Lorenzo


Over the years, I have taught many memorable students in my Spanish classes, but some I seem to recall some students more often than others. One of these students was Larry, who on the first day of class already had a Spanish name that he preferred to be called: Lorenzo. When I first started teaching, I tried to give everyone in class a Spanish name since we are supposed to be speaking Spanish in class the whole time, in theory anyway. When I took Spanish in high school, everyone had a Spanish name. Mine was the same: David, but pronounced in Spanish. When I took French, I was Dave, pronounced in French. When I studied Spanish in college, everyone had a Spanish name. So when I started teaching Spanish at a Morton college, I attempted to give every student a Spanish name. However, I encountered so much resistance and resentment when I attempted to give students a Spanish name on the first day of class. So after I few semesters, I stopped trying to give students a Spanish name. Now, I have them fill out an index card that I use for calling on students at random. If they so desire, a student may write down a Spanish name he or she prefers to be called. Not many students want a Spanish name, especially the students who only take Spanish to fulfill the foreign language requirement.

So anyway, this student named Larry, with what I thought was Russian last name, insists that I call him Lorenzo when I take attendance on the first day of Spanish 102. I was impressed! I thought, “At least I have one student who loves taking Spanish!” However, immediately after class, when the rest of the students had left the classroom, Lorenzo told me that he had never taken Spanish before. For the spring semester, the college did not offer the required Spanish 101 class that Lorenzo needed to take before Spanish 102. So I had to give him permission to allow him to enroll in my class if I thought he could complete the course with a passing grade. I was unsure whether or not to permit him to take Spanish 102 without any previous knowledge of Spanish. At a community college, the attrition rate is more than 50% for Spanish classes, so I was reluctant to let him take the course. I needed more convincing from Lorenzo himself, who hadn’t even bought the Spanish books yet.

Well, Lorenzo had two daughters in high school who studied Spanish and had won some kind of state awards for their proficiency in Spanish. He wanted to become more involved in his daughters’ Spanish studies. Although he had never studied Spanish or had paid attention to his daughters when they did their Spanish homework, Lorenzo decided he would now learn Spanish even though he was a typical American who only knew one language. Apparently he knew no Spanish at all.

Of course, I believe that you’re never too old to learn a foreign language, so I told Lorenzo he could take my class, but that he would have to study very hard by learning the material in the first six chapters of the book (we would cover chapters 7-12 in Spanish 102). I told him I would be just as demanding on him as on other students who had already taken Spanish 101. I wasn’t going to cut him any slack just because he had never studied Spanish or was the oldest student in the class. Somehow, I had a feeling that he would do well in Spanish 102. Well, after the first quiz, he scored somewhere around a 70% on some topic as difficult as the subjunctive and we were both surprised! After class, I told him he did well because he had done everything I had asked of him. He admitted that he did–plus, he practiced speaking Spanish with his daughters. I don’t remember his exact final grade, but I do remember that he got either an A or a B and we were both excited that he done so well in class because of all of his hard work. When I saw him the following semester at school, he greeted me in Spanish and we conversed in Spanish quite well. Obviously, he continued practicing his Spanish during the summer with his daughters!

¡Hola! ¡Me llamo Lorenzo!

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.