We could smell her naivety as we looked at her drawings on the whiteboard of an eyeball and a door.
“Me llamo Señora Sedore.” She pointed to the eyeball.
then she pointed to the door,
Welcome to seventh grade Spanish.
At first, her only crime was patronization, and our only retaliations were whispered insults and occasional eye rolls.
But what we didn’t know was that, to her, our preteen angst was the equivalent of dropping bombs across her classroom. To her, the chaos of the shattering shrapnel was hurting us all by wounding our positive attitudes towards mastering a second language.
To save us from ourselves, she decided to drastically intervene.
Children were given disciplinary points by the fives—which was typically the punishment for fighting on school grounds—when we didn’t follow directions in class. Students were being sent to the principal’s office three at a time, once a week. My punishment for whispering to my friend during a lecture was having my desk moved to the corner of the room facing the wall, alone, for the next two weeks.
Enough was enough.
The spark of our anger, I decided, came from a word that I hadn’t thought about much until college—a word that means a lot, and explains more than I ever imagined.
In this case, realized power.
We knew what we liked, and we knew what we hated.
We knew the students; we knew the parents; we knew the principal.
We knew much more than she did, and we knew that we knew much more than she did.
Good could have come from sharing this knowledge with her. I believe now that we should have helped her, included her, told her all our secrets—even though she didn’t earn or deserve them. That generosity would likely have been transformative, and gracious, and good.
But we didn’t.
Our mischievous whispering only got more frequent as we plotted our next move against her. Sometimes the whispers were all it took to set her paranoia aflame. Now, students were sent to the principal by fives and sixes. Parents were holding meetings with her about their students’ permanent records. By imagining chaos before, Señora Sedore birthed it into life. All we had to do was care for it.
We forced her to watch us every second. If she turned to write on the board, markers were hurled across the room that crashed against bookcases and walls. “WHO THREW THAT?” she yelled, but we sat silent.
She could never leave the room, either. One day she tried, and when she came back every bin of markers and every box of crayons were dumped all over the floor. That apparently wasn’t drastic enough for her, so she tried to leave again only to come back to all of her piñatas pilfered for candy.
She had lost all control, but we still weren’t satisfied.
We had one final plan. At first it was with forks, but we didn’t want them to be construed as weapons by anyone—except, perhaps, by our Señora—so we decided on spoons instead. Metal spoons, so that she would know that this wasn’t just some spur of the moment rebellion, but one that was carefully contemplated.
She was writing on the whiteboard when the agreed upon time came. She turned around to find all nineteen students in the class at their desks, blankly staring at her with metal spoons pointed upward in our closed fists. We could see the confusion in her eyes, but she tried to ignore us. We started pounding the spoons against the table, forcing her to scream out her lesson for the day. One by one students began being sent to the principal’s office. While I was somehow left unpunished, I can only imagine the conversation that my classmates had when they arrived.
“…what was it this time?” the principal would start, sighing before asking after a particularly long year of meetings with the same students from our Spanish class.
“I didn’t do anything!” my punished friends would say, “She just started screaming! Something about spoons…?”
At the end of the year, I can say that Señora Sedore was no longer the Spanish teacher for Kalamazoo Academy, although I can’t say if she was fired or if she quit. I can say that she probably hated us, but I can’t say what role that our class actually played in her leaving. I can say that she went crazy, but I can’t say that we were any better.
I can say that she was not my favorite teacher, but I can’t say that she didn’t teach us anything. In fact, she taught us everything we needed to know for that year on the very first day of class: how to show someone the door.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.