Monday, June 25, 2012


One of the memorable students while I was teaching Spanish was Timmy.

Well, Timmy wasn't his real name, but from the first day of class, that's how I thought of him, because he made me think of an older version of the little boy in the old Lassie TV series.

This was back in the mid-1990s, when the grunge movement was taking its toll on the American appearance, yet Timmy came to class every day smiling and clean-looking, with neatly trimmed red hair and, to top it all off, a sprinkling of freckles. He even sat up straight. The plaid shirts and jeans only added to his charm, as well as to his resemblance to the 1960s TV character.

(A little background for those of you who don't remember the show: Lassie was a beautiful and very smart collie owned by a little boy named Timmy, who lived with his mother and grandfather on a farm. In many episodes, Timmy got into some sort of scrape, and had to send Lassie for help. Lassie would run off to Mom or Grandpa or whoever was needed, and bark, tug at clothes, etc., until the person would say something to the effect of, “What is it, Lassie? Do you want me to follow you? Is Timmy in trouble?” I don't know if the line was ever actually used in the series, but at some point the line, “What is it, Lassie? Did Timmy fall down a well?” became well known among my generation.)

I managed not to ever call him Timmy out loud, although there were a few near misses. This is one of the dangers of allowing oneself to have mental nicknames for one's students.

And then one day Timmy was absent. The next morning he came up to my desk and said, “Ma'am, I'm sorry I was absent yesterday. I --” Before he could continue, my mind finished his sentence with, “-- fell down a well.”

It's hard to turn an unstoppable laugh into a creditable cough, but I think I managed pretty well. After a moment to regain my composure, I listened to the actual excuse, which had to do with setting his alarm wrong after a power outage.

As if this weren't sufficient proof of my teacherly restraint, the Universe gave me a further test when this student's real-life identical twin brother was in my class. At least this one wore sweatshirts and slouched.