Monday, May 07, 2007

The Surprise for Prof. M and Last Friday

Last Friday was my Roman Lit Exam. It went well. Had to pick two essay questions out of four. Picked the questions on Virgil and Propertius... Didn't bother with the ones on Ovid, since I don't like him...

Before that though we had our last Latin class, so that some of the class could take the Final exam, and the rest of us could plan mischief. You see, we love our Latin Prof. She's amazing. So back in February, we started plotting what we could do for her the last day, which would have been the previous Thursday, but as I said in the "Officially the Last Day of Classes" post, we didn't have class. Poor Prof. M had developed dry socket from having her wisdom teeth removed, and other complications as well, which required immediate medical attention. She actually might have died if she hadn't gone to the hospital when she did. Scared the rest of us half to death!

But she was back to her normal self by last Friday, so our plans were on. We had taken up a collection and bought her a pretty watch pendant and 24" inch silver chain for it. Here's a picture of it:

And because Prof. M had expressed how much she liked the plaque I made for my parents' new farm: I made her a plaque of her own:

The translation of what it says is:

Oh, our Minerva,
for your patience,
for your skill,
for your cleverness,
for your help,
for your wisdom,
for your kind spirit,
always your loving and
mindful students
will give thanks to you.

On the back are the signatures of everyone who donated money for the watch, under an additional inscription which says, "For Professor Manolaraki, in appreciation, from the Beginning Latin class 2006/2007. Thank you for everything that you do!"

I was going to add an owl to the center top, but I didn't like how the stylization turned out. All the stencils I used were hand cut by me especially for this project because I couldn't find any that I liked in the local crafts stores.

But here's the story of what happened Friday:

I didn't have to take the exam and neither did Olivia, who was my partner in crime. We showed up anyway since Prof. M had requested that everyone show up, regardless of whether or not we had to take the exam, so that we could fill out the course evaluation forms that we were supposed to have filled out the previous week, and we didn't have to hide like we might have otherwise. Still we had to hide the presents. We took the plaque and the watch to an empty classroom several doors down from the one our class is held in and I stayed there while Olivia directed people down to the other room to sign the plaque. When Prof. M was spotted leaving her office, we turned off the light and closed the door of the empty classroom and returned to our classroom without the plaque or watch. Prof. M said what she had to say about how much she had loved our class and about the exam, passed out the exams and the class evaluation forms and asked that if we weren't taking the exam that we fill out the form and put it in the envelope at the front of the room before we left. Both Olivia and I did that quickly and I totally couldn't look at Prof. M before leaving, I was just too excited about our surprise.

So once back in the other classroom, I started varnishing (with water-based varnish - it dried in just a few minutes) the back of the plaque. The front I had finished the day before. Olivia kept a lookout at the door, and as others finished the evaluation and/or the exam, those who wanted to stay for the surprise came into the classroom and we sat around and waited for the signal from Stacey (in the form of a text message) that everyone had finished the exam. Stacey had been asked by Prof. M to be in charge of taking the evaluations to the Language Department Office upstairs, so she would be the last to leave and stay in the classroom until everyone had finished the exam anyway, so it was quite the perfect plan.

It took about 40 minutes for the last person to finish. One of the other girls came to the classroom after finishing her exam after about 30 minutes and said that Prof. M started tearing up when she had handed in her paper. So we knew she was going to really cry when we gave her the surprises. They would be tears of joy though so...

So the second to last person to finish came into the room and told us that everyone was pretty much done, so we left the classroom with the surprises and headed back down the hall. Peaking in the window we could see Stacey punching keys on her phone, getting ready to text message Mia as planned, and Jordan was talking to Prof. M. Well, since we could see that they were done, we went in. I opened the door and walked in with Olivia on my heels and then everyone else behind. Prof. M looked up when I came in and started saying "What are you doing back here?" and then she saw Olivia and then everyone else and she just covered her face and started to cry, saying "No, no, you guys..." And once everyone was gathered Olivia said, "Now that the exam is over, we aren't technically your students anymore, so we can do things for you whether you want us to or not. So... since you're late for class so often - not that we really minded! - but since you have problems being on time, we got you this." And she handed Prof. M the watch in its box. Prof. M tearfully opened the box and exclaimed her gratitude, kissing the watch face, saying it was "Too much." And I said, "Oh, but there's more!... We also made you this." And I took out the plaque, which I had had hidden in a paper grocery bag, and handed it to her. She was speechless as she read the inscription and then kissed the top of the plaque as well (it makes me wonder if this is something that Greeks do with gifts). She said, "Rachael, you did this, didn't you? I can see your hand in this." And I told her that I had made the plaque. She told us how much she loved all of us and how sad she was that the class was ending. At some point, I stepped forward and hugged her because she looked to be in desperate need of one. She cried the whole time, poor dear. And then, she went around the entire group, there was maybe 15 or so of us, and gave us all hugs. And then said she was going to go back to her office to cry some more. We were so happy she liked it.

The class started breaking up after that. Stacey, Jordan, Olivia, Mia, Candace and the other Stacy stayed in the hall taking pictures of various combinations of us for several minutes. Someone remarked that it was like the last day of high school.

Then we went to Prof. M's office to see if she were up to taking pictures, which she really wasn't. She hadn't been kidding that she was going back to her office to cry, poor thing. And so we assured her that this might be the end of the class but that all of us would be back to visit, that this wasn't the last time she'd see us. And she made us promise that we would get together with her at some point in July to have a reunion and that we would keep in touch through the class blog if nothing else. So I for one most certainly shall. She also said that even if we didn't want to or couldn't sign up for Latin 3 with her in the Fall, we're more welcome to sit in on the class. I signed up for it, but I know at least Mia has a class conflict at least one day a week, so she'll probably sit in on Latin the other days.

After leaving her there, Candace and Stacy left for other things they had to do, and Olivia, Mia, Jordan and I we went upstairs with Stacey to turn in the class evaluations. Then Olivia had to leave and Mia, Jordan and Stacey and I had lunch. Mia remembered at some point that she had done an entire section of the final incorrectly. The exam had asked for the 1st person plural of all the verbs, but she had done the 1st person singular. So she went up to ask Prof. M if she could fix it. Then Stacey had to go to the Library and then Mia came back... At some point, Meredith, a girl in my Roman Lit class, joined us for a few minutes because she also knows Jordan... It seems like everyone on campus knows Jordan... And then around 2:15, Meredith and I headed upstairs for our Roman Lit exam, Mia went off to pack and leave for home and Jordan left to do whatever it was that he needed to go do.

All my friends from Latin hope to keep in touch over the summer and into next year. I really hope that we do. That was one amazing class... haven't experienced anything like it in my six years of college... It was more like high school... or even middle school, in how close the class got.

When I turned in my Roman Lit exam, Prof. M took a moment to tell me again how much she loved the gifts, especially the plaque. She said that when she had seen the one I had made for the farm several months ago, she had thought of asking me to make something for her, but hadn't. I told her I was just glad she liked it, but she said emphatically that she loved it and that I'm an artist. It really is way better to give presents than to get them when you can make other people feel so good.

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