Life is for the living. You have to do things for the sake of learning, and for the story to tell for the rest of your life. Those are two of the reasons why I participated in “National Take A Juggalo To Red Lobster Day.”
Yes, there really is no way to beat around the bush. I treated a clown comrade of mine to some cheddar biscuits, shrimp scampi, and in exchange got my first interview for my budding youtube channel. The conversation was both fun and enlightening. I have always enjoyed the fun of shock value and the hidden tension to serving a juggalo or sitting next to one by the staff and the customers was beyond hilarious to us. The blunt in the parking lot also helped. If you haven’t smoked weed in a Red Lobster parking lot with a guy in clown make up, don’t talk to me about living. We discussed the realities of being a juggalo and labeled a gang by the FBI. We discussed racism and class war. We engaged in topics relating to our favorite socialist organizations such as PSL, IWW, and my organization the DSA.
There is little I can write here about what my comrade said that you couldn’t just get from directly watching the video. What I can tell you is about my own introspection from this meeting, my own epiphanies.
Those who follow my other social medias know that I have taken the final steps to recognizing what it means to be a true radical, I.E. my renouncement of liberalism and embracing of the label “Communist.” I often think back to the days where I thought “leftist,” “liberal,” and “radical,” were all one or interchangeable. Needless to say I was more than wrong. What is honestly cringe worthy about these memories though is the inherent condescension that I perpetuated which comes attached to being a liberal.
Liberals think they are better than other people because they usually have some sort of identity attached to being a democrat, “I’m a dem because of my trans daughter.” Or “I’m a dem because I support a woman’s choice.” Both of which are nearsighted reasonings considering the DNC’s failure to recoginze the lgbtq community until 2012 and the fact that Hillary Clinton and her running mate said they were both willing to “compromise” on abortion. Liberals will also resort to the level of toeing the party line when it comes to defense of problematic leadership. As we speak Al Franken is being vindicated for his sexual harassment because liberals think it’s more important to focus on Roy Moore. This is no way a defense of the GOP who are no better for electing a rapist president and defending a pedophile. It is simply a reminder that the right of center fake capitalist oligarchical left also defends elected rapists like Bill Clinton.
When I was a liberal, I perpetuated all of this, victim blaming the opposition, putting my identity as a brother and son as a vital reason to be a feminist, and always detracting to Trump whenever I had to face an evil truth about Hillary, despite the fact I didn’t want to vote for her anyway but was in fact guilted into it by my family, something I will never forgive them for and something that as further validated my belief that liberalism is a joke and a false presentation of the left. And yes, I realized all of this from lunch with a juggalo.
In my liberal teenage days, I gladly mocked the juggalos. Despite thinking I was some sort of forward thinking progressive, I still in a classist manner condescended and mocked who I saw as an other. This was wrong. I am glad I reached out to my clown comrade not only to further the solidarity between DSA and the Juggalo culture but to grow as a person myself. As the year has passed the radical in me that was dying to be freed as been beyond liberated. I am no longer afraid to wear the label “communist.” If a juggalo can still wear their clown makeup after being labeled a gang, I can say I am a communist without fear.
My lunch with a juggalo was just another lesson in this year long experience of learning what it truly means to be a socialist, to believe in the march of history, to believe in autonomy, to believe in solidarity. Yes dear reader, all of this I gained from a simple meal with a comrade in clown face. Like I said before, life is for the living.
No Hable Ingles
If you are anything like me Dear Reader you faked your way through most of your high school classes. For me that was especially true for Spanish. I should have failed every single Spanish class I ever took, how I horse shitted my way to getting passing grades each and every time I will never know, or rather I’ll never remember because I was so damn high in high school.
Cut to after college and I’m teaching in Southern California, where almost every other class I have is all Hispanic or Latino. I don’t know why I never expected this to happen to me on the job, maybe it was because I thought schools would do a little more screening but apparently they don’t, at least not for subs. I realize that as I write this it sounds ridiculous to not expect non english speaking students in a teaching job in southern California, especially after my first job proctoring that test. However that was different, that was just me filling out paper work for the school. I figured any one who was going to be teaching those kids would receive some kind of warning before they took the job. But no, not I, and apparently not at Señor Angeles Charter Middle School either.
