Here is the password for upper level classes for the week of April 10, 2017. This is high stakes testing week and students are under stress. They are made to feel that their entire futures are riding on their performance on these exams. When they get their results some will bemoan their poor showing, while others will be glorying in their high marks. Both of those feelings are impostors.

  “El éxito y el fracaso son dos impostores.” ♥    “Success and failure are two impostors.”  —Jorge Luís Borges, autor y poeta argentino (1899-1986).

This saying has a ring of the classical Stoicism of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to it. The early medieval genius Boethius had similar ideas when he described how fickle Fortune is in his short, readable classic The Consolation of Philosophy.

The attitude in this quote is one that our students would do well to pick up: What we call luck, either good or bad, is a trickster and an impostor. I want them to learn that when you are down, you shouldn’t do anything drastic or stupid, because those feelings will pass and your circumstances will change for the better soon enough. And when you are on top of the world, don’t get cocky, don’t think that success will be a permanent condition because it can pass away quickly too. This lesson is hard for all of us to remember, but especially for young people.

I also want students to begin to get to know and appreciate Borges, even if those in levels 2, 3 and 4 may not be able to read his works in Spanish yet. One connection that can help them is to point out that the world-wide bestselling novel by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, an inspiring book which many have read in English, was based on a short story by Borges, Los dos que soñaron in his book of short stories Historia universal de la infamia.

I also have my level 4 students read the Spanish translation of El alquimista with the help of this guide. It engenders deep and meaningful classroom discussions for weeks when we read it together.