It's been awhile since you heard about Josephine, my kinky friend whom I first introduced in April. I also wrote about her in Careless Cyclist Caned and Conventional Weekend. After our BoundCon V visit described in that last piece, three months ago, she fully immersed herself in her economics studies with no distractions whatsoever. Actually, I had to urge her to take at least the occasional afternoon off, because over-preparation can burn you out and leave you in almost as bad a shape for the exams as no preparation at all. Sometimes, the more you know, the less you can recall it under pressure!
But obviously, I had nothing to really complain about as Josephine's motivational coach. You might remember that this is the role she asked me to fill at the beginning of the semester - to make sure that she goes to class regularly, finishes her homework and doesn't slack off. It all went pretty well. The girl worked hard, always busy with her books and exercises. She never missed a class all year except for a single day when she was genuinly feeling sick. Most importantly, she seemed to like the subject and her industriousness came naturally.
Except for the "careless cyclist" punishment and our play at the convention, none of which was related to Josephine's studying, I only caned her once during these months. It was after she told me that she'd had a hard time concentrating on one particular Monday and had almost fallen asleep during class. After a bit of questioning, it transpired that she had been on the phone with a friend until half past three the night before. It was an emergency, Josephine insisted, the friend needed counsel with a relationship (a job she often finds herself doing).
Helpfulness is a nice trait, I said, but honestly, that's overdoing it a little. Unless the guy is threatening to kill himself right then and there, I see no reason why you need to talk for half the night. Keep it around twenty, thirty minutes, that's more than enough for a bit of reassurance. Then say "Sorry, but I really have to get up early!" and that you will just call him back the next day. He'll understand that you have your own life to take care of, and if he won't, maybe he doesn't deserve your help in the first place.
So I thrashed her for it and she didn't play nocturnal heartache hotline again. Apart from that, though, I never had to lift a finger. Perhaps what Josephine suggested in the beginning came true - that my mere presence and the threat of punishment would be enough to keep her focused. The flattering little snake! I thought it was more likely that she simply enjoyed the course and her exuberance was the natural result. She found that she had made the right choice and didn't need to force herself all that much.
I have no big interest in economics and don't know much about it myself. But that wasn't really necessary. My job was simply to keep an eye on Josephine and her work ethic, not to help her with the actual material. I only gave her a few general tips as the exams approached, the ones that apply everywhere. Little things I picked up back when I started university.
The one thing I was most worried about is that Josephine might be channeling her enthusiasm in the wrong directions. She was studying hard, no doubt, but she had a tendency to get lost in her immense textbooks and interesting new discoveries. I mentioned my concern that maybe she wasn't preparing herself specifically enough for the actual tests she would have to write. It's a mistake I made during my first year, I said - reading too much, getting ahead of myself and not practicing the "easy, boring" basics properly. That kind of snobbery can bite you.
But Josephine assured me that she knew just what was required and had a good feeling about it. In fact, she was so confident of good grades that she made a pretty courageous suggestion. We had always agreed that she would get a caning after the exams, a certain number of strokes depending on how well she did. Just to finish off the semester in style and provide the right amount of incentive for the next. There were six written tests with grades ranging from 1,0 to 5,0 in increments of tenths. Basically, it's the German equivalent of A to E, with 4,0 or D as the minimum passing grade (or you have to repeat the class).
Now, my original idea had been to give her one stroke for each tenth above 1,0. We'd do it in several sessions, probably one for each test, and the worst case would be 40 strokes at a time, obviously. More along the lines of 10 to 20 per exam if she performed according to my expectations. But Josephine had a different plan. She proposed two strokes per tenth above 1,0. However, as long as the grade was "one point x", she would get no punishment for that particular test at all.
In other words, she was hoping for a couple of A's and fairly sure that there wouldn't be any really bad marks. I cautioned her: "You realise how draconian that gets if you mess up? Not that I expect you to, but I'm just saying..." Yes, she nodded, but she wanted to take her chances. I advised her to reconsider and stick with my original proposal, just in case the coveted one point something grades failed to materialise. But Josephine was adamant: "I'll do really well, you wait and see!" And if she didn't? Well, then she would be very angry with herself, anyway, and she would gladly take 60 plus strokes for a failed class instead of 30 plus.
Fair enough, I said, fortune favours the brave. I didn't want Josephine to think that I don't believe in her abilities. She had studied hard, she knew what she was doing and it was her decision to make. If she got only A's and not a single cane stroke, no one would be happier than me, actually. I told myself that maybe the double or nothing approach was just the right bit of extra motivation she needed. On the other hand, if it all went horribly awry for the poor girl, she could at least consider it a valuable lesson against overconfidence...
The exams were held in July and Josephine went on a well-deserved extended summer holiday after that. Goes without saying that I had to give her the grades by phone as soon as they became available online. A fairly exciting moment for us both. Now she's back and I'll be seeing her tomorrow - school report time, so to speak. Watch this space to find out if the economist's calculations paid off.