The Spanish Inquisition

As a high school teacher, sometimes the littlest of instances force a reflection on my own less-than-stellar moments as a student and helps me get through some less-than-stellar days on the education front.

So a confession: There were times when I did not behave as a good student.

Spanish class was one of those times.

I was horrible in Spanish class.  From the day I stood in the door of the classroom, to the day I vowed never to take another course from that teacher, I was just an absolutely plain awful student.

Let me back up and explain that this was a difficult time for me.  My dad’s career transferred us from New Jersey to Ohio.  I was a junior in high school, moving away from all of my friends, my networks, my favorite mall (this is important to a teenager) to a town I didn’t understand.  I went from being a Fighting Eagle to a Fighting Quaker (yes, frighteningly enough, this is a real mascot – an oxymoron in itself).  Did I mention that I was a junior?  In high school?

As a new student, I got the thrill of being escorted around the building by the wind-pant wearing, whistle-swinging P.E. teacher.  He led me through the building with an editorial about many different things: who not to hang out with, what not to eat in the cafeteria and where not to sit at the stadium.  He also introduced me to all of my teachers – as they were in the middle of teaching their first period classes.  It was quite embarrassing, if I do say so myself.

He directed me into the Spanish classroom, and I stopped dead in my tracks.  The class was being taught by the wife in The Shining with a pyramid haircut.  I had a flash to being snowed in the high school and this teacher screaming as her students shouted “Red Rum, Red Rum!”  I could not step any further into the door.  This did not bode well for the gym teacher who proceeded to push me as if I was on the defensive line through the doorway.

Mrs. S. looked at me inquisitively, introduced herself and was very nice that day.  It was the first and last time that would happen.

I was awful in her class.  First, I was placed in the back of the room.  This is not a good place for me – especially in a class that was Greek to me, oops, I mean Spanish.  I would try listening to her, I really would, but I couldn’t get the vision of her fighting off Jack Nicholson’s character out of my mind.  The same actress also starred in Popeye – as Olive Oil – so it was Shining or Olive Oil, all day, every day.  Also, Mrs. S. talked like she was eating her face.  It was very disturbing.

After awhile, I began to read in class.  Novels, not Spanish.  This is when Mrs. S. caught on to my less-than-stellar performance as a student.  She began taking away the precious novels I would be reading in class.  I switched to magazines.  She figured that out, too.  Darn.

My mom, Crazy Pat, was concerned when Mrs. S. called her in for a conference.  I told my mom that Mrs. S. was mean and that she reminded me of a horror movie actress.  I also told my mom that Mrs. S. was so boring and she always took my things away.  Did I mention I was awful?

Crazy Pat went in for the conference.  She came home, spread out 12 novels and 16 magazines on the kitchen table.  She told me she believed that I was not acting appropriately, and there was a personality conflict because of it.  She said I needed to apologize the Mrs. S. and start paying attention.

I started paying attention.  But I never apologized.

Driving home from school yesterday, I saw my Spanish teacher walking her dog.  She still had the pyramid haircut.  She still had the inquisitive look on her face.  She still looked exactly like the actress in The Shining.

I felt badly for my behavior as a 16-year-old.  To Mrs. S., I am truly sorry for my poor behavior.  The old saying is true: what comes around goes around.  And it has come full circle now that I am a teacher.  Oh, and one more thing, thanks for giving my novels and magazines to my mom.   I really appreciated it.  Oh, and, sorry for being just plain awful.  OK?  Thanks.

Welcome to Spanish.

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24 thoughts on “The Spanish Inquisition

  1. OMDOG! What a fabulous post. It’s so ‘may you have children just like you!’. Anyone who teaches deserves a medal. High School? A Bronze Star for valor for it is not of the feint of heart. You are a better teacher for being able to remember, with clarity, your erstwhile past. If no one has said this to you – Thank you!

  2. I agree with the above commenter–having these memories and understanding what it’s like from the student’s perspective can only make you a better teacher. But hopefully you stayed away from the pyramid-hair look. 🙂

    • I absolutely steered clear of the pyramid hair do! Think Alice in the Dilbert cartoon strip and that is my Spanish teacher. 😉 I do think my “not-so stellar” behavior has helped me become a better teacher, and I think I may understand the students a little bit more.

  3. Love The Shining references. Funny how something sticks in your head and you can’t forget like your references. You were BAD but look at the payoff.

    Did you ever talk to Mrs. S. once you’d seen her walking her dog? I bet she never forgot YOU. Holy Moly.

  4. So, let me get this right. The worst thing you did was read books and magazines in her class? That constitutes awful? We need to talk. I have some stories to tell you.

  5. At least you didn’t try to shoot her with your “finger gun” and cause her a nervous break down. (You know what I’m talking about)

  6. Yeah, I may owe a few teachers some apologies. Sorry Mrs. Bradford for the time we stole the driver’s ed sign from school and took it to your house and put it on your car. And then rolled your yard. Whew. Now I feel better. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. I bet there were far worse students that kept her awake at night. I just don’t see your offenses as being that serious!

    • Aww, thank you! I am sure there were some really bad apples. I guess I was supposed to be a good apple, yet I just wasn’t in her class. I don’t think I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

  8. I was a great spanish student – we were all afraid of the teacher ! She was a very intimidating woman from south america somewhere fluent in several languages, and if you were not paying attention, she would snap at you in some bizarre language so you felt you had noooo idea what was about to happen next. But, yes, I owe afew teachers an apology along the line….

  9. I had the mirror experience only mine was French Class. She looked like Olive Oyl as well. I, and many others, were so mean to her for no reason. She even let me retake her class when I needed to improve my grade (after fooling around the first time) to get into a college I wanted. I have always regretted the was I treated her, especially when I found out that year her husband ran off with someone else and the two daughters moved with him. I have used her as a school administrator many times. She will never know just how much she taught me, even though it wasn’t French.

    • Oh, the Olive Oyls… but what a sad story about your French teacher’s personal life. As students, we never see the big picture, as teachers/adults, we see it too much. Life lessons every minute.

  10. Pingback: What doesn’t kill us… « Write Am I

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