During weekends and holidays, particularly the Christmas season, when the mail was heavy, I often worked 10 hours or more. I wound up staying at UCLA, because Professors Fogelquist and M. Zeitlin each asked independently if I would like to be a graduate assistant and teach beginning Spanish.
When final examinations began, I cut down on work and spent many hours in the bowels of the library in a cubicle designed for individual study. Between classes I occasionally went to the student lounge in Kirchhoff Hall to relax in its magnificent leather chairs and sofas. I graduated, with honors, in January 1957, after three and a half years of study and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa “in recognition of high attainments in liberal scholarship.” When I got to work that afternoon I was so elated that, losing all trace of modesty, I told everyone I ran into, whether I knew him or not, about my accomplishment. The idea was that I would teach two semesters while taking courses toward a teaching credential and a master’s degree. I was now called , and my work uniform was a suit and a tie.
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My status at UCLA was precarious in a different way. I also returned to the post office, which allowed me as a veteran to set my own work schedule while I attended school. UCLA’s tuition of $75 per semester helped make our goal achievable. S.-born father was bilingual, our parents spoke Spanish with one another.) But Raul was hospitalized once and unable to communicate with hospital staff.
Mother was the only breadwinner in the family, which included six minor children, a fact that weighed heavily on me, her eldest. One difficulty was deciding on a major, and I didn’t know anyone who had attended college whom I might ask for guidance. A nurse then spoke to Mother about the importance of teaching children English. Only shards and fragments of Spanish remained in my head. His assumption was that I spoke Spanish and had enrolled in his class in quest of an easy grade.
She graded my first essays as Cs, which caused me a crisis of confidence.
I believed—I knew—that I wrote better than that and told her of my concern.
She was noncommittal but advised that I continue to work hard.
The following week she gave our class a vocabulary test, and my score was well above the others’.