In my hands I hold a neatly stapled stack of papers, the result of several weeks (or three hours, depending on my current procrastination level) careful work. I have conjured a decent thesis- nay, in my mind a brilliant thesis- supported by thorough research, textual evidence and my own reasoning. Surely I am one of only a handful of students in the class who completed the assignment with this much revolutionary insight!
I prepare to hand over my paper to the teacher, professor, instructor, Albus Dumbledore or whatever. I expect to hear those delightful words, “Please pass over your papers!” and be rid of the assignment forever.
But the words never come.
No, instead I hear the phrase I dread the most, the utterance which haunts me in my sleep and threatens to devour my brains from within like some zombie baby that has gestated inside my head:
“I’d like you to each present your paper to the class.”
Cue the music and prepare for my suicide please.
The aforementioned horror story happens more times than I can count. Professors and teachers of all sorts absolutely adore having their students present to the class in 5 to 10 minutes. I’m not really sure why but I think it has something to do with seeking pleasure in the pain of others.
I especially hate it when they ask you to present using some sort of artistic or creative component. They often say this as if they’re presenting you with some fantastic present. You know, as if we should all be overjoyed that we get to spend another four hours out of our weekend cutting out pieces of whale-shaped cardboard and trying to figure out whether Moby Dick should have googly eyes or no eyes at all.
There’s always those two art students that really love the “creative component.” I envy these kids. They come into class with their revolutionary paintings and elaborate 3D sculptures and hastily typed, three paragraph paper that’s (gasp) probably not even in MLA format. Everyone loves their presentations. By the time they finish talking about how their life-sized recreation of Uncle Tom’s actual cabin represents both the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah AND the post-enlightenment psychological displacement of Canadians, everyone in the class is fairly certain that we are in the presence of geniuses.
Then there’s that one kid who brings in the power point presentation that takes at least an hour to set up and consists of exactly four slides in which every incorrectly spelled and CAPSLOCKED word is animated and accompanied by dancing cats.
When am finally forced to present, something happens to that magical tube that connects my brain to my vocal chords. Somehow the things I wrote in my paper sound contrived and ridiculous out loud. “WHERE DID I COME UP WITH THIS THESIS?” I think as I try to remember how to speak English.
I spend a lot of time repeating things I’ve already said and contradicting myself and end up trying to explain the entirety of James Joyce’s Ulysses to a group of uninterested students who really want me to shut up so they can go to lunch. The look on my professor’s face is one of confusion and disappointment. It says, “Wow Sarah, I thought you were smarter than this.”
I finish with the mind-blowingly insightful “It, uh . . . makes more sense in the paper.” I hold up my lame misshapen cardboard cut out of a whale and sit back down in my desk. It’s the most humiliating of moments. It’s the moment in which all of my suspicions about being dumber than I think are confirmed. It’s the moment in which I want to tear up my perfectly MLA formatted paper and works cited page and drop out of school to become a traveling minstrel. Then, remembering that I can neither sing nor play a musical instrument, I console myself in the only way I know. I tell myself the following:
1) I’m a writer. It wouldn’t be fair if I were able to express myself coherently in both written word and spoken word. It’s all part of universal justice!
2) I’m a homeschool kid. Homeschool kids aren’t conditioned to present to the class. It would require too many mirrors and a lot of odd questions and diagnoses of schizofrenia and MPD and stuff.
The moral of the story? When in doubt blame everything on writing and homeschooling. Or just become an art student.