What people might not realize about being a Professional Substitute Teacher is that every day, I have to quickly memorize a whole new class set of names. I have an awesome but oddly selective memory, which allows me to remember things like all of Brangelina’s kids’ names but completely forget what I ate for breakfast this morning. And with a memory like that, student’s names can get tricky, especially since none of them are ever Brangelina’s kids.
I’ve developed a method for addressing kids so no one is ever “hey you!” Smaller kids go by one of two names: Sweetheart or Honey. So I will say “Sweetheart, can you collect those papers for me?” or “Okay Honey, I need you to sit in your seat right now.” And those little nicknames make me sound like I absolutely adore them and just need their charming little selves to listen. Which I don’t, and I do. It also works when I run into those kids out of school, who are OMGZ SO EXCITED to see a teacher at Target (fyi, the feeling is almost never mutual, Target should be a Teacher Safe-Haven) that they rush up and hug me, and I don’t look like a horrible human being in front of their confused parents when I forget little Erica’s name and just say “Sweetheart!! So nice to see you!”
With older kids, I will not use the terms above because middle-schoolers are hardly sweet, scowling at me with their snarly little faces as they walk into class, and with high schoolers, it’s just creepy. I do have nicknames for them in my mind though, but those are more along the lines of “rude little jerkface” or the HBO version of “nasty turd.” For older kids, I find myself calling out to them based on the color of their shirt or the style of their hair. i.e.:
“Hey, Blue-Shirt---I need you to sit down, please.”
“Spiky-haired gentleman in row 3, please be quiet.”
“Girl-with-the-red-skirt, I need you to pass back these papers, please.”
There are 2 ways to be instantly name-memorable to me: Have a totally weird name, or act totally weird. So I will never forget little Aragorn, Elecktra, Lovve, Chardonnay, Jamiroquai or Pants-on-Fire.
(I’m kidding, I’ve never had the last two. Yet.) Oh, and Alyssa (pronounced “Eliza”. I KNOW. WTF).
And I will never forget Diego who shredded my nerves for 3 weeks in his 2nd grade class I foolishly accepted as a long-term sub, or Jaden who brought his sister’s panties to school in his pencilbox, or Malik, whose hyperactivity made me so nuts every time I subbed for his class I took a pre-emptive Tylenol at 8 am.
So, as you can see, this job is not as glamorous as it seems.