Senor Wolfe, Middle School Spanish Teacher

52 years ago I sat in an Ironton High School classroom trying to stay interested in the learning of Spanish. I had taken Spanish 1 the year before at Maysville High School in Zanesville, Ohio. Unfortunately, Mr. Gerling, our teacher had a soothing voice and my class was immediately after my lunch period. On a full stomach of whatever heavy cafeteria food was being served that day, I often snoozed my way through the introductory course.

Our family moved to Ironton that summer and I was placed in Spanish 2 with such a “pequeno” retention of Spanish 1. At least Spanish 2 was my second class of the morning and I was awake enough to realize how much I didn’t know. I slid through, posting a mediocre “C” average that probably had been raised by bringing salsa and tortilla chips to the class.

And now I have been asked to teach Spanish to middle school students for the first few weeks of the school year, until the new teacher is able to arrive. When I confessed to them this past week that it had been four times their age since I had learned some of the language, I was met with eyes wide-opened as if I had stolen a candy bar from 7-11. Others, realizing I had pre-dated social media, Instagram, and Snapchat were wondering how I was even able to learn back in those dark ages, how I was even able to exist!

Quite frankly, however, teaching Spanish for a few weeks is like a re-do. It’s like a second chance, a new opportunity to do something that I screwed up the first time. Sometimes learning something later on in life, even the final third of one’s life, makes a person realize how blessed he or she is. Since, after preparing, I’m teaching five classes each day I’m learning what I neglected to learn back around the same time Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

Each day is scary and also an adventure. Some of my eighth-graders, who have already had a year of Spanish, have encouraged me. I’m like the turtle, tortuga, that they are urging to get to the finish line. Perhaps by the end of my brief stint in the classroom, la aula, I’ll be able to understand the announcers of a Mexican League soccer game as the action flows from one side of the field to the other.


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