Calling Roll

Lee St. John, a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, is a #1 Amazon ranked humorous author. Look for her on Facebook, Twitter (@LeeStJohnauthor), and on her blog at Her new release, “SHE’S A KEEPER! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess” from Bienvenue Press, can be found on

No matter how one wishes for the first few days of school to operate smoothly, there were blips. There were so many names to learn when you are teaching older students because of all the class changes.
While teaching gifted middle school students, we serviced these children for the four and a half hours a week required by the government. There are several ways to accommodate them: They could be pulled out of their regular classrooms for part of the time every day for five days, or pulled out for longer periods of time for fewer days, or they could be pulled out for one day a week for the entire time. We chose the latter. That meant the first day of class happened in week one. The second day of class met in week two and so on.
I taught gifted students in elementary, middle, and high school. After I received my gifted endorsement, I mostly taught middle and high, but if needed, I filled a void in elementary. When I taught high school we either saw them every day (non-block schedule) or every other day (block schedule). Even then it took me a while to realize that I thought I saw this one student more often than the others. I soon realized he was a twin and I had both boys on roll but in different classes.
My classroom had the desks with chairs that slid underneath but I also had a large four cushioned sofa. Several of my students rushed to class on time most every day to fight over who was going to sit on the sofa that day. We had smaller classes in the gifted program on a daily basis, but it was still sometimes difficult at first to remember a student’s name when you would see them one week and not see them again for another whole week.
As I took roll the first week in middle school, I would also record a grade in my grade book. I wanted the students to be aware we were starting with grades (since I would not see them again until seven days later). I didn’t take harsh, demanding grades, but just an oral grade so they stayed focus and engaged in the material.
As the pupils answered some of my question, I added a grade in my handwritten, not electronic, 1994 grade book. The assignment was entitled “Oral Participation” with the date at the top of the column.
A week passed and I saw the same students again. While calling roll, I made sure that all my students were present again. Everyone but Robert was accounted for in that second class. I called his name again. No answer. I asked the class where he was. They said there was no Robert. Now these students were in 7th grade and had gone to school together for some time and were also in the same gifted classes the preceding year. They all knew each other. So either they were pulling my leg or there was really no Robert.
I said, “There was a Robert last week.” They all just looked at each other like I was nuts and of course nodded to each other that they were accurate in answering that there was no such person. No Robert last week. No Robert this week. And I finally realized they were correct.
I was so dumbfounded with myself. I just knew I had a Robert the week before. Not only did I remember what he looked like and where he sat, I had also given him an “Oral Participation” grade.
That minx. Robert must have been smart, too, because he made 100 on that assignment.




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