What to do When They Teach Your Favorite Book in Class

If you’re enough of a book nerd, it’s definitely happened to you before. I, only just recently, found myself in a poetry class that involved reading and discussing Mary Oliver poems. I had to keep my cool and not let on that I love Mary Oliver so much, I’m trying to make one of those full body pillows with her face on it to cuddle with before bed. That sort of intensity and blind emotional devotion is not conducive to an academic discussion. If you find yourself in the classroom with your favorite book, and no one else is looking nearly as excited by or as familiar with the work as you, you’re going to have to get a handle on yourself so you don’t weird everyone out.

Sometimes, even having read a book before makes sitting through a classroom discussion of it impossible. When people start to talk about or debate the qualities of characters before they have all the info, it can be annoying. Sometimes, like I did when my class read The Fault in Our Stars, you have to practically bite your tongue off while people wonder whether this or that character is really going to die. It is very much like keeping quiet about spoilers for Game of Thrones or Star Wars while your friends talk about where they are in the series, but there’s a teacher carefully watching everything you say and grading you. Why isn’t she saying more? Why does that weird twitch always happen when she bring up that character who dies right at the end scene? I don’t know. She seems unstable. I think I’ll give her a C minus.

It can also be very hard to have a book or poem that you’ve read a thousand times with a burning literary passion in your heart stumbled over and butchered by people reading it for the first time. When a work has expansive metaphors and an experimental style, or old-fashioned language, like dear old Shakespeare, people can just decide they hate the book, collection, etc. and that the writer was an idiot clearly trying to torment them and lower their GPA. Teachers are trained to deal with this sort of attitude about a text they’ve certainly read before, but you have not. You can only sit and smolder while people completely stumble over an especially eloquent passage and wonder what the freaking point of this is? Will it be on the test? The teacher may have a helpful response to this, but you can only bite back a scathing speech involving an in depth analysis of the passage they got wrong and several hypotheses about how low their IQs and disgusting their souls have to be to so callously disregard such a beauteous and obviously ground-breaking moment in literature. In all likelihood, that use of “rhetoric” could singe the eyebrows off of the people that leave racist comments under YouTube videos of baby monkeys, but it will not earn you any extra credit points, or help your standing among your now newly fearful peers. There’s nothing scarier tan a rabid teacher’s pet that even the teacher wants to put down.

Basically, there’s a thousand different ways your bibliophile passion can lead to awkward point where you alienate yourself from the rest of the class, on a “teacher’s pet nerd must’ve read ahead” level or the even worse “crazy student, crazy student, back away…” level. As long as I’ve been in this awkward book nerd game, and that’s been quite a while, there’s been only one way to combat that raging nerd passion, besides playing on your phone and ignoring everyone. Teachers don’t like that one, as effective as it is.

Basically, you just gotta go zen. Meditate, right in the middle of class, taking deep breaths in and out and focusing on an inoffensive point of the room, (NOT, I repeat, NOT, another student’s face,) and remember this mantra:

“Ohm, this is learning time, not flipping out about my favorite book time, ohm. People who don’t like the book are only bad mouthing it because they’re scared for their GPA, ohm. Their opinions are irrelevant, ohmmmmmm.”

Repeat that silently, and maybe find away to comment in a scholarly way that doesn’t get too teacher’s pet like or reveal the crazy eyes you get thinking about this book late at night. No one needs to know about needs to know about that secret Shakespeare body pillow chilling in your bed.


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