Teacher Gets Schooled

I taught in a country high school in deep rural Texas. I was rubbish at it for 9 out of 10 years — mine is the discredit, I make no excuses. Teaching still gives me bad dreams: A roomful of disdainful students refuse to repeat the phrases I model for them. “Tell me why you’re not repeating!” I plead. They ignore me and chat among themselves.

I never aimed to teach, I’m just a learner, a simple man; I wanted to be a scholar. Throughout my own education my heroes were 19th-century philologists, lexicographers and translators.

The high school gig was conversational Spanish, strictly tangential to the “core curriculum” and the athletic calendar. I was known as sen-YORE. (My mother visited the class several times and she was referred to as “Senyore’s mother.”) Guitar perennially around my neck, I taught dozens of songs — Mexican, Cuban and Spanish ones. I flogged culture. I taught the battle cry of Father Hidalgo as I remembered it: ¡Viva nuestra señora de Guadalupe y mueran los gachupines! I explained that the “gachupines” were the descendants of Spaniards in Mexico who oppressed the native population. Death to the gachupines!

Carlos, a charismatic senior with a bright smile, asked me several times to model its pronunciation. I did so with clarion emphasis: gah-choo-PEEN-ace. He would echo what sounded like gotcha penis. We went through several iterations of this call-and-response until I noticed a ripple of merriment coursing through the classroom.

Snap. Gotcha penis.

It’s a good memory and makes me smile even today. You haven’t been properly set up and taken for a ride until you’ve been had by a clever adolescent.

(c) 2023 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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