November 6, 2009

George Washington's Letter

(a George letter but not the George letter)

Earlier this week, I taught a seminar at a local university on the history of the book. I gave the presentation in a room filled with documentary treasures: several medieval manuscripts, a sixteenth-century Bible, a colonial American hymnal, and several textual artifacts from the Revolutionary War.

The audience consisted largely of retired professors, librarians, and undergraduates who were promised extra credit in exchange for attendance. They were a lively bunch, especially the two students seated in the back row who fought boredom by drawing stick figure sketches of a woman who looked a lot like me hanging from a noose.

My audience was most alert when I finished my presentation and invited them to take a closer look at the items on the table.

"You can touch anything except for the letter written by George Washington," I told them.

To their credit, the college students did their best to avoid the letter. In the end, however, most managed to accidentally manhandle it.

"I told you not to touch it!" I shrieked at two sophomores.
"We didn't!" they replied in unison.
"I saw you pick it up!" I said.

A few minutes later, I caught another student attempting to lift the letter off the table with the eraser end of a pencil.

"For real?" I asked, snatching the letter away from the two/twenty-year-old.

A long lecture followed about the importance of good listening skills. I explained that no one was allowed to touch the letter because the oils from our fingers can damage the paper and smudge the ink.

In the middle of my sermon, one student raised his hand.

"Yes?" I asked, visibly annoyed.

The student apologized for interrupting my moralizing speech, but thought it prudent to point out that at that very moment I was holding Washington's letter in ungloved hands.

18 comments

girlnblack77 said...

Hey, one of the perks that comes with motherhood is being able to maintain a straight face while instructing: 'do as I say, NOT as I do!' :)

Mary said...

Kinda like the phrase you shut your mouth when your speaking to me?

barefootquilter said...

Sounds like your foray into adult education is not much different from all those 5 yr olds at home!

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

Don't you wish you could just smack them? lol

Danya said...

That's funny. I was teaching a research methods class once, and I had a student who obviously hadn't written his term paper. When confronting him, he easily admitted that he didn't do it--his sister (who was also in the class) had written it for him. This possibility hadn't even occurred to me, so I gave her an impromptu lecture about how she wasn't helping him by doing his work, but was so surprised I couldn't come up with an appropriate "punishment" on the spot. I was more red in the face then they were, so I'm not sure any lessons were learned.

AlsoMean said...

I charge my kids 25 cents for saying "No Fair"

they also try to charge me when I say it ;-0

Angie said...

I know you don't actually know me but you should know, i heart you. We would be friends.

Michelle said...

Awesome!

Makayla said...

What I want to know is how on earth you managed to get ahold of all these things... ancient bibles and George Washington letters and so on. !!!

Jenny said...

I have been in several museums where people have stroked the ancient sculpture, or handled the fragile WWI era vase or whatever and the security guard has to run over to chastise them. What is wrong with people?

Gwen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gwen said...

Just imagine what would have happened if you would have brought your paper underpants.

Ashley said...

Love it! I probably would have blown my nose with it, before I realized what I was doing.

Meagan and John said...

I would have said,"I'm a mom, I wash my hands so much I don't there is no oil left--see..." and show them all the cracks, or a simple, "I know how to wash my hands after using the restroom" but then again I am not that good at being told by snot nosed buttheads that I am wrong--but then again i am tryig to work on humility (but I try to avoid praying for it)


when i was in high school we had the priveledge of putting up a haunted house in a meauseum--the measum people wanted to have a heart attack when we showed up to set things up with permission from who knows who to use whatever we would like--we were careful, but i still think it gave them a heart attack

Karen said...

I think those two should have been put in a time-out chair to think about what they did.

Lisa said...

Thanks for making my day!!! :O)

Petit Elefant said...

phhhhhbbbbbtttt! day in the life of motherhood for me.

Ginee Scabrough said...

I love love teaching. Especially when things like this happen. Fun times:) (but I teach 14 year olds ; is that much different?)