Spanish Smells Like Fresh Air

“I cannot be a teacher without exposing who I am

 Paulo Freire – Pedagogy of Freedom

It was almost 11:00 a.m. and I was ready to welcome one of my fourth grade classes. The Apple TV was ready and I had the image of the “Plato Saludable” we had been working on minimized in the screen. The date was written on the white board and a drawing of a big index card took half of it, illustrating where students needed to write their name and date, as they would be required to complete an exit card as part of the interpretive task.

As students arrived I greeted them at the door as I usually do. Once all of the students were inside the classroom I walked into the main area to start the lesson. One of the students blurted out “It smells like Spanish” and started giggling along with students at her table. Being the curious teacher that I am I walked to the white board, switched the sign from Spanish to English and asked “What does Spanish (class) smell like?” as I wrote the question on the board. “This is very interesting to me. Let’s talk about it” I said. Almost instantly the majority of my students raised their hand to volunteer answers.

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As I wrote down the answers I realized that the comment had to do with the cleanliness of the classroom and they all seemed to have something to say about it. After the class was over I created the word cloud below to portray their candid answers. I’m still a little confused about what “scented wet-like water” exactly is, though. 😀


Once we ran out of answers to the first question I posed a second one. “What do these answers tell you about me? Let’s look at the words and phrases written on the board. What would you say about me based on those answers?” The room grew quiet for a moment as they processed what I had just asked. It was obviously a bit more difficult for them to make inferences about my personality based on their description of what the Spanish classroom smells like. But I finally saw some students raising their hands and the answers were quite insightful.

They said:

  • “You are a clean lady” (Which is a true statement.)
  • “You are artistic” (Because I use different color Expo markers to write and draw on the board, therefore it “smells” like Expo markers in the room.The student agreed with this interpretation of the answer.)
  • “You keep things smelling good” (Yes, indeed!)

If you know me personally or have shared a classroom with me, you are a witness that these statements describe me very well. I have a super acute sense of smell and there is always some sort of air freshener in every corner of my house. I am also the teacher who would typically sweep the floor in between passing bells and wipe the tables and student desks with Clorox wipes at the end of the day. If you are an undergraduate student of mine you have seen me take out baby wipes from my bag and clean the tables (filled with spilled coffee and water), computer console, and the white boards with the notes written by a professor who used the classroom before me. Whoever he or she was, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. All I know is that I want a clean space to work in.

I have been questioned and mocked at times for this quirk of mine by colleagues that think cleaning is not their job. The truth is that I think that every student deserves a clean, fresh, nice-smelling space to learn. As a teacher, the learning environment is my responsibility and I’ll do whatever is necessary to provide a positive and clean space conducive to learning. If in order to have it I must sweep the floor and wipe the tables, so be it!

Coincidently (or not) I came across Paulo Freire’s quote in the top of this post earlier this week as part of my doctoral studies. What happened in the classroom yesterday made me realize how true this statement is. Through teaching we expose ourselves even when we don’t intent to. Everything from our lessons, classroom decor, to what we do or don’t do, speaks volumes of who we are. Let’s keep it positive and clean! 😉

Hasta luego,


Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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