Anyway, while I may have exited school unscathed, these foreign butchers might just do me in. I have been hit with a tsunami of flirtation, and just as I was beginning to believe myself unassailable, too. Those college boys ain't got nothing on these temporary foreign workers. Some of them are smooth. I have received flowers, I have received candy, I have received letters. I guard my phone number ferociously. Everybody at the plant hails me with a friendly "Hello, Teacher!" even when I have no idea who they are beyond being fairly certain they're not in any English class, much less mine. All I have to do if I want to feel good about myself is walk into one of the other teacher's classrooms. I am met with a swarm of "pretty teacher", and "new, young teacher" and "gorgeous teacher!"
Having never really encountered this before, I'm inclined to think they're all a bit crazy. Nevertheless, because everyone seems interested in the love life of Carla, here is an inside peek at how it's developing:
I was showing my intermediate slaughterhouse class how to write a paragraph, so I asked Melvin* for a topic.
"Any topic?" Melvin asked with sultry eyes.
I cringed. "Yes," I said weakly.
"Love," he replied.
I wrote "LOVE" on the board. As a class we worked on the outline. For the first point, they suggested talking about what love was. For the second point, they suggested explaining who was loved.
I sighed. "Yes, that would work," I agreed. "So, for your second point, you can write about who you love. BUT NOBODY IS GOING TO WRITE MY NAME! DO NOT WRITE 'CARLA' IN POINT TWO."
The class burst into a fit of giggles. Eventually someone remarked that it was Valentine's Day soon.
"You like chocolate, Teacher?"
I sighed. "YOU WILL NOT GIVE ME ANY VALENTINES. YOU WILL NOT SAY 'I LOVE YOU'."
They all giggled again.
"But I will accept small gifts."
Gotta meet them halfway, right?
I was looking over some forms and papers a few minutes before my low level class started. My students were chattering amongst themselves in Spanish, when I heard the term "mamacita" pronounced. Having been warned by a couple of students from my former module to reprimand anyone who called me mamacita, my ears perked up.
I really don't speak or understand Spanish, but I could have sworn after a minute or two of listening that they were discussing which of them had the best chance of dating me. One name in particular, Manuel, came up and that seemed to be the end of the conversation.
As silence fell, I looked up from my papers. All the students were sitting quietly, watching me with hands folded. They were beaming ear to ear like children.
"Uh, hi?" I said.
Just then, Manuel came in. He had been absent for their conversation.
"Hi, boyfriend!" my class greeted him.
Sometimes I march myself right off to my own doom. In the same level one class, we were studying the topic of "free-time activities". My students had just read a letter in their coursebook that went something like this:
I have the day off! Are you busy? Come visit me! I like to dance. I like to play cards. I like to watch TV. What do you like to do? Call me soon.
See you later,
Eager to make their activities more personal and true-to-life, I had them all rewrite the letter, inserting their own preferences and name. Unthinkingly, I also instructed them to start the letter with "Dear Carla" instead of "Dear Maria", a command to which they obediently acquiesced.
You can guess how many of these I received back:
I have the day off! No working! Are you busy? Come visit me! You can dance my house with me. I like listen to music. I like playing cards. My address is 89-317 Pine Street W. My phone number is 403-489-6628. Call me soon!
See you later,
I also got a half-melted chocolate bar from one student. He was smiling like a cherub.
At least some of my students seem to understand that a modicum of decorum is necessary in the classroom.
I thought it was time to work on some persuasive speech with my college class, so I pulled out an activity that my dad and brother developed years ago. We call it the "Whole Wide World" game. The steps are, a) choose a partner, b) choose a thing, c) argue incessantly about which thing is better. For example, is a "door" or "the letter E" better?
I had my students draw their things from a hat, rather than come up with them on the spot. I had prepared a colourful assortment of nouns, ranging from "action movies" to "moose" to "kiss".
Mariela drew from the hat and immediately tried to return her slip of paper, which I refused to let her do. "No, no, you're stuck with 'bathing suit' as a topic," I told her. "You can so argue 'bathing suit'." Next, Grecia drew from the hat.
"What did you get?" I asked as they took their places at the front of the class.
Grecia cleared her throat. "My topic is 'Carla'."
The crickets chirped.
Mariela said, "I lose."
I HAD AT LEAST THIRTY OPTIONS IN THE PILE! THIS WAS ENTIRELY UNFORESEEN!
Despite feeling my eyeballs grow in proportion to my face, which, by the way, was rapidly heating up, I had enforced the "argue what you pick" rule too strongly to back down now.
Grecia sang my praises. Mariela agreed with everything Grecia said, then asserted how I'd be even better in a bathing suit. She hit sexy model poses. She strutted across the room and flipped her hair. She declared, "Carla is more beautiful wear a bathing suit! A bikini! Then all the men in class, ooh!"
When the howls of merriment eventually died down and my students were sure that my tears were a result of me laughing too hard and not of mortification, one lone voice responded to Mariela.
"But, Carla not can wear bathing suit in class," said Manuel.
Mariela's shoulders slumped. "I lose," she reaffirmed.
I was home in Calgary on Friday and Saturday. My family asked me whether I wouldn't stay for Sunday, too.
"No, I can't," I replied, "I have a lunch engagement on Sunday."
My grandma immediately grabbed my (right) hand and ogled the ring that's been on it for the past five years. "An engagement?!" everyone exclaimed.
"I'm not engaged," I asserted, reclaiming my hand. "I just don't know what else to call it. It's not a lunch date."
"You're going on a date?!" they all exclaimed.
"With a boy?!" inquired my brother.
These missionary luncheons are going to ruin my reputation.
I have never felt unsafe amidst my admirers. The past few months have pretty much been one long ego trip for me. And who knows - I might actually walk away from it all with a boyfriend. That would indeed be bizarre.
My friend, Becky: "Carla, we need to find you a boyfriend. But if not, you'll continue forever to be the wanderer on epic adventures, which is just as awesome. As long as you send me cool trinkets."
*For reasons of privacy, every student will be referred to with an ethnically and gender appropriate alias.
Manuel = Latino male
Mariela/Grecia = Latina female
Melvin = Filipino male