Monday, April 30, 2007

Waiting for the Existential Punchline

Tomorrow it will be May, and graduation is fast approaching. My seniors and I just finished discussing Waiting for Godot, Beckett's masterpiece of existentialism. The girls spent most of the play looking at each other out of the corners of their eyes, as if to say, "Is it just me, or does this make no sense?" I love it, of course, because it focuses on the ultimate mystery, this existential play: should we hope, or should we despair?

On Friday I gave the girls one of my teachery sermons. There are few days left, I told them, and some of you have significant work missing. "Do not assume," said I rather pompously, "that because I am a good natured person you cannot fail senior English. It is not a matter of your teacher failing YOU, but YOU failing to do what was required." Blah blah. My yearly rant, I'm afraid, when the girls get lazy in their own existential rebellion.

Finally, looking at the zeroes on the sheet in front of me, I asked, "Seniors, I look at this missing work, and I wonder: what are you waiting for?"

Without missing a beat about five students piped, "We're Waiting for Godot!"

I had it coming, really. They actually coaxed a smile out of me. And now you know how to please an English teacher: you don't even have to READ a great work. Just say the name of it out loud to her so that she knows that you know it exists, and that might be enough to placate her for a short amount of time.

But tomorrow? It's back to sermonizing. And maybe some spouting of the poetry they're going to see on their graduation cards: Girls, two roads diverged in a wood . . .

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