I subbed there twice, once for English classes then later for three days I was to fill in for a sick teacher. All they had informed me of either time was that they do a breakfast program at the start of the day, and that was when I was supposed to take attendance, besides the general rundown of the rules for me that was the one exception that made this school different from others. I had a classroom of 30 7th graders, most of whom, if not all, were hispanic, or latino or which every is the preferred umbrella term to make explaining this shit to white people easier. There was one or two black children in each period, but most of my students there were hispanic, or etc.
The school was another place where I got a front row seat to co-location as it operated on the same campus as an LAUSD middle school near down town Vermont Avenue. I arrived promptly despite my usual rage fueled run through the morning LA roads that causes me to stab the interior of my door repeatedly. I had begun to lose a rapid amount of weight so I had to adapt my look, the once over dressed Mr. Boxer had become now a more business casual Mr. Boxer, the only thing formal about his ensemble was that his stripped fitted dress shirts would be tucked into his jeans, now with a t-shirt underneath and open at the neck, never again subjecting himself to the noose that is a neck tie ever again.
When I arrived at the school, I was directed by the lead security guard down the halls of lockers to the main office of the charter, where I then went through the normal formalities of signing in, telling them what subject I was sent to sub for and etc. A very interesting aspect of this assignment though was that the bathroom access was ample, but it was in the main teachers lounge of the school, apparently both the charter and the traditional school shared one teachers lounge.
This was something I had not seen before, usually when schools colocate the charters seem to do almost everything to segregate themselves from the main school, or the school segregates the charter depending on who the district seems to be favoring more that year, nothing like a little competition in the realm of learning and growth right? Yet here there was a commingling of both schools in this one shared campus and teachers lounge. While the conditions of the school were much less sodding than some of the others I have been to, the teachers lounge was still as depressing as one might expect. Old rickety tables, the kinds your church only whips out for charity brunches, all adjacent to two aging & peeling couches, a series of well dated refrigerators decorating the various walls, then in the far corner were tables with an old scantron machine and telephone not plugged into anything. The walls above the machine had the labor practices and union rights of the teachers, and even held a newsletter about the local chapter of the teachers union. I do not know if this charter was non union or not.
There was even one of those old boxy tvs on the rolling stand in the lounge that they used to bring into classrooms on video days. It was hooked up to a cable connection so that the faculty and staff could rot their brains during what short breaks they had on some classic or tedious daytime television.
I sat there in the teachers lounge for a good two hours. Even though I arrived on time to the school my actual first class was not for another two hours. This was not an uncommon occurrence at this job, often I would be told to arrive at a school at 7:30 since that is when either they start class or just when teachers are expected to show up or the office opens, yet when I arrive at that time frequently they were “not expecting me so soon,” and would inform me about when my classes actually were. Since I had the time I went up the road to get some breakfast then came back to sit in the teachers lounge, trying to write some of the early chapters in this damn book you are reading now and watching the faculty and staff file in and out, grabbing food, stepping to the restroom, or sitting on one of those dated vinyl couches with the cracked upholstery on the cushions, eating from their tubberware of pasta and watching some old drek of a cop show on the equally as dated TV. Let me just state that for the record nothing smells more frequently like pasta throughout a day than a teachers break room, except an Italian restaurant. Hunching over their Rubbermaid, shoveling carbs into their face to give them the energy to face all those pubescent things screaming in the chaos of recess outside. Teacher’s lounges like these do make for great people watching.
Finally the time for me to teach came. The kids had eaten breakfast so I was spared the task of taking attendance or doing anything but showing up and running the English lesson for the day. I got to the classroom, where I was greeted with the usual oos and awes that come when a child sees a stranger instead of their teacher walk into class. The volume of the class and the students energy almost immediately picks up when something so out of routine happens, students usually walk in and become stoked. “Alright, We have a sub!”
“We have sub?” Some ask cautiously.
“Are you our sub today Mister?” Others enquire.
“No, I’m a stranger on campus I’m just waiting for security to take me away,” was my usual response at any school. I’m a little surprised that response never got me in trouble.
“What are we doing today Mister? ” I got that one the most. “Well if you would shut up and take your seats I would tell all of you.” I always wanted to say back to them.
I would open with my usual monologue, “Hello everyone, my name is Mr Boxer, I am filling in for *insert teacher name here* today. We have a relatively easy day…” I would then proceed to give the class the break down of what they were supposed to do for the day and what was expected of them, to which I always ended with, “Are there any questions before we begin?”
