DID I SAY GREAT EXPECTATIONS?

Remember my last post? Now, this is what happens on my first day of the second semester this year 2010-11, third of the global financial crisis.

I find that I must teach my first year 20th Century Literature class in a gigantic classroom which holds about 40 more seats than required (88 students registered, actual attendance might be around 70, it might be lower as the course progresses). It’s so dark that I ask one of the students to raise the blinds and I end up demonstrating how to do it because she claims they’re not working –three blinds later, it’s still dark… in sunny Spain at 8:45. I’m on a high platform (two steps up) and, typically, students leave the first row empty, choosing to sit at the back, as far away from me as possible. One of them, sitting on row ten, I think, squints at me all the time, I’m not sure whether this is because she can’t see me perched up there (should I wear high heels?) or hear me (I’ve never used a microphone and hate the idea of using one). I have a computer, projector, internet, the whole caboodle but… not a monitor on the table. I have used this classroom before and I know that this means a crick in my neck by the time the lecture is over. I decide to use the blackboard for the first time in years and save the screen for when I really, really, need it. All considered, the lecture goes well but I’m quite hoarse today. Deep breath. More blackboard tomorrow and we’ll see how the students react when I tell them that the last 6 rows are off limits…

Disaster strikes with my second class. I’ve been working on a new Contemporary British Drama subject for about one year. I swear that I started planning this subject last Spring and I have plenty of witnesses for that. I had asked, as usual, for a fully equipped classroom thinking of using all kinds of media resources but as soon as I entered 302 I knew I’d been had. I can only describe this classroom as the most appalling place in the whole Facultat de Lletres, possibly including all the broom closets. 302 has no equipment whatsoever, which means that my careful preparation of internet resources to be shared with my students went down the drain. Two hours of my life wasted. It’s dark, it’s smelly (!), it has no platform where I can stand to be seen (I’m very small even in high heels), and my 30 odd students sit at pseudo-lab tables (this used to be the computer room) so large that I can hardly see them. There’s worse to come. There’s a whiteboard where someone scribbled something maybe three hours or maybe three months ago, I don’t know –what I know is that I can’t erase the writing. No computer, no board, black or white. Students burst out laughing when I show them that the board rubber and marker are… on a plate, yes, what you use for holding food. I email at once the corresponding vice-dean and brace myself for a whole disastrous semester.

Thank you very much indeed for guaranteeing the quality of my teaching. And sorry students, it’s not my fault.

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