Being Put on the Spot in Class

In what’s-your-favourite-poem class (conventionally known as English Literature):

Seminar tutor asks if we’ve all picked lines of Wordworth’s The Prelude which we liked to talk about in class, as requested in an email nobody remembers from before the Christmas holidays. Up until this point I’ve been thinking I’m fairly well prepared. But no, I haven’t picked lines, poem too long to relocate the bits that stood out to me now. Try anyway. Flick rapidly through the pages of this poem as quietly as possible. Everyone else sits in silence also hoping they won’t get picked to talk about something. Creeping gut feeling she’s about to pick me.

“Did you pick anything Charlotte?” Gut feeling confirmed.

Me: “I remember seeing lines that I liked…” flick even more desperately through The Prelude, hating the uncomfortable class silence, ‘I’ll find something…’

Keep scanning pages for something, why do none of the bits I annoted earlier on the bus seem verbalisable to me? Dilemma what to pick. Then I see a bit I annotated with what I thought a very insightful idea. We have struck gold.

It’s a long portion of poetry. I won’t read the whole thing out, people can do that in their heads can’t they? I quote the part of the line most relevant to my point then paraphrase the rest of it. I think the ideal is over.

“Do you want to read it out for the rest of the class?”


“Ok,” starts reading stanza, isn’t sure where the relevant portion actually ends, keeps thinking is this the part where I should finish reading yet? and Oh gosh this is going on too long, why didn’t I pick something shorter and is my accent too strong and ajkjdn I just pronounced that word wrong didn’t I and I don’t even understand the sentence I just read and now she might ask me what I thought of it and I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS BIT EITHER and oh good here’s a sentence that makes sense, I’ll focus on this one and hope she doesn’t expect me to talk about them others. Multitasking much, having all these frenzied thoughts while reading poetry aloud?

I finish and am breathing my sigh of relief and then the tutor asks me ‘So what was your point sorry?’

She didn’t even listen to anything I just said did she??

I pause in horror as I realise that, laugh ruefully for a second, then relaunch into an explanation of my point which sounds like waffle, as it always does when put on the spot. She mhhms and yeahs and then tries to get other people in the class to build on my idea. Nobody does. She keeps trying.

Please don’t drag this out more than needed, just say I have a nice point and move on to someone else’s favourite lines…

Finally we have a taker. One classmate makes a brief point about it. I don’t take in what she actually says because I’m so flabbergasted that someone else actually spoke and I’m still trying to figure out if everyone else hates me for not just reading two lines and maybe making a normal point about the symbolism of rivers.


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