Ides of March

Soothsayer: Beware the Ides of March
Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

Today is the Ides of March, by reputation a fateful day.

Vincenzo_Camuccini_-_La_morte_di_Cesare

While I am not particuoarly concerned about the Ides of March this year (it is sunny; my students are pleasant enough, I get to knock off a bit early etc.), I do have reason to be worried that this year is not going to be a good one for me. A Chinese soothsayer of my acquaintance (all right, a Chinese student of my acquaintance) informed me a month or so ago that this year being my Chinese animal year, I stand to suffer more than my fair share of slings and arrows. Even though I’m not Chinese.

I put no store in it, needless to say, but I do find myself collecting instances of good fortune in order to refute my soothsayer’s belief system when I next see her. Which would argue if nothing else that my own irrational belief system is in good working order. We like prognosticates. Bioluminescence on the Tasman Sea warns of climate change; cows lying down speak of the weather; a grumbling in our bones tells us what sort of morning we can expect if we bother to get out of bed. Prognosticates, then: some rational, some irrational, all answering to our need to know what the coming weeks and years will bring.

So too with an English course. An English course can start auspiciously or inauspiciously (jet-lagged students underperforming on entry-tests, for instance); early student indicators will set our benchmarks and anchor points for a given student, and presumably the same thing happens in reverse: it is hard to come back from bewildering a student in the first five minutes. If we could only wait and see, and not feel the need to draw a full conclusion from a sliver of evidence, life would be, if nothing else, a bit more balanced, and there would be no reason to fear the Ides of March, or the year of the Cock.

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