I often refer to my 30 square foot, life-sized shoe box office as “La Cueva de Enseñanza” (the cave of learning), where sometimes, anything but learning happens. Last week was one of those days with Guillermo, the muchacho who once asked me if it was normal for his sweat to smell like tamales after having eaten a plate of tamales followed by a 15 minute run (see “The Smell of Tamales” ).
Fifth period started out like a finely tuned educational orchestra: all three students were on -task with purpose and direction. I moved from student to student looking over homework and answering questions as I proudly conducted the three-piece ensemble . And then, only 10 minutes into the 50 minute piece, Guillermo’s decides to stop strumming his violin and start plucking at it.
As if summoned by some invisible force to stop working, he looks up from his biology assignment and directs a question at me, even though I was turned away from him looking at my computer.
“Hey mister… are you on twitter?”
Slightly annoyed at the interruption to my educational symphony , I kept looking at my computer and simply replied , “No”, hoping my flatness would bore him and he would once again reconnect with the rest of the hive.
“What about instagram?”
Again, without turning around, I gave a flat “no.”
“and what about Facebook?”
Hoping he would sync back into the circadian rhythm of the room, I chose to engage him .
“Yes,” still facing away from him.
“I’m going to friend request you.” he mused, staring off into some unknown land.
“Sorry, I don’t have any students on my Facebook account. Can you please get back to your work?”
“Why not?” he had succeeded in disconnecting me from my imaginary symphony and sucked me into his cacophonous pluck-pluck-plucking of the violin string.
“Because good boundaries make good teacher/student relationships.” I replied, now turning to face him.
“Well, what if I joined your church… then we’d be brothers!” he concluded, proud of his new-found logic.
Normally I would have a quick witted, sarcastic comment to such off the wall remarks, but I could see the other two students were starting to waver off their balance of harmony, so I just said, “Umm… that’s not how it works. Now please get back to work.”
Guillermo relented, and as if he had never disconnected from the symphony, continued right back in rhythm…
For about ten more minutes.
The needle on the record player scratched and that same strange force drew him out of the flow and I heard him ask another student, “Hey… what kinda truck you getting?”
“Ford F150… and i’m gonna raise it” came the proud reply from the other student. For those unfamiliar with the finer things of rural life, ‘raising your truck’ means adding extra suspension to it so the body of the truck is completely separated from the wheels. Very classy.
I spun around from my screen and with a slightly annoyed tone said, “Maybe if you spent more time raising your grades… instead of your truck, you’d graduate on time.”
They both laughed at the reverse logic that would soon become a motivational meme, and went back to work. Peace and diligence once again reigned in the Cave of Learning.
Until Guillermo abruptly got up and stepped toward the door.
“Be right back,” he said and slipped through the door without waiting for a response.
I looked out the window to see where he had gone, but he was right outside the door, just standing there as if he was waiting on a bus with a slight grimace on his face.
About a 30 seconds passed and he stepped back in, waving his hand behind him.
“Guillermo… what are you doing? You can’t just leave—.”
“I know, I know… sorry mister. Es que tenia que expulsar los malos espiritus (I had to expel the bad spirits). Better out than in, you know,” his boyish face obviously proud of his discretion. He then added, “but I think some of them may have followed me in,” as he continued waving his hand vigorously.
The other students seemed to ignore him, which I was thankful for since the realization of what he had just done would have turned my symphony orchestra into a mosh pit.
“Fine… just get back to work … and don’t conjure up anything else.”