I will always remember my very first English class as an official college student.
(It wasn’t my first college class ever. That was an 8 a.m. Monday course on the history of music. You think it’s hard to stay awake in an 8 a.m. class? Try having the professor play classical music first thing in the morning and see how you handle it.)
But I digress.
I think it was that first Monday afternoon. British Literature with Dr. Williams. As a devoted English major, I’d been waiting for this moment all day. Would I recognize any titles on the syllabus? Would it be a 200-pages-a-night nightmare? Had I made the right choice?
I don’t remember much about the class itself. It was a typical first day: introductions, discuss syllabus and grading, give first reading assignment.
But I do remember what happened after class was dismissed.
I gathered my papers and inwardly praised myself for recognizing so many of the titles on the course outline. I lingered as the other students left the room and hurried about their lives. I wanted to meet my professor and introduce myself, because all the “start college right” articles said you should let your professors know when you are excited about their classes.
I remember taking a deep breath and walking up to the desk where Dr. Williams was filling his briefcase. I cleared my throat and said:
Hi. I’m [the Missus] and this is my first year. I’m really excited about British lit, but I don’t think it will be too hard. I’ve already read a lot of what’s on the syllabus, and I don’t think I’ll have much trouble with it.
At the time, I barely registered the odd look that crossed his face as he shook my hand. Looking back on it, I’m sure “your class won’t be too difficult” was not something he really wanted to hear on the first day, especially from a freshman.
I shook his hand and left the room, confident that I’d impressed him with my studiousness.
I went on to take Dr. Williams for two additional classes, although not of my own free will. He was a terrible teacher, and I was greatly disappointed to spend three required courses listening to my classmates take turns reading aloud from the text everyone should have read the night before.
I wanted to analyze novels and pull them apart. He wanted class to be over as soon as possible. And I could tell he never forgot my arrogance on that very first day. There was always a hint of smugness when he would ask me (what he thought was) a particularly difficult question, and he always seemed slightly disappointed when I would answer. Maybe I imagined it for three years, but I never thought he liked me very much.
I suppose I deserved it, though. I was a pretty arrogant first-year.
A speaker I heard last week said, “Confidence is like chocolate milk: A little bit sweetens your whole day, but too much will give you a stomach ache.”
That day, I force-fed my professor too much chocolate milk, and he never forgot it. Probably not the best first impression I’ve ever made.