“Oh my gosh, you actually have your own theme song!” The young lady in the front was obviously impressed.
“You just heard it.” Mr. Webb was glad to be impressive. It helped to let everyone know that this was his room and that things ran his way in here. Not someone else’s way. His way. It was a nice way of letting them know, and Mr. Webb was all about using soft power to keep the peace.
“How much did you pay to have that done?” The young lady was starting to go beyond impressed.
“Nothing. I did it myself.”
“Wowwww, that’s like Harry Potter amazing.”
OK, it wasn’t that amazing. “Not really. Just a simple sound editing program.” Some of the other students were concurring. A few simple operations were all that were necessary to produce a track like that.
The young lady was undeterred in her adulation. “Oh my gosh, that’s so way over my head. I don’t understand computers at all. I wish I did, but, like even Word freaks me out when I try to use it. My big sister tells me to just calm down and type, but, like, I’m not typing, I’m like trying to change a font or put a picture in, and it’s so frustrating and am I the only one talking, OK… that just got… awkwarrrrrrd… I’m sorry… I’ll shut up now. You probably want to call roll or something. OK… still awkwarrrrrrd… oh my gosh… why can’t I stop.”
“Please stop.” Mr. Webb spoke his gentlest words.
“Thank you.” The young lady seemed eternally grateful for Mr. Webb’s assistance in avoiding any further awkwarrrrrdness.
“And, yes, I do need to call roll.” Mr. Webb addressed the class. Calling roll was one of his classic bits. “If I get your name wrong, please correct me on the pronunciation or if you go by a different name, just let me know, and I’ll make note of it.”
And he began: “Preston Agee.” Except he didn’t pronounce it “Preston Agee.” It came out more like “Pre-stone Ag-eh-eh”. Nobody responded. Mr. Webb repeated, “Pre-stone Ag-eh-eh.”
Preston got the clue, the bright lad. “Uh, that’s Preston Agee.”
Mr. Webb sounded pleasantly surprised. “Thank you. Preston Agee. That’s a beautiful name. Where is it from.”
“Uh, I don’t know… my dad’s from Ohio…”
Mr. Webb smiled, counted him present, and then went to the next name. “Marr-ee-line Boo-tleh-yarrr?”
After some thought, Marilyn Butler said, “here.”
“Did I get that name right?”
“Well, OK… Kahlveen Dahh-vissss?”
Calvin Davis laughed, “Yo.”
Mr. Webb smiled and continued. “Meron Defar?”
Meron looked shocked to her core.
“Did I get your name right?”
“You totally nailed it. I thought you were going to mess it up like the others!”
“I usually say it the way it’s spelled. Works just fine, usually.”
“All my other teachers mangled it. You’re the first one, ever, to get it right.”
Mr. Webb kept his smile. “It’s all hit or miss, really. Melanie Escobar?”
Melanie raised her hand and nodded.
Meron flipped her lid, again. She pointed to Salina and said, “She’s here! Oh my gosh, do you speak Amharic, or what?”
Salina got a little cross. “Oh hush, Meron. You’re making a scene.”
Meron made a “oh no you didn’t” face and then said, “Oh no you didn’t!”
Salina was as cool as cats. “Yes I did.”
Meron kept her face and looked at Mr. Webb for some kind of support.
None was forthcoming. “Salina, would you like me to move her?”
Salina smiled. “Oh, no, we’re totally besties. She’s just a little immature, every now and then.”
Meron’s jaw about hit the floor.
Salina looked at her. “Well, it’s true.”
Meron’s face went to normal. She nodded and shrugged.
The young, excitable lady sat on the other side of Meron. “Oh my gosh, that’s even more drama than what I caused at the start.” Suddenly realizing that everyone was now looking at her, the young lady said, “Oh my gosh, awkwarrrrd… shutting up…”
A few people, including Mr. Webb, couldn’t help but laugh. The young lady tried to shrink into her chair as she said, “Even more awkwarrrrrd… please call the roll again, or I’m going to cry.”
Not wanting tears on the first day, Mr. Webb asked, “Pah-mee-lay Kharr-ice?”
Pamela Harris had the worst confusion, ever, on her face. “I’m pretty sure I’m next on the roll, but that’s not my name at all.”
“I’m so sorry. How is it pronounced?”
She laughed. “No, Pamela Harris. Ease up on the H sound.”
“Good enough.” Pamela sure was a good sport.
A very surprised Xochitl Izaguirre said, “here.”
“Xochitl is the Nahuatl word for flower.”
“It’s an indigenous language from Central Mexico. The Aztecs spoke it.”
Xochitl had just learned something new about herself.
“Have you ever been to Mexico City?”
“Ever been to the Xochimilco Gardens?”
