Rip Van Winkle

I’m teaching two classes in a row in the same classroom. One is Beginner Spanish 1 at 10 am. The other one is Cervantes at 11 am. We are starting our second week. Students keep enrolling, unenrolling, changing their minds, dropping in, dropping out. It will take me at least a couple more weeks to learn everybody’s name.

Yesterday, I noticed that a student in the Cervantes class was experiencing distress. As the class progressed, he was getting more and more anxious. The class is pretty intense, though, so I didn’t have a chance to concentrate on the unhappy student. Finally, he asked if we could speak outside.

We stepped outside and the student asked me desperately, “Professor, this isn’t our Beginner Spanish class, is it? Please tell me I’m in the wrong place.”

Imagine how the poor guy felt. He accidentally shows up for class in a later time slot, and what does he see? Suddenly everybody is speaking fluent Spanish. People are leafing through hefty Spanish tomes, laughing, and clearly enjoying themselves. Just last week, he was at the same level as everybody else, and now he’s hopelessly behind.

6 thoughts on “Rip Van Winkle

  1. “Suddenly everybody is speaking fluent Spanish”

    Reminds me of when I was supposed to take a phonology class and I chose “French phonology” over the other possibilities.
    Imagine my surprise when the professor walks in an begins the lecture in French….
    “Okay” I think “I’ll just sit here and be quiet and drop the class when it’s over”.
    It couldn’t be that easy… he then went around to talk to every single person in class (with lots of smalltalk and jokes judging from the reaction).
    When he got to me all I could muster was “I think I’m in the wrong class…”
    We talked afterward and he was almost apologetic (it was a very new policy to teach the course it Fench – it wasn’t listed that way in the catalogue).
    I ended up taking Spanish phonology (in Spanish) which was fine though I can’t say I learned much that I didn’t already know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂

      On the positive side, the student now knows how far he can go in our program. It’s really quite miraculous that we get students from near zero to reading Cervantes in the original and talking about it with ease.


      1. Mine’s more generic. There are two versions: In the first, I show up to take an exam for a class I had forgot was on my syllabus, so had not actually attended any of the lectures. I realize that I have forgotten some key article of clothing, such as my shirt, or my shoes. But then I figure out that I can fake it as long as I act like nothing’s wrong. Nobody notices. I never know what class it was for.

        In the second, I show up late for a band concert, and someone hands me a ridiculous reed instrument I’ve never seen before, made of wood, with a bunch of weird springs and levers sort of mouth-harp like (not a clarinet: that’s what I actually play!), and I’m up for a solo. I’ve never stayed asleep long enough to find out if I can play it or not. Still curious what it sounds like…


        1. At least in your dream you show up to class as a student. In mine, I show up to class as an instructor not ready to teach. There is nowhere to hide! I somehow make it through the class but nothing makes sense. In a variation of this dream I show up to administer an exam to several hundred students and while distributing it I find out that half of the exams I need to hand out are missing. Then, I am running around trying to make the last minute photocopies.

          Here is a real story (not a dream) that happened to me. I show up to class without my cellphone that was left at home. I am not able to do half of what I have planned because our University systems require 2-factor authentication to access most of the technology for which (you guessed it!) I need my cell phone. I am in a “smart” classroom. I am saved by having my personal laptop that works without it. It was not pretty.


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