I try to be useful in class, or at the very least to appear to be useful. So Tuesday in third grade science class, that meant standing at the chalkboard and writing a tally mark every time a team scored a point. And this wasn’t a rousing game of Jeopardy, either; rather, it was preparation for their social science exam that was scheduled for the following day. “Name all of the world’s oceans,” the teacher would say, and suddenly every student’s mouth was open (if they weren’t already talking over the teacher) and they were talking about something, sometimes the question at hand but more often than not their chatter was about a pencil case (oh the drama of the estuche, the Spanish child’s pride and joy) or markers or whatever it is third graders find earth shattering.
“OK, next question. What continent is England on?” The teacher paused and looked at me before continuing. “Remember, this is where Heather is from.” I think my eyes squinted and a puzzled look crossed my face, and I nodded No. She nodded back, Yes. I nodded No! And she returned my nod with an audible “Yes!”
Keep in mind that there are three, and only three, auxiliares at our small school, and we are all American. I also gave a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of my home, information about my state, and answered at least five questions post-PowerPoint about what country I am from. “Are you German?” No, sweetie, I’m from the United States. “Are you from London?” No, London is in England; I’m from the United States, remember? I even resorted to chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Apparently that was to no avail.
I know that my nationality doesn’t keep anyone up at night, but in my mind, there is a difference between Brits and Americans that I thought would be somewhat recognizable. You know, the accent and all.
“Heather, but where are you from?” the teacher whispered across the room at me. “The United States of America,” I replied, smiling, and she apologetically smiled back. And to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I realized that I inadvertently told the students the continent I was from, but no matter, no one was paying attention.
“OK, a different question. Heather is from the United States,” the teacher announced, as if it was totally new information. “So what continent is she from?”
As no one was paying attention when I said “the United States of AMERICA,” a student raised her hand and boldly stated that I was from the continent of “Hollywood.” Hollywood. You have got to be kidding me. Hollywood?! Someone had a lot of studying to do that night.
In the other third grade class there is a sweet girl who refuses to speak any English with me who has asked me twice if I am Spanish. Seventy-five percent of the time, I respond to her Spanish questions and statements in English, but somehow she is convinced that there’s a good chance I’m Spanish. “Do I look Spanish to you?” I asked one time. My blonde hair and blue eyes usually gives me away as not quite belonging; sometimes I’m asked if I’m German, French, or English, which I'm not opposed to. She shrugged.
If this class knows that I’m from the U.S. by the end of the year, I think I’ll have done my job.