Many years ago, I went to the most exclusive all-boys preparatory school in New England. In those days, I never thought of anything other than working hard and being successful. But when the new teacher arrived, everything changed.

I’m the teacher who drinks milk,” he said on the first day of class.

A small green scholastic owl looked out at us from the front of the room. Immediately I could tell he wasn’t like our past professors. There was a glimmer in his eye, a look that seemed to say: “I have had adventures with horses.”

I glanced over at my friend, Meeks, but he was too busy staring at professor Duolingo. Right away, we were all impressed.

On the first day of class, Duolingo instructed us to throw away our textbooks.

All boys need poetry and attention.

We cheered, tossing the grammars thrillingly into the garbage. I had never had fun at school before; I had never felt so powerfully alive.

From now on,” said Duolingo, “we will be very charming.

From the beginning, faculty members were suspicious about his teaching methods. Once, Mr. Reginald came in from the hallway after he heard yelling coming from our normally soundless classroom.

“What the devil is going on here?” he said.

He looked in horror as we, the students, were standing on top of our desks reciting a poem Duo had written on the board:

O captain, my captain / where is the captain? / is he to the North? / is he to the South? / ah, I see/ the captain is at guest services.”

Mr. Reginald looked outraged, but when he saw that professor Duolingo was present there was nothing he could do; he straightened his tie and nodded deferentially.

The man is gone,” said Duo, when Mr. Reginald left. “One day, the man will destroy me.”

We were all fascinated by the new teacher, so we did some research. He had written a book; we met up one night in my dorm room to read it:

The man from France wears the pants,” read Pitts, the boldest kid in class. “Is he a spider?”

We passed the book around, taking turns reciting our favorite lines:

“I am a boy, I like magic.’
“From now on, no one can touch me.”
“My favorite drink is a terrible secret.”

If our fathers knew we were reading this kind of literature they would have pulled us out of private school. But for the first time, I didn’t care what my daddy thought; I was a free-thinking captain who thought inspiringly for himself.

Carpe Diem,” Duo told us one week. “Seize the day.

Everyone nodded, realizing how little thought we had given to our own autonomy.

It’s impossible for the boys to live forever.”

Why did that class feel like the end of something? But maybe that’s what he was trying to tell us; ‘Excellent! You’re going to die.’

As a reward for completing our homework, Duolingo permitted us to select one of three new outfits for him to wear, and we chose “Champagne Tracksuit.” I didn’t think of it as unusual at the time; but the next class, he gave us the bad news.

I am the teacher who is fired,” said Duo, in his zipped up hoodie and matching sweatpants. “The outfit you chose is a dress code violation.”

“You can’t go,” I shouted. “You can’t!” Everyone turned; I was the shyest kid in class. But Duo had taught me how to be me for the first time in my life.

“O captain, my captain,” I said, standing on top of my desk. “I see him; the captain is directly in front of me.”

Everyone stared at me for a moment like I was crazy. Then, slowly, they followed my example.

“The captain is to my North-West,” said Meeks, joining me on top of his own desk.

As for me, the captain is due-East,” proclaimed Dirkus, stepping proudly into the air. Soon, the whole class was shouting about the direction in which they were oriented to the captain.

“Please don’t cry, it makes me nervous,” said Duo. But for the first time since the semester began we disobeyed him.

Mr. Reginald took over our classes. We had one month before the year-end final, and he spent most of the time bemoaning how far behind in grammar we were.

“What the hell has this idiot been teaching you? Who the hell talks like this?”

I couldn’t pay attention. The rest of the kids fell into line, and within a week it was like Duolingo had never come to St. Vernon’s Preparatory School For Very New England Boys.

That night, I wrote a letter to my father, explaining that I was running away from school:


I’m the boy. The son of the father. Goodbye! I want to go so I will. These are my instructions: have a good day!

Don’t worry about me, I’m very powerful,


I went to the mailbox; I opened the lid, but I was not brave enough to send the letter.

In the end, no amount of free-thinking or revolutionary teaching could wrestle away the tyrannical hold our fathers had on our futures. We went on to lead predictable, successful lives; the Duolingo Owl never taught in schools again.

Many years later, after I had created a lucrative multi-media app you could download onto your phone to learn up to 27 different languages with an optional premium service, I received a letter in the mail.

This is very good. Did you know? The teacher is proud of you. Way to go!

I’m hiding eggs

~Professor Duolingo