“Mister,” I heard a little girl’s voice say. I looked up from the lesson plan & attendance and saw a hand raised by a cute thin young Mexican girl with long straight hair with her hand politely raised.
“Yes,” I replied in my deep teacherly tone.
She pointed to the girl next to her who looked very similar to herself, if not exactly the same, thankfully her friend had shorter curlier hair so the initial difference would be easy to tell. “She only speaks Spanish.” That made the difference MUCH easier to spot now.
I was taken aback. I think based on all my earlier descriptions of my self and this job you can assume dear reader that I was taken back, but I saddled up and dusted off the cobwebs as best as I could to keep my cool and show no surprise. The last thing I would need is a group of 7th graders seeing a spot of weakness in a visiting authorities face.
“Lo siento,” I immediately replied. While I should have failed those Spanish classes I did retain some kind of information from them. I knew enough Spanish to at least fake my way through this one day, but like I said Dear Reader I would be lying if I said I wasn’t immediately surprised and paranoid about embarrassing myself, on any day I have over thirty 13 year old kids waiting for me to screw up at any moment, throwing in a language barrier just makes that paranoia worse. It was like I was back in those Spanish classes I faked through. I was just as high as I was and only memorizing what little I had to of the chapter to pass the test. Now here I was, face to face with the karma that comes with not paying attention in school.
I carried on with another “Lo siento,” hoping my pauses were not too much of a give away that I had no clue what I was doing. I then continued with, “Yo hablo espanol un poquito, pero,” it was painful dusting off these cobwebs in front of a whole class and the giggles of the young girls made me self conscious that I was butchering this. I was seriously like I was in those classes all over again. Yet still I pretended this was just another day and i followed with “pero no practicar mucho, y my accente es terrible, es *SSSSSSLLLLLPPPPTT!T” I gave little raspberry fart noise with my tongue sticking out of my lips, getting a laugh out of the young lady I was speaking to and the whole class who was watching our interaction. Jokes always helped me put students at ease and get them on my side in situations where I honestly was just winging it. The girl nodded understandably after I was finished butchering her native tongue, but I then asked the girl who had called me over to be our translator for the class period, which she gladly agreed. I made a point of noting her in my letter to the teacher to see she was rewarded for helping me.
After that I sat back in the desk as the children worked and just observed as I always did. I then began to think about what little info they had actually given me to prepare for this job, something that is again not too uncommon. When I was called for this job or when I was called for any job, all I was told was the teacher I would be subbing for, the subject, the hours, and the address of the school. They then would tell me if I needed to bring a lunch and if they had a dress code for teachers. That was literally it. At no point did my employer or anyone in the school ask if I spoke Spanish. This was not the only time this ever happened to me, but this was the first time it happened. This is what the teacher shortage does to your children, your schools become so desperate to keep warm bodies in the classroom just watching your kids causing important matters to get lost in a weird series of communication breakdowns. The school has to call a company to get a sub which then has to call me, then the company has to call the school back. No questions are asked about qualifications accept whether I have a degree and a credential, or not. Then as long as the order gets filled and the attendance rosters delivered, everyone is happy. Everyone except the little girls and boys always one step behind their classmates because they need to wait for the teacher to finish talking before their classmates can help translate for them.
I had at least one or two students every period that day who did not speak any or at least very little English. Each class I used the same routine I had before, I’d use the rusty one liner of Spanish I could remember and then I would ask a volunteer to be my translator, to which a friend of the student would happily oblige. My empathy grew as my energy depleted by the days end, I am always very sluggish by the last period of any school day and I have to struggle to maintain the order I have kept in earlier classes. That was usually not an issue but on this day I could only imagine what was going on through those poor children’s minds when some blue eyed devil with horrible lingual form butchered their native tongue, slurring his speech by the end of the day due to the caffeine crash and depleting blood sugar.
That was my first experience with this school and ever having students not speak my language. I would have multiple other experiences like this, not realizing until about the 5th or 6th time it happened that having Google translate on my phone was a professional necessity as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles. A few months later I was called to sub at the school again, for three days as a science sub. When I got to the classroom on the first day I found one of the schools administrators already in the room.
He was a tall man, somewhere in his late 40s I would imagine, clean shaven with his hair cut short on the sides but a little longer on top and the exact same skin tone as Cesar Chavez. He had the look you would expect of a classic Vice principal, dockers, tie, and a walky talkie attached to his belt, where his keys and ID badge dangled to. He reached his hand out to shake mine.
