Soar Like the Eagle.
‘Im on the next lesson’, she said with pride.
This was one of my fourth year students, committed to learning and practicing her English with anyone who’d listen. She was looking forward to her 60th birthday. She was a friend of mine as well as a student, and she was also the only adult in my class out of ten – the rest were all adolescents.
One was a very serious young chavo. He had come for English acquisition if such could be achieved – his neighbor had managed to score very high marks in English on a university entrance exam while in my class – so if he couldn’t do the same at least he’d become a runner-up. This boy was ambitious and was doing very well so far. He wanted to soar. Then there were the 7 senoritas, all of them beautiful, all of them at different stages of learning and with various levels of commitment and energy. For one young lady it was hard to get up in the morning and she yawned repeatedly – it was all she could do to not slip out her cell phone a dozen times within the hour to check on the time. But she’d tried hard to make progress, and she had brought her sister and girlfriend with her this term. Her sister also yawned a lot, causing me to wonder about their family and what reasons they had for staying up so late. Her friend, indeed limited in her knowledge and use of English, had beautiful long black hair the color of a mine shaft and she had smokey eyes with very long lashes. She was struggling and she lifted her eyes to me as little as possible. Another student of mine was quiet and studious, with a long shock of black hair and such enormous dimples in her cheeks that you could get lost in them when she smiled. She was a madrugadora, always early, and she placed herself as far away from the other students as possible. Pushing my stuff aside, she sat next to my desk, as though by clearing her space, and mine, she’d be more in tune with the lesson. Altogether it was a great class. They soared like the eagle.
And then a certain young kid arrived, a very affable joven, and almost immediately the class came to life. This young lad had an attitude of good-natured indulgence and everybody – or almost everybody – loved him for his easy laugh and his extroverted personality. When my daughter was visiting several months ago we hired him to look after my 4 year old grandson on occasion , and apart from eating all the kid’s Fruit Loops he proved to be a responsible baby-sitter. He never turned down an opportunity, but then my daughter paid him well. Now he was back.
‘Estoy de vuelta’ he announced with a flirty grin. ‘I’m back.’ And I could almost hear the ambiguous tone in that phrase. I was back in Hollywood for a moment.
He sat next to my sweet, though severely sleep-deprived senorita, and after a few insignificant exchanges she progressed from shy to, well….responsive. She’d changed. I’d always known he was hopelessly in lust with her breasts, but I didn’t hold it against him that he was only 14. One by one my pretty students became drawn to him …Play-Well-With-Others had managed to take their minds off their work. The shock of his laughter and the accompanying female titters caused my teacher-irritation-meter to soar. ‘How outrageous’, I thought. ‘I’m too old for this.’ I heard my male student heave a nauseated sigh, and my friend threw me a sympathetic glance. Fruit Loops had done it again. Machismo was alive and well, and in my classroom.
I had to forgive the girls – after all, Mexican women are conditioned from a young age to respond agreeably to the flattering attention of men. I’ve known that for a while. So, resorting to an old technique that worked with other horny adolescents in the past, I came up with a seating plan that would minimize Fruit Loop’s ability to dominate the class. In that way I’d kill two birds with one stone – not ruffle his macho feathers and cause him embarrassment, and also ensure that better learning take place. Octavio Paz, who I read extensively to get a better understanding of the Mexican in general, states that machismo is a defensive posture, not an aggressive one.
My hope is that, passive or aggressive, it’s on the way out. Isn’t that one reason why we strive to give our young women here in Mexico a better education?