By Dennis Martin
I was never good at languages. Should have started when I was 5, not 15. So, how I ever ended up in Spanish III is beyond me. It probably turned out to be a good thing in the long run . . . Anita LeBlanc was in that class. And as we tooled around Tucson, AZ last year, we reminisced about Mrs. Rosenberg.
The worst thing about Spanish III was that the Spanish IV students were in the same class – upperclassmen (or do we say upperclasspersons now?) It had been a long summer break, my Spanish wasn’t that good anyway. The first day of class, Mrs. Rosenberg wanted each of us to introduce ourselves and say a few lines in Spanish. When it was my turn, I said in a Spanish accent, “Halo” . . . blah blah blah instead of “Hola.” Mrs. Rosenberg walked from the front of the class right up to me, her tiny frame bent over so that her face was two feet from mine, and she said loudly in that deep voice of hers: “HALLO TO YOU TOO.” The class burst out laughing, and I turned deep rojo.
I spent several weeks in the hospital that semester right before the final exam, and when I returned she made me take the final, instead of giving me an extension as did other teachers. That term, Mrs. Rosenberg gave me my only D in 1st through 12th grade. It motivated me to improve the next term. The lesson I learned and carried with me was that if done with some humor, an embarrassment can be a motivator.
A couple of years ago I had a student in a class who skipped a lot or was tardy often; let’s call him Cedric. He’d sit in the front row when he did show up but could barely stay awake. He wore dreads and lots of bling bling. He was one of the more ‘popular’ students on campus. He never did HW (which counted as part of their grade), and he never said anything in class. I wasn’t even sure whether he heard what was being said in class. I figured he was one of those students fresh out of HS who was allowed to continue to live at home as long as they were in college – collecting Pell Grant money until he flunked out of college. (Yes – there are many of those.) One day, I was teaching how to convert ratios by multiplying by one -- over and over again. For example, to convert mi/hr to ft/sec, you would multiply mi/hr x hr/60min x min/60 sec x 4 laps/mile x 440 yds/1 lap x 3 ft/yd (the details don’t matter). After illustrating this on the board, I said to the class that perhaps you might want to calculate how many grams are in a fourth of an ounce. Dreadlocks Cedric raised his head from his sleep and immediately blurted out “7”. At that point, I decided to make this a Mrs. Rosenberg moment. I walked over and stood in front of him, looked out at the rest of the class and said, “Finally, I hit on something in math that interests Cedric.” Everyone knew what was going on. He smiled, and from that point on he was a much better student.
More vignettes and lessons learned from WPHS to follow . . . Please contribute your own before we lose those memories.