Sr. Garcia is Backpack

yo come tu casaAt some point in my lifetime, I apparently decided that I wanted to spend my career teaching a World Language to teenagers.  I do not remember consciously making this decision, but I’m fairly certain that memory loss is a side effect of the brain damage caused by twelve years and 3,000 repetitions of “What is your name? The ball is red!  I go, you go, we go!”  all recited in the psychotically happy mime-on-drugs manner unique to foreign language teachers trapped in small spaces with teenagers who, frequently, don’t give a damn.

I generally like to start my day with some wild flailing.

“¡Hola, clase!   I wave my arm enthusiastically.  “Bienvenidos…”  I mimic entering a room happily  “¡…a la clase de español!”  I jump in between the desks, arms raised like a toddler saying “Ta-da!”

Deafening silence.

“¡Hola!”  I try again, and wave my hand, eyes wide, a creepy smile plastered on my face.  “Repitan…‘¡hola!’

Crickets chirp.  Finally, a hand goes up.

“¿Si, Señor?”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“¿Al baño?”  I rapidly run to the whiteboard and draw a quick outhouse.  “¿Quieres ir al baño?”  I add a toilet for embellishment.

“What is that?”  The student pauses and stares at my artwork.  “I gotta pee.  Why did you just draw a log cabin and a coffee cup on the board?”

No es una tasa de café.  Es el baño.  Ba-ño.  Repite conmigo…

“Dude, Teach, I have no idea what you’re saying, but I’m about to pee myself.”

“Está bien.  Llévate el pase al salir.”  I hand the kid the hall pass.  He stares at me blankly.

“Uh…I’m gonna go, now.  “Merci beau-cop…or whatever.”

I try another tactic.

“Timmy!”   I eyeball the next victim.  “I am good, Timmy,” I babble in Spanish.  “I am good!  How are you?  How are you, little Timmy?”  I point to myself and then to little Timmy.  Timmy hesitates.

“Not much!”  he finally states confidently.

“No, no, not ‘what’s happening?’”  I shake my head, mock disapproving look on my face.  “How are you?  How are you feeling today?”


“No, not ‘yes.’  How are you?  How…”  I put up my hands in a questioning gesture,  “…are you?”  I point to Timmy.  “Good?”  I smile happily.  “Bad?”  I make a big frown.  “Alright?”  I shrug.

“Oh!”  Timmy finally gets it.  “Me goods!”

I’ll take it.


“And you Little Suzy.  I am good today.  How are you?”  I reduce my gestures only slightly to avoid whacking the kid next to Suzy in the head.

“I have fifteen buttholes.”

“Oh dear!  That is not good.  I am sorry you have fifteen buttholes, but I think you meant you’re fifteen years old.  Repeat after me.  Años  = years.  Anos = anuses.  I have fifteen years.


“Very good! But actually I wan’t asking you your age.  I want to know how you are, today.  How are you, Little Suzy?”

“Fifteen buttholes!”

“No, no, not anos, años.”


“Yes!  But not years, how are you?”

“I am buttholes!  I am fifteen year-buttholes good!”

I’ll take that, too.

“Alright, class!  Let’s practice!  Repeat after me!”

“I am!

“I AM!”

“You are!”  


“She is!”








“That’s not even the right verb!”

Oh dear.  Perhaps getting to conjugations was a bad idea.  I call for back-up.

“Why don’t you take little Bobby to the library, and work with him one on one?” I say to my student aide who, by some miracle, is nearly fluent in Spanish.  “I think he could use a little extra help.”

They return a half an hour later, glassy-eyed.

“How’d it go?”  I ask my aide while Bobby meanders back to his desk.

“I don’t know how you do it,”  he stares back, looking as if a tiny piece of his soul has gone missing.

“Do what?”

“It.  Teaching.  We went over it…and over it…and over it, then I quizzed him and…”


“I’m pretty sure he was speaking Farsi.”

Awesome.  At least we’ve gotten somewhere.

“How’d it go, Bobby?”  I go for the first-hand opinion.

“I is call myself is Bobby.”

Sounds about right.

Then there are the tests.

Write about a typical day at school,” reads the prompt. I open it to the section reserved for the paragraphs.

Sr.  Garcia is backpack,”  states the first one definitively.  “Class in four o’clock.  Gymnasium.

Well.  I guess that cleared it right up.

And, then, just when I’m about to give up all hope, someone gets it.

“Teach, Teach, I went to Mexico for spring break and no one there spoke English and my parents don’t speak Spanish and I got to translate!” A student gasps breathlessly.

“That’s awesome!  Where did you speak Spanish?  What did you say?”

“A restaurant!  I ordered!  And..¡tengo hombre!  ¿Cuánto cuesto? ¡Tengo muy dolores!”

I have a man!  How much do I cost?  I have very pains!

That’s great!”  I pat little Betty on the back.  “And what did they say back?”

“They just smiled.  Everybody in Mexico is so nice!”

“Indeed, they are.”

Little Betty runs off and I smile, proud to have introduced yet another student to the golden rule of learning a language.

When in doubt, just smile and nod.

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13 Responses to Sr. Garcia is Backpack

  1. AsheX says:

    I am learning French right now and I just wanna say that next time I am in class am gonna be thinking about this blog and laughing inside 😀

  2. David Hazen says:

    Another hilarious post!

  3. Bridget says:

    I would have done so much better at languages if you had been my teacher!

  4. R. says:

    This is hilarious. To your credit, this is what the conversations sound like in my classroom and we are all speaking the same language.

  5. NanG says:

    Love your blog! This was pretty hilarious!

  6. Pingback: Go left – Fifteen buttonholes | Me and my challenges

  7. Anonymous says:

    are you a fly in the wall in my classroom…or is this a day in the life of every spanish teacher? haha. My favorite student response to the question “What day of the week is it?” was “The day in the week and is bicycle,” on a colleague’s exam.

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