Mexico D.F.

Be careful when talking about schools in Spanish! If you’re talking about school in the general sense, use escuela. For grade school, elementary school, and grammar school, use escuela primaria. For high school, use escuela preparatoria, escuala secundaria, colegio, or instituto. Unfortunately, there is no term for junior high school. When you graduate high school, you attend la universidad. Do not use colegio because colegio refers to high school. College and colegio are false cognates. If you attended a junior college or a community college, you must use universidad because junior and community colleges do not exist in the Spanish speaking world. 

Students in the general sense are estudiantes. If you are a college or university student, you are either an estudiante, alumno, or alumno subgraduado. Graduate students are alumnos graduados or alumnos de posgrado. 

Be careful what you call the teachers! Grade school and high school teachers are maestros  or maestras. High school teachers may also be profesor or profesora. College and university professors are either profesor(-a) or doctor(-a).

But I like going to e-school!

Rocio and me

One of the many classrooms in which I taught.

Over the years, I’ve had some interesting students in my Spanish classes. The one I remember most vividly was a Mexicana named Rocío. I met her when I taught Spanish at Daley College. She dyed her hair this obviously fake black color, even though you could tell her hair was naturally black. She wore black lipstick and painted her fingernails black. She had multiple piercings on her ears, lips, nose, and who knows where else. She always wore black clothing except for her t-shirt. I gathered that t-shirts were very important to her. Perhaps even sacred. You see, she always wore a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Did I say “a,” as in only one, t-shirt? The semester was fifteen weeks long and we met twice a week. We met for class thirty times that semester and she never wore the same Marilyn Manson t-shirt twice! I always try to keep an open mind when I meet new people, but when I saw her in class, I had the feeling she would be at least a little rebellious. Whenever I called on her, she always gave the correct answer and she usually scored the highest exam grades in the class. And this may sound strange, but we had a mutual respect for each other. For the oral presentation, she prepared the best presentation of class. She also taught me a few things that I didn’t know about Frida Kahlo. And about being open-minded toward everyone regardless of our initial perception of them.

I need another Marylin Manson T-shirt!