September 23, 2011

Warning! Freshman English can be hazardous to health!

It’s true. Every semester, unspeakable tales of woe overflow my inbox. Keening cries pierce my eardrums. Keep in mind that these plaintive appeals issue from whiz-kids who know their iPhone apps better than their ABC’s. Those whose thumbs text on auto-pilot. Still, when faced with uploading their first essays online, some blanch, go belly-up, and turn into quivering babes-in-the-woods.

On the day after the deadline, they swarm my desk and throw themselves prostrate at my feet, witnessing to mysterious attacks against their loved ones and themselves while executing this deadly mission. One word of caution — If you are reading this post in the presence of children, please cover their eyes. The examples are grisly:

“My sister began bleeding eternally in the middle of my upload.”

“My cat hacked up a hairball and I had to clean it up.”

“My dog, Brutus, had puppies.”

“When I came out of the bathroom, the system wouldn’t let me back on.”


“My girlfriend had a baby.”

“My boyfriend went into labor….


Please know that I’m not a callous person. My deepest condolences go to those who have suffered loss and major life changes during the semester. School is rough on parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins twice-removed. Caring educator that I am, I keep a supply of get-well and sympathy cards to send the families. I even visit the hospital rooms of sweethearts and spouses who, during a difficult upload, have borne live young.

Let’s face it; survival of “Freshman Comp” is quite an achievement. As a major rite of passage, it ranks right up there with the first job, first marriage, first baby… first divorce. Professors should award tee-shirts with the final grades to those who have run the marathon and crashed victoriously through the finish line.

Eventually, with the help of textbooks, lecture notes, and — oh, yes — the professors –scattering bread crumbs, these babes — soon to be older and wiser — will stumble into daylight. They will be sophomores with stories to tell.



  1. This post reminds me of my days as an apartment manager. During the month, my tenants stayed up late playing loud music and dancing by the pool. They had parties with large groups of friends. They roared in and out of the complex at all hours, driving late model cars, wearing the latest fashions, drinking expensive beverages. They constantly entered their apartments with bags of designer duds and installed new furnishings. However, on the day rent was due, they’d all had deaths in their families, been to the emergency room and lost their jobs. The first few months, I was heartbroken, but by the sixth month I was inured to their dilemmas and could figure late fees in my head.

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