“Right, there’s flowers there. Xochi-, flowers. Milco, place of.”
This was news to Xochitl, and made a connection. “Kids learn something every day in here if I do my job right. Dah-vide Hoh-nez?”
David Jones raised his hand. “I go by DJ.”
“OK, DJ Hoh-nez?”
“You got it.” He laughed at the Spanish version of his last name.
The excitable young lady was excited again. “Oh my gosh, I totally get it!”
“You’re messing up the easy names on purpose and you’re getting all the hard ones right! It’s like, the opposite of what normally happens. You must be the opposite of, like, a normal teacher. Like, you have tables and chairs and no desks and you have a theme song, and I’ve never ever had a teacher with just tables and desks and never ever EVER had a teacher with a theme song so it stands to reason that you’d also do that trick with the roll and oh my gosh people are looking at me again, awkwarrrrrd…” She shrank into her chair.
Meron raised her hand. “Can you please move her?”
Salina smacked Meron on her shoulder, causing her to make a dramatic “Ow!” face.
“She’s no more distracting than you when you get wound up.”
“Ah! That’s so not true!”
The young lady leaned towards Meron. “It’s true. You can get as bad as me. Shutting up before it’s awkward.”
This was going to be a great class. Mr. Webb finished the roll, according to the pattern that the excitable young lady had discovered. After finishing, he realized that he hadn’t called the name of the excitable young lady. Was she actually in the right classroom? “OK, I didn’t get your name. Are you supposed to be here?”
“Oh my gosh, am I? I have a schedule, here.” She produced her schedule. It said, “ECONOMICS… WEBB… A121”
“And I know this is the right classroom because I saw the sign on the boy’s bathroom after I walked in there and saw all the guys in it and it was really awkward and I almost cried but then I saw Meron and Salina walking by and they helped me out when they pointed at the sign and they’re like my best friends, ever, and if I’m not in the same class as them, I’m gonna cry.”
“Hold on.” Mr. Webb refreshed his online roll card. Another name popped up on the screen in the refresh. “Sakura Berry?”
The excitable young lady raised her hand. “Me! And you got my name right because it’s half Japanese!”
“Actually, I got it right because I wasn’t trying to mess it up. It says here, you’re African-American.”
Sakura took a deep breath. “My mom’s Japanese, and my dad’s black and I guess that makes me Tiger Woods except I don’t play golf or anything and I don’t always feel black because I’m part Asian even though my grades aren’t what anyone would call Asian but at least I pass my classes and I try really hard and my name translated into English would be Cherry Berry, which always messes me up because cherries are a fruit but because of my name I think they’re berries but they’re actually,” and she paused here, “fleshy drupes.”
That made everyone in the room laugh. Sakura blushed. “I know that sounds like something nasty, but that’s what cherries are!”
“Actually, Sakura means “cherry blossom.” Not the cherry.”
“I know, but I like to eat cherries, so that’s what my name means to me.” Sakura smiled proudly. “So why did you mess up the names, anyway?”
“When I was a kid, teachers always messed up my name. My first name is actually Lowell.”
Sakura had to repeat it. With emphasis. “Lowell.”
“Yes, just like that. Except, growing up here, teachers always said Loyal or Lau-ell or, one day, one said, Larry. It was a sub in my 6th grade class. I popped off on her. I mean, seriously, where’s the a, r or y in my name?”
Sakura thought a little. “They’re not in your name!” Meron rolled her eyes and Salina smacked Meron for rolling her eyes, which caused Meron to act like she was about to hit back, triggering Salina’s reaction to point a finger of doom at Meron, causing, in turn, Meron to de-escalate the situation by turning her move into part of a chair dance.
“Anyway, I started to go by my middle name. Dean. That’s easy for a Texan to pronounce.”
Sakura dropped into her deepest East Texas drawl. “Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeean. Hey, it came out OK!”
“Indeed it did. And does. So when I started teaching, I thought I’d like to give some relief to the kids that got their names messed up and some of what I went through to the kids that don’t get their names messed up.”
Pamela raised her hand. “You’re not going to do that every day, are you?”
“No. Just for the roll.”
“Good. Because that would get annoying.”
“Yes it would, and I’m annoying enough, as is.” Mr. Webb clicked submit on the online roll. “And now, let’s talk about the useless books we’re going to use this year.”
Sakura raised her hand. She had a sad, confused look on her face. Meron said, “Wait. I know what’s bugging you. How can a useless book be used?”
Sakura nodded. “It’s totally contradictory!”
Meron nodded back. “I know. It’s my question, too.” Thereupon, both turned to face Mr. Webb, with their hands raised defiantly. Salina facepalmed.
“You sure you don’t want me to move you or them?”
Salina kept her face in her palm. “I’m seriously considering your offer.”