Expel the Evil Spirits

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.”

Actual motivational poster found in the Cave of Learning





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