Your Secret is NOT Safe With Me
This is a long one, but if you're a fan of awkward moments and bad decisions, then it might be worth your time: once we finish Act II of Hamlet, I have my students rate the artistic, practical, and ethical nature of the various schemes in the play, and we discuss how Polonius forces his daughter Ophelia to turn over Hamlet's love letters, so he can read them to the king, and I always provide a real example-- for educational purposes, of course-- and ask them if this sort of behavior is ethical, to take someone's private, romantic writing and make it public . . . unfortunately, my example involves my friend Kevin, who teaches next door (and we are only separated by a thin, temporary accordion wall with an foldable opening, so we often pop in and out of each others classrooms through this "secret" entrance) and he was kind enough to sit in my class while I told my students this "case study" last week: so here it is . . . once upon a time, many years ago, before I was married, a "small world" coincidence occurred-- I met my wife on the streets of New Brunswick outside The Corner Tavern Bar, and I was with my childhood friend Rob, and Catherine-- my future wife-- was with her good friend Tammy and-- wildly-- eight years later Rob and I ended up married to these two lucky girls . . . and if we had walked out of the bar moments earlier or or stayed for last call, then we would have never met our future spouses . . . so after several years of dating Catherine and Tammy, we learned-- another weird coincidence-- that my long-time friend and colleague Kevin (who teaches next door to me) dated Tammy-- Rob's future wife-- in high school, when Tammy was a freshman and Kevin was a senior, AND-- miraculously-- Tammy had kept all the notes and correspondence that anyone had ever sent her in high school in a shoe-box . . . in other words, she had love notes that my friend Kevin wrote in high school-- which was the greatest news ever-- BUT, she wouldn't actually cede the notes to me because she knew I would use them for nefarious purposes (perhaps photo-copy them and give them to Kevin's students) so Tammy just gave me a quick glimpse and then hid them, but I was able to ascertain one fantastic piece of information: he signed all his love notes to Tammy "TTFN" (Ta Ta For Now) and so when I finish telling the students the story, I reveal his "signature" valediction and they laugh and laugh and scream it through the thin wall at him and taunt him with the information whenever they get the chance, causing him much embarrassment (although he's used to it by now-- since I do it every year-- and I think he actually enjoys the whole charade, which is why he sat in my class last week while I told the story . . . so he could face the "Ta Ta For Now" taunts head on) and then I remind the students that this was an educational case and I ask them if it was ethical for Tammy to let me see the letters, and if it was ethical for me to tell them the story, and then we compare the case to Hamlet and everyone is happy except Kevin-- but he knows the deal, which is that I will pretty much use any example that connects in my class to prove a point, but, unfortunately, not everyone knows this and my big mouth can lead to some awkward situations, such as last Tuesday, when I was explaining to my Creative Writing class how I am often a terribly illogical arguer and that I often make points that are rhetorically powerful but lack substance, I told them the breast milk example from the other day, and the fact that I shared this rather personal story found its way back to Rachel, the woman who tasted her own green-tinted breast milk, and she was NOT happy with me using that example because her students mentioned it in class and it made her truly embarrassed and red-faced . . . so there's a lot for me to learn here and I think I've learned it, but in case I haven't learned it, please remember: your secret is NOT safe with me.