Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Campus Visit from Hell, Part II

Just as I reached the point of utter desperation, a prospective colleague appeared.

"Where have you been?" he asked irritably. "We have all been waiting for you in the classroom."

We rushed into the classroom, and I started getting the beautiful handouts I'd prepared at home out of my bag.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you," the person who teaches that course told me. "We actually covered all this yesterday. Today, you should teach pages 98-109."

The only problem with that plan was that I'd never in my life seen pages 98-109 and had no activities prepared to cover the unknown material contained in those pages. At that point, I had really stopped caring about the job, making a good impression, or the people observing the class. I decided to have a good time. The students in this Elementary Spanish course weren't prepared for a teacher who only speaks Spanish in class but I didn't care. I have one huge asset as a teacher: I immediately establish a great rapport with the students even when they don't understand a word I say. I don't know how it works, but students like me no matter what I do. So I used that. We played charades, and the walls of the classroom practically shook with laughter.

When it was time for me to leave, I had one of my proudest teaching moments when I heard a student say, "Could she stay? We'd rather have her than our regular teacher."

The next stage of a campus visit is a talk you deliver on the topic of your current academic research. My talk had been practiced at several other campus visits, so I didn't expect any surprises from it. That is, until the Chair of the department interrupted my lecture on contemporary Spanish literature to ask:

"So have you read Kafka's Metamorphosis?"

"Yes," I answered tentatively, unsure of what to expect.

"So what's your reading of it?" she continued.

I tried to offer my vision of the book, only to be interrupted by the Chair.

"Your reading of Kafka is very amateurish," she announced. "It's what I would expect from somebody who has done no research on Kafka at all."

I wanted to point out that I had, indeed, done absolutely no research on this writer for the simple reason that I am a Hispanist and have nothing to do with Germanic Studies. Contradicting the Chair, however, was definitely not a way to make a nice impression, so I just smiled impotently. A fellow Hispanist tried to save the situation and asked me about an article I'd published recently. As soon as I started responding, the Chair interrupted me in a voice filled with indignation:

"Well, I have to say, I'm really disappointed with your reading of Kafka!"

After the visit ended, a nice member of the department was driving me to the airport.

"There are still three hours until your flight," he said. "Let me drive you around the city, show you some landmarks."

"No, thanks," I said. "I just want to go home now."

I knew that these people must have hated me and that I was never going to work at that place.

P.S. It's my fourth semester teaching at this great department. Campus visits are deceptive. It turns out everybody really liked me. And after the first two weeks of working here, I knew that wild horses wouldn't be able to drag me away from this campus. And that campus visit I thought had gone so great? They hired somebody else and forgot to inform me that I didn't need to wait for a reply any longer.


el said...

Wow. The ending was unexpected and a good lesson for life. Please, write more such life's stories - about your childhood in Ukraine, life in Canada and USA, etc.

When you don't write humoristically like here & in "Oklahoma", they still are very interesting.

Clarissa said...

Thank you so much, el!

Judith Sierra-Rivera said...

I loved this story, Clarissa!!! It was surprising and inspiring. So why were they acting that way during the whole campus visit? Was it to see how you react? Or are they like this always? I would have been scare to accept a position in that department (although I understand that academic jobs are not growing in trees!!!). Were you scare when they offered you the job?