Taking attendance

“Hey look, it’s our sub!” One student shouted back to the class from the open door. She held the door open for me.

It was surprisingly comforting to find the class in complete pandemonium. It took me a second to confirm that there wasn’t a teacher in sight to hand over the baton. I was on.

Which personality would the day require? Strict disciplinarian — or witty intellectual — or compassionate adult role model? Or all of the above, perhaps?

I commented as I walked in, “Oh, wow. It’s crazy in here!”

One student said, “Well, yea. That’s how it is when we have a sub,” but then like a well-oiled machine, they prompted each other — all 30 of them — to listen to the teacher. It was that simple. What was this place?

After rifling through some papers on the desk, I found a list of names. After confirming with a 7th grader that it was indeed the right class, I started down the list.

This was never my favorite part. I’m pretty good at names, but inevitably, I always butcher someone’s self esteem. One time, there was a boy named “Per.” There’s not a lot of time to think when you’re looking at a list of names and a classroom full of unimpressed faces stare back at you disgustedly. I pronounced it like the preposition. That’s the only “per” I’d ever heard of.

30 miles per gallon was what my car got on the interstate at 70 miles per hour, but when did that ever happen?

Per actually pronounced his name like the fruit — “pear.”

He corrected me right away, saying, “It’s Pear,” and glaring at me from the deepest pit of teen angst and with an exaggerated eye roll. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

There was always one or two. I had learned to expect it. It was helping me face my perfectionism.

“Call me A.J.,” the boy shouted above the class before I got to his name. “Arjun is too Indian.” A.J. grinned and looked around to make sure everyone heard him.

“I know. I’m being racist against myself…” He explained, in a semi-respectful way.

Smiling inside, I realized I wanted to talk to him about India and what it was like being an Indian in the States. I wanted to compare notes on what it was like being an American in India. Then I remembered I was talking to a 13-year-old who wanted to disassociate himself with his old, boring heritage and explore the New World as his own person. I snapped back into the present.

The 30 appeared to be anxiously, but respectfully, waiting for me to allow them to disperse. I found a piece of paper that looked like a lesson plan and confirmed that they were rehearsing scenes from a play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it would be.

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