Inorganic Solution

Erasmo Calzadilla

Grafiti en Mantilla.

HAVANA TIMES, April 19 — When I was teaching at Mantilla High School, I had to work side-by-side with a guy named Gonzalo, who was one of the few survivors of the massive teachers flight out of the field of education – not necessarily into tourism…but to anywhere.

His conduct as a teacher was — from my point of view — abhorrent. To him, it was just the same to sell a student an exam or sell their snacks as is was to coerce a teenage student to go to bed with him or to threaten her with his formal authority when she dared to stand up to him.

I say “formal authority” because Gonzalo was indeed the real authority in many senses. To achieve this he had consorted with the most thuggish and undesirable students; guys who were experts in cutting classes.

But Gonzalo wasn’t alone among the teachers. Many admired and imitated him, even some staff members within the administration.

One day he threw a tantrum and threatened to leave. “At last we’re going to get rid of Gonzalo,” I thought to myself.  But no, the administration asked him not to go – hell, who else could control the students?

When it came time for the students to go to the country for a few weeks of farm work, Gonzalo was selected as the “camp chief” (for his merits, of course). During this period he had a ball. What’s more, he finally obtained the maximum recognition: A vice principal came out there to publicly announce that Gonzalo and his circle were the linchpin that held the school together.

As I mentioned, he would coerce “senoritas,” but only when his eye was struck by one that was special, because there was usually one tagging around behind him. And you’d have to see the parents painted him. Everyone knew that Gonzalo couldn’t teach niente, but through him it was possible to get a passing grade.


That was the word used by the kids who told me the story. He wasn’t even caught scamming or dissing street code. I dare say that most students felt that he was one of the few charismatic teachers left at the school.

But so the story ended, with Gonzalo falling from the height of his glory because of a “tip-off.” Yet, there’s no doubt that he’ll soon be admitted into some other educational institution where he can start his climb all over again.

Since his problem wasn’t “political” then he still has hope.
PS: Though I can’t confirm it, someone told me that Gonzalo has already started at another school.

*Gonzalo isn’t his real name.


One thought on “Inorganic Solution

  • It is interesting that in Cuba male teachers are able to coerce their female student into having an affair with them. Here in the States, not only would the teacher be clapped in jail as soon as this became known, but either the girl’s parents or the girl herself would file a civil suit, resulting in the forfeiture of the teacher’s house, car, and any $$$ he had in the bank! Ditto even if the affair is voluntary and mutual. About a decade ago one of my nephew’s female teachers was accused and convicted of having a secret affair with one of her high school students (in Boynton Beach, Florida). After conviction, she served time in prison. (Alas! Many of us guys joked about not being fortunate enough of having such a teacher ourselves!)
    With the “No Child Left Behind” Law under the Bush regime, (where schools have to meet certain standards, and improve their test scores, otherwise they loose funding) such “teaching to the test,” and often “coaching” students with the answers, had become a common practice, with similar results. Now the name of this law has changed, but the practices I am sure continue. Where the shit hits the fan is when such ill-prepared students try to enter a top-tier college or university. Through the same way (i.e. others writing their application essay, even taking their S.A.T. exams) some manage to slip into the better schools; afterwards, when they are required to write, or to take real tests, they fail and fall.

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