekend. Most of the essay’s ranged from “I slept” to “I played online games”. Ho-hum. Then I came to Sylvia’s essay. It was like nothing I’ve ever gotten from a student. It was oddly poetic. Dappled moonlight was gently brushing flower petals. Birds were crying sweet tears of joy and sorrow, while clouds looked on knowingly. It was beautiful, romantic, and totally incomprehensible. I liked it, but couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Then I read Stan’s essay. He had pressed the definition of a one-page article to its utter limits, and I can quote his entire essay here: “Last night I went to Yangmingshan and touched a boobie. Score!”
Ahhh. I see.
His happiness bounced off the page with every pen stroke. He was a [very] simple young man, with an equally simple dream, a pure dream, a noble dream—to touch a boobie. God bless him, he lived his dream. But, from my perspective at the head of the class, the meaning of Sylvia’s facial expressions became clearer. Sylvia had different, more complex, aspirations. They didn’t end with an inept boob fondle. Sylvia was revving up to turn his existence into a raging hell; and so the dance of life began for Stan. The poor naive bastard had no idea what was coming. On that day, in that class, he sat fully three inches taller than normal, looking left and right with his shit-eating grin, just a happy-go-lucky guy—contentment personified. For that brief moment, before his world came tumbling down, you couldn’t help but want to be Stan.
Being a teacher has its entertainments.