Spanish Class With Mrs. Chaw-I Mean, Mrs. Shaw
Attending high school in Houston on a daily basis was hard for me as a teenager. I wanted to hang with my friends down on the bayou and smoke cigarettes instead. My grades never suffered but my interest in school did. So, every once in awhile, I would "hop" class (this is what ditching was called by the kids) and play the rebel.
My favorite teacher at Sharpstown High School was Mr. Wizenand. We called him Mr. Wiz for short. He taught biology and it was my best subject. There were only two kids who aced his year-end final, myself and another boy. I stayed up late the night before the test, studying from a legal-sized paper full of diagrams and notes. Being the pack rat I am, I found it in a box of high school mementos not too long ago and proudly remembered the effort I put into the class and the satisfaction I felt when I was handed the graded result. I never hopped Mr. Wiz's class.
Spanish was another subject I took for a few years in school. The first year I took it I skated by, mainly because the hottest boy in school, Mark Davidson, sat directly behind me and I had a difficult time concentrating on verb conjugations and vocabulary when all I could think about was him. He had a girlfriend but there was nothing wrong with pretending otherwise...
My second year of Spanish was taught by the weirdest teacher in the world. Her name was Mrs. Shaw. She was just about the geekiest woman I have ever met. She had oily, mouse-brown hair that was parted on the side. It stuck to her shiny face when the air in the classroom became heavy and stagnant. The horn-rimmed glasses on her nose were way too large for her small face. Every day she wore a frumpy, button-down dress with a huge, red patent-leather belt cinched to the max around her pudgy waistline. But the weirdest thing about Mrs. Shaw wasn't her attire.
I had a friend in class named Paul. Pablo was his Spanish name. We sat next to each other during the days that I actually attended and tried to stay awake. Mrs. Shaw would hablo Español in her monotone voice while we dreamt about being anywhere but in her period. Each of the students was also given headphones so that we could listen to recordings of the spoken language. Afterward, we would be asked to read a short paragraph so that she could monitor our progress at mastering the dialect. Poor Pablo was not a bright kid. I'll never forget one day he was instructed to read a simple sentence:
Juan y Maria tienen un madre muy bonita.
Now, anyone who has taken Spanish knows that the "y" is pronounced as a long "e". When Pablo loudly recited the letter itself in the sentence I almost lost it. He botched it muy mal! I tried to help him as much as I could, but I think he failed the class. He's probably a microbiologist now.
Over the course of the semester something strange happened to Mrs. Shaw. She became afflicted with chewing on her inner cheek. For some reason, I became fascinated with watching her do this as it became progressively more frequent and severe. Maybe it was the lack of interest by her students in the subject matter. Maybe it was the fact that her shiny, red belt was too tight. I was seemingly the only one who noticed her face contort! The other students were following the taped lessons in their textbooks. But I couldn't take my eyes off of the teacher! She would chew and chaw until the side of her mouth became skewered in the most grotesque formation! Her upper lip curled in a horrific snarl as her bunny teeth sought the soft tissue she longed to chomp. Hilarious! I was rocking in my seat trying to keep it together. Finally, I elbowed Pablo and told him to check it out for himself. After he woke up from his nap and watched for a few minutes he couldn't believe it either.
I have a few words of advice if you are going to teach high school kids. First of all, don't ever wear a red, patent-leather belt. Secondly, if you develop a nervous habit try to refrain from displaying it in front of your students. And thirdly, beware of class clowns who like to cause trouble. Ahem....