“Hello,” he said, “I’m Mr. Perez the Vice Principle. You must be our sub for science?”
“Yes,” I assured him “My name is Mr. Boxer.”
After he shook my hand he gave run down of what I had already learned from my previous experience here. “So we run a breakfast program here, blah blah Take attendance, blah blah. Oh and by the way, some of our students are ESL.”
Thats teacher talk for English as Second Language. To which I nodded and assured him it would not be an issue, to which he also assured me alternative lesson plans will occasionally be provided for them for their assignments later in the day. “I’ll be popping in and out to help you out and check in, so will some of the other teachers, our regular teacher has been sick for a while you see, so we have been shifting subs around.”
Ah, a handy piece of information that was handily with held from me until they knew I was coming. Still, I was grateful that this VP was being so direct and informative. This was the only time when I had ESL students and someone from the school actually went out of their way to warn me about it.
I assured him I could manage and that I was happy to help in any way I could, he was also reassured when I told him I had been there once before.
The students filed in and took their seats, and I was subject to the usual oohs and aws of the class and the all to annoyingly common questions and statements of the obvious.
“Alright, We have a sub!” Was usually the red flag the student would be a rowdy one, usually they were the boys who could tell just discovered masturbation but haven’t discovered girls their age yet.
“We have sub?” The overly cautious students would ask.
“Are you our sub today Mister?” Was the most common alternative variation of the previous question.
“What are we doing today Mister?” As I said before this was the most common, and I must say it was also the most annoying. “Just wait when I tell the whole class Child! What are you, entitled to information before everyone else gets it? Fuck you.”
My classroom helpers took care of handing out breakfasts and marking off students as they came in to eat and prepare for class. Each boy and girl walked in, signed in, and was given their rations, fruit, milk, crackers or cookies, and a breakfast entree of some kind, today it was a a sort of knock off egg Mcmuffin with sausage patties, the fruit was a banana and they were given a side of animal graham crackers. As they ate and tossed their cardboard trays away I was still bombarded with the usual questions I’d always be bombarded with, even though all the same questions had just been asked.
As they ate I noticed many students were not eating everything on their tray, and that in fact many were hardly touching their high protein and amino acid entrees and there fresh fruit and took nothing but the milk and graham crackers. As the garbage filled up I noticed several trays were being tossed into the barrel practically untouched, some of the sandwiches even still fully wrapped. Like any Millennial in the post 2008 economy I had a difficult time making ends meet. The phrase “paycheck to paycheck” was more than cable news fodder to me, it was my goddamn way of life and it was not one I ever consented to. So to see so much food wasted so ungratefully was maddening and heartbreaking to me, especially since so many people want to take this very thing away from these kids, despite the fact it is there only sustenance throughout their day before lunch, saving there already impoverished family immense financial strain. Its just annoying they don’t have context to appreciate what they have and what they are at risk of losing by wasting that food.
The pile in the garbage grew as their meal came to a close, splatters of there back washed milk staining what would otherwise be perfectly good food, I sit here writing this with $50 in my bank account and an empty fridge, and I’m drooling over garbage knock off school breakfast sandwiches in a growing pile of trash. The occasional banana peel or boxed milk decorated the growing pile, making me happy that at least some kids were getting their fruit and protein. The whole day I could not get my mind off of that food though.
Later in the day during lunch period, when the classroom was completely empty, I noticed at the top of the pile were three, perfectly wrapped and untouched breakfast sandwiches, no trickles of thrown out milk had soaked them, no student had touched or bitten them, the only thing going against them was that they were at the top of a trash pile and underneath them was a mountain of wadded tissues and napkins, banana peels and half eaten breakfasts all of them drizzling in leftover drops of germy milk cartons. Yet I could not abide such food to go to waste. You may think me disgusting for this Dear Reader, but if so I say you do not know what it is like to be a working adult in this economy, even with no debts, I starve and scrounge.
