Some students really know how to affirm a teacher’s masculinity.
I was greeting one of my migrant students who works weekends and summers in the Florida heat picking fruits and vegetables ranging from tomatoes to watermelons. These kids know what hard labor is like and they’ve got the work ethic to prove it. I gave him a firm handshake and my best, sparkly teacher smile.
Immediately after the handshake he looked at my hand and admired, “Wow Mr. Rivera… you’ve got soft hands!”
I was taken aback at this revelation but masked my surprise with my still sparkling teacher smile.
Why you little…I can do 12 straight pull ups, 25 push ups and some intense pilates moves with these hands. These vice grips dominate my neighborhood community gym!
But of course, as a teacher we are trained to put our internal dialogues through many filters before they reach the ears of our tender, impressionable students. After much thought, I flatly responded through a now fading sparkle:
“Thanks, Fernando. I used to be a hand model in L.A.”
“You know… home shopping club, fancy watch commercials, perfume ads.” I waited for this to register as I flashed my ten digits in front of his face as if they were celebrity jazz hands.
His face remained unimpressed.
“Oh…ok mister. I guess that didn’t work out for you.”
“Yeah, I guess not. Get to work.”