In my classes the students sometimes surprise me. What they know, who they are, what they think is appropriate to discuss in class. What surprises me even more, though, is when they shine a light on all the things I think I know. I know I constantly pass judgments about people. Make educated guesses or assume things about people. I create little back-stories about what brought them to free or reduced cost English classes in an empty old catholic school building.
There are types I’ve blocked people into and I don’t know it. I have my roofers, my fast food workers, my overly well educated blue collar people, my mail order brides, my young bucks… Sometimes these things even overlap. I am perfectly capable of shifting my judgments as I get new information. I don’t blame myself for making assumptions, I do it without thinking.
One student in my new class is one I’d categorized as a mail order bride. She’s in her late thirties or early forties. Very pretty, very European looking. Fair skin, long neck, thin nose. She dresses like a middle class lady and speaks English pretty well. Her Spanish is proper and easy to understand. I’ve had her type in class many times. Married to an American guy who has finally either pushed or allowed her to take English classes.
I imagine her husband to be a middle to lower-middle class guy who is too nerdy to find an American girl who will have him. Or maybe he’s a lonely divorcee who wants a woman with less status than he has, who will be sweet and grateful. I also imagine they will eventually fall in love and maybe have children. I’m comfortable with the arrangement if they are. Plus, it’s all my imagination anyway.
My Marta is very kind. She has no trouble sitting next to the KFC worker who can’t read in Spanish, much less in English. They laugh together. The two of them waited for me after class, and we walked out to our cars together. Lara went to her big old sedan, I went to my slightly less old sedan. Marta was parked right behind me. Her car was a black Jaguar. She wished us both a nice weekend as she got in and drove home.
Still trying to re-jigger her back-story in my mind.