After a long hesitation and after I swallowed my pride and assured myself no one would enter the room for a while, I not only took those three sandwiches on top of the garbage but I even rolled up my sleeve and dug a little deeper into the garage excavating more. I got three perfectly good bananas, and two bags of graham crackers. I tucked them into my bag, only after double checking to see that everything I had selected in my freegan shopping spree was in fact untouched by any drizzles of that now aging milk. Yes Dear Reader, I ate out of the trash, not once, but three days in a row. I would go on to do this anytime I saw an ample pile of breakfasts in the trash that looked untouched, but I only did it when I was guaranteed no witnesses, the last thing I needed to be was the Scrounging Sub. But I needed the food even more.
Each day I went in and I harvested at least a day or two worth of meals and snacks from the bin. The food I had acquired ended up lasting me until the following Monday. I am not ashamed to admit it because I know I am not the first young person to scrounge in trash to make ends meet, though I am no freegan I am someone who will be damned if I let perfectly good food go to waste when I’m praying my next paycheck will be enough to cover both rent and at least one meal.
The students were relatively well behaved though. While there ungratefulness annoyed me I remembered how grateful I was at there age, so I was in no position to judge them for wasting the food, if anything I was grateful that I was smart enough to score a few days worth of snacks and meals.
Back to my difficulties with the language, on my first day of this three day assignment I had another class period worth remembering. I remember I had opened my class with my usual monologue, to which I got the expected interruption of already answered questions. This time it came from a young boy with spiked hair and a rather sleek thin sliver chain, the one thing he had of his own to express his individuality on his standard school uniform. ” MISTER,” he said with his thin arm raised, he said it almost panicking, like I was not going to answer his raised hand.
“Yes,” I replied, knowing what he was about to say.
Sure enough, “My friend here only speaks Spanish.” He pointed to a boy with short curly hair four desks down from him. The boy was tall and thin with a red hued skin tone, one that looked purely indigenous Mexican. I gave him the same schpeel about how I only spoke a little Spanish and would be utilizing his friends as translators. I even used the google translate on my phone to communicate more with him directly. Still, when you are behind your class mates so often for so long, in a new country I might add, you can only remain complacent for so long.
For three days this kid was merciless, a boil on the ass of myself and his whole class. Every fucking day when he was frustrated or when he got bored with his work he would get up and start harassing the other students. Teasing the girls, ribbing his friends. Every five minutes I was saying to him, “Sientesnse pro favor.” I’d tell him time and time again, only to find him back out of his seat. Each and every class I had to send him to one of the other teachers who spoke Spanish so they could help him, but he never went peacefully I assure you. No doubt he felt singled out because of it. The worst of it all came on the last day I subbed there, when I repeatedly was telling him to leave, but instead he kept crop dusting his class mates.
In case you don’t know, crop dusting is when you fart next to someone who is sitting while you stand and walk past them forcing them to have direct contact with what ever poisonous expulsion just erupted from your ass. I do not know what that kid was eating to produce so much gas, but it was enough to cause one girl to run out and vomit.
I eventually had to call in some assistance and the student was escorted out. I even had to write out a goddamn disciplinary report. On a piece of official school business paper work, I had to write the words “the student was farting at others repeatedly.” If any one ever told me I would send a kid to the office for farting when I started this job, I would have laughed and thought of that as a one in a million possibility. Turns out anything can happen in a classroom, and I have now doubt in my mind that it does. Somewhere in America a student is smoking a blunt in class, a teacher is going on a racist rant, and someone is fucking on campus. Even as we speak somewhere in this world something is happening in a classroom that should not be, and one way or another I’m sure it is bastardizing education.
Yet even though the student got disgusting, I can only wonder what was going on through his mind, and what is happening to him now. I can not imagine what it is like to sit in a classroom and be a step behind everyone else all the time. Not even a step behind, but to literally need an extra medium of communication between yourself and the teacher at all times because your teacher, even someone who is your teacher for just one day, does not speak your language, I can understand the students frustration, but I cannot imagine what he or any other student like him is going through. This in no way excuses farting in a classmates face for self amusement, but I’ve resorted to extremes out of frustration and boredom when people DID speak the same language as me, like I always say now, I was a 13 year old boy once so who I am to judge.
I did develop a connection with those students during that time. I found out from them that I was actually the third person in a row to sub for their regular teacher.
“Is she coming back?” They would ask me frequently during the three days, to which I would always respond “I can’t say.” That was not a cop out answer Dear Reader, it was almost always the honest one, I literally couldn’t because I rarely ever would know where the hell any of there teachers were, ever. That happens all the time as a sub. Unless the teacher tells you why you are subbing for them in the lesson plan left for you, you rarely would know why you were filling in for someone that day.
