Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why I teach English instead of Math

British Literature class was canceled yesterday because of roads that were as slick as butter on a doorknob; my husband called anxiously home from work and said he'd seen three slide-offs on his way there and was most ardently hoping that we wouldn't add to their number.

I was kind of bummed because we had to cancel two classes due to illness (mine and Aisling's) and another class due to weather before Christmas and I was worried that we were falling too far behind. But then I had the brilliant thought of sending out an assignment via email so that we could complete the work, which is the study of the Romantic poets, i.e. Byron, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, etc. I love the Romantic poets, especially Shelley's "Ozymandias" and Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," but one of my other favorite poems is one about the most famous of the Romantics and it is called "A Pig's Eye View of Literature" and was written by Dorothy Parker.

The Lives and Times of John Keats,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and
George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron

Byron and Shelley and Keats
Were a trio of Lyrical treats.
The forehead of Shelley was cluttered with curls,
And Keats never was a descendant of earls,
And Byron walked out with a number of girls,
But it didn't impair the poetical feats
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley and Keats.

Now there's you some great poetry. That Dorothy. You thought she couldn't get any funnier than when she said, "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think" when asked to use the word "horticulture" in a sentence, but you'd probably be wrong. She's also responsible for the saying that seems to be summing up my life in the past five years: "What fresh hell is this?"

Anyhoo, while I was thinking about Byron and Shelley and Keats and sending out the assignment to the students in the class, I was also preparing my presentation for next week, which is titled something like "The Women of British Literature: The Romantic and Victorian Periods." Because can you believe that our entire Brit Lit textbook mentions exactly TWO women writers, Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Hello, Brontës? Jane Austen? Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, for heaven's sake? George Eliot? (Look it up if you don't already know, my dears.)

I've been looking forward to this presentation since the beginning of the school year, and in preparation, I've been researching all over the internet to assemble biographies of each of these ladies, synopses of their most famous works, even pictures of them. I was ready.

So yesterday I wanted to get ahead of the game and print out these special packets, which were going to be done on three-hole-punched paper so that they could be put into the girls' folders. I pulled up Microsoft Word, clicked "Print," noted that the document was thirty-five pages long, and asked the printer if it would kindly print five copies. Then I went away and complained about being cold.

I came back to the printer some time later, probably chafing my hands together to warm them, and noticed with alarm that the printer was wheezing and groaning. "Don't mind me. No, really. I'm okay. There's no need for alarm, even though I'm getting ready to DIE RIGHT HERE ON YOUR DESK."

"What?" I asked. "What's wrong and why are you printing out so many pages? Look at you! No wonder you're so tired! They're spilling off the desk onto the floor!"

"I am printing," the printer said through clenched teeth, "the exact number of documents you asked me to print: five copies of a document that is thirty-five pages long."

"No! Wait!" I said, scrambling to pull my Word document back up. "You've got this all wrong! The document is thirty-five pages altogether. So that's five copies that are seven pages each."

"I think if you'll read it more closely, you'll find you're mistaken," the printer said, smiling tightly and crossing its arms in an authoritative, I-know-I'm-right attitude that immediately intimidated me. "And just in case you were wondering, my black cartridge ran out about about ninety pages ago, so all the copies after that aren't even legible."

"Oh, shoot," I said sadly, looking at the blurry sheet that was heaving its way out of the printer just then. "How on earth did I manage to write a thirty-five page document on the women of British literature? That's more like a....master's thesis than an informative piece for high school students to read."

"I feel your pain," said the printer in a manner that told me that he did not only NOT feel my pain, but would actually like to inflict some upon me, if he could work his cables loose enough to launch himself at my head, "but would you MIND clicking STOP PRINTING? Thank you."

So anyway, if you'd ever like to read a really long piece about Jane, Emily and the rest of the ladies, just email me.

1 comment:

Kayte said...

Bring it on...seriously...I would love to read it.