Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hoy Es Chocolate Chip

Once a week for one hour, I used to teach preschoolers basic Spanish. I did  it for five years and the teachers at the school were appreciative. From 1pm-2pm on Thursdays, they got a well deserved break, and the kids in their classes were offered the opportunity to learn how to annoy adults in another language.

I had twenty-five students from many different backgrounds. Some were African American or West Indian, some were mature for their age, some were gifted and some, not so much. But I loved teaching these kids. Every week, somebody learned something, and every week, there was a new story to tell.

For example, one day, my ADD girl, Erin, decided to unbutton her shirt while I was teaching. We weren't doing clothing like last year when Michael, a twin, drew genitals on the androgynous body form we were supposed to be dressing.(His sister, Laura, had the same idea and drew breasts on her paper...damn twin telepathy)

This time, we were going over the alphabet. When she did it, Erin went up to her regular teacher and complained that she didn't know how to button back up. Her teacher said, "Oh no. You got yourself into this mess, now you can get yourself out." Erin is one of my gifted students, but without something to keep her occupied, we lose her. Little did we all know what not getting her clothes straightened out would lead to.

She stomped away from her teacher, frustrated that she wasn't going to get any help,but she plopped down silently in the middle of the kids on the rug. I continued the lesson. I turned my back and pointed to the letter "H". Erin screamed at the top of her lungs, "HACHE!". I spun around quickly and saw her raise both of her hands in triumph but almost choke on her shirt, which was now around her neck like a scarf. Both arms were out of the sleeves and she wasn't wearing an undershirt. I made eye contact with her teacher as Erin was airlifted out of the group and her look clearly said, "You're welcome."

Score one for education in America. No one gets left behind.

Little Michael only spoke Polish. I managed to break through slightly and teach him the phrase, "Me llamo". He also had ADD. The same day, after the Erin incident, I had him sit with me as I struggled to continue teaching. Every once in a while, just so I wouldn't lose him, I would ask him questions. I'd say,"Michael, cual es la fecha de hoy?" He was very enthusiastic as he yelled, "ME LLAMO MICHAEL!" in my ear. (I have to admit,that was a far better answer than the kid who responded "Chocolate Chip", when I asked the same question.)

Most of the time he fidgeted. I put him on my lap so I could control his movements a little better. He faced the class, but his back was to me. Eventually, he started trying to kick a little boy in the face that was sitting in front of us. And someone in the back of the room informed me that Michael was picking his nose every time I wasn't holding his hands to keep him from grabbing the decorations off of the wall.

With fifty minutes still left, and the teachers off to the side eating a snack and gossiping, Nicholas sat in between ten kids coughing up a lung. No one ever moved him out of the crowd.

By the time I got home, I felt like I needed a bath. What's the Spanish for Valium?

 CF Winn is the award-winning author of The COFFEE BREAK SERIES, a hilarious group of short stories meant to be read while on break or in the waiting room of the doctor's office. Her first novella, SUKI, has been grabbing hearts and hugging souls all over the United States.

You can now order SUKI in paperback at BOOK REVUE, one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores, by email at or by calling (631) 271-1442.
Learn more about SUKI at BOOK REVUE

1 comment:

Ali said...