Controlling the Narrative of My Personal Failure

The squid thinks my tears taste delicious.

The squid of my own personal failure.

So I cried again in Wolof. For those of you playing along at home, we’re up to four sessions of this class in which I have teared up. Given that this is a class that has only met ten times in the last two months, this is Kind of an Issue.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not want to be crying in class. This is not an attention thing. Something about my teacher’s style simply makes my eyes leak tears like a squid squirts ink. (In all fairness to my body, this one saves me a fortune on bleach.)

It’s not that classes haven’t made me cry before. I tear up easily and mostly define my self worth in terms of academic achievement.* But in every occasion that I can think of doing this sort of massively embarrassing thing, it happened after I left the room. Wolof sucks so hard that I literally cannot keep it together while sitting two feet away from my teacher.

Something about my teacher’s style prompts this. If I’m being facetious (“facetious” means “impolitely truthful,” right?), I attribute it to his being an asshole.

Mostly I’m just frustrated at failing to learn Wolof no matter how much I study. This is in part because studying for Wolof mostly involves memorizing lists and lists of pronouns, which the Wolof have decided is a better way of handling things than verb conjugation. Sometimes the pronoun sets overlap incompletely, just for fun. Sometimes they indicate different tenses depending on whether the verb you’re using is stative or active. It’s fabulous.

Did I mention that the number system is base five?

But! Back to the part where I lose it in class. Today I got a test back on which I had received a 10/15. Because the Frenegalese lack the American level of grade inflation, this isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. It was the lowest grade in the class.

After ten minutes of explaining why it was our fault that we had missed the questions in this particular section (on which I had received a 0/2), the Wolof teacher started to look at each person’s individual exam and correct them out loud, just in case we weren’t clear about how we screwed up. I was frustrated that I had missed the points based on a stupid error that I had made consistently.

Because I had missed all of the questions in this section, I was not exactly thrilled when my turn came. Wolof Teacher and I had the following exchange in French in front of the rest of the class.

WOLOF TEACHER: Oh, you missed all the questions.

ME: Yes. I understand why.

WOLOF TEACHER: You should have known them.

ME: Yep. Got it.

WOLOF TEACHER: See, it should have been “laa,” not “mangi.”

ME: I. Understand.

It’s not that I mind having my classmates know that I did poorly. But I do mind someone else telling them that. As you might have guessed from the fact that I write about myself all the damn time on the internet, I like to be able to control the narrative of my own personal failures. Makes me feel all warm inside.

The Wolof teacher constantly takes that away from me, because he really enjoys correcting students in front of the whole class and is not big on individualized praise. (By “not big on” I mean “he still doesn’t know the names of two of the girls in my five-person class.”)

And it would be one thing if my Wolof was improving as a result of this. But my class continues to lag behind everyone else’s sections in terms of curriculum covered, and my Wolof continues to stall.

I am finding it very, very difficult not to make comparisons between this guy and any of my French teachers from the last 9 years, who—for the record—never made me cry and taught me well enough that I now speak French that can be described as “reasonably competent (if somewhat slurred).”

They also took less than two months to teach me how to say that I like something, and gave me exciting things like “nouns.” Those were heady days.

I’m trying to think of a funny way to end this, and I can’t find one. Mostly, I hate that this class takes away any feeling of control that I have over my own learning, and what frustrates me more than the C that I am inevitably going to get in this course is that I will continue to be humiliated twice a class until the end of this semester.

But, gimme a couple days and I swear to god this story will be even funnier than the one about how I headbutted a piano that one time after this guy dumped me while dancing to dubstep in his Family Guy boxers during a birthday party. Because if that is the only control over the situation that I am going to have, I am taking it and not letting go.

* Like 80% of that was a joke. They can pry the Phi Beta Kappa from my cold, dead hands!

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