But still Dear Reader that would not stop the persistent questions.
“Where is our teacher?” I don’t know.
“How long will they be gone? I don’t fucking know.
“When will they be back?” I DON’T FUCKING CUNTING KNOW!
As I said, rarely would I ever know the answers to those persistent, tedious questions, so normally I simply would respond with a brusk “I can’t say,” or the more intellectual, Spock-like “I cannot answer that at this time.” Usually from there the matter would be settled. But I endured these questions for three days straight, constantly having to remind them that I did not know or that I couldn’t say. Which of course leads to conjecture by the students. When you leave blank spaces for teenagers to fill in, you see just how twisted and imaginative American youths can be. Conjecture by a thirteen year old is the kindling that sets off the Chicago Fire that are rumors. One rumor I remember hearing when I subbed for another sick teacher was that he had a coughing spell and he had dropped dead in the middle of first period. Actually what happened was he showed up for work then left early because he did not feel well. Like I said, our youths are at least imaginative.
Yet after not seeing their teacher for weeks, I was trying to keep my patience and be more understanding to their curiosity.
The persistent questions continued and the conversations I overheard were well worth a few good laughs.
“Is she sick?”
“I heard she got ebola.” By the way, thank you Media for teaching 13 year olds what ebola is, I love how I never stopped hearing about that one. (Insert middle finger emoji here Dear Reader.)
“Is she ever coming back?”
“She was fired wasn’t she?”
“What happened to her?”
“Is she dead?”
Jesus kids, just calm down and turn in your worksheets. You will find out soon enough what happens to her. In fact we all got the picture by the end of class on the very last day.
Near the end of my last day at the school, the VP came in, he shook my hand and thanked me for all the work I had done for them the last three days, apologizing for the farting North By Northwest boy currently now sitting in his office. Then he said, “I have an announcement I NEED to make to the class, is now a good time?” His level of emphasis on the word “need” indicated to me this was more of a statement and less of a question, and I was not about to be non-compliant.
“Sure,” I said. What else was I going to say, this was his school after all, so what was I about to do say no? More importantly why would I say no?
He got in front of the students and immediately had their attention. Something I envied about the administrators, subs have to work to get classes to be silent, VPs only expect silence.
“Hello everyone, I have an announcement to make. I wanted to make sure I told you guys this right away. Ms. *Insert common Hispanic name here Dear Reader* will no longer be your teacher.”
Not even I was ready for that one, and the awes and gasps of the students were like the whispers of the press room when Nixon said he was resigning. The vice principle put up both his hands to calm the crowd like a hostage negotiator calming the scene down.
“Now like I said, I thank Mr. Boxer for filling in for her the last few days, we are going to work as hard and as fast as we can to find a replacement.” I saw some students suppress giggles when he said hard and fast. “Because you guys are my main concern and I want to focus on your guys education. I cannot tell you why she will no longer be your teacher, but the decision was made today. We will be sending a newsletter out to your parents about this at the end of the week, please make sure you get this to your parents when you get it.”
A young boy with glasses who had been one of my frequent class clowns raised his hand. “Yes Carlos,” said the VP.
“K, but like, what happened to her?” The boy sputtered out as eloquently as a child who hasn’t read a book since he was 7 could. I did not know if he was sincere or being a smart ass for more attention. Fuck anyone who says there are no stupid questions though.
“Okay now Carlos, not only did I just say I can’t tell you why she wont be your teacher any more, but in the professional world, with adults, we have thing called confidentiality, the reasons she isn’t teaching here are personal and confidential. Personal meaning private and private means that it is none of your business. So,” without breaking eye contact with the student or interrupting his public speaking flow, “do you want to ask me that again?”
“No, ” the boy replied quickly.
The VP then returned the class over to me. The last 15 minutes my ear drums were thumping to their limits at the volume of their dismays. Thanks Mr. Admin, just drop a bomb on your students and then leave me to do the clean up, way to pull a Pacific island secret A bomb test on me.
Crop dusting ESL students, I ate out of the trash for three days straight, I came face to face with the reality of what happens when you don’t pay attention in school especially Spanish classes in our new millennium, and I watched a bunch of children hear that their teacher was gone and never coming back, and all while stoned out of my tiny mind like I always am. I do not know what else to say other than working there forced me to come to reality with many things.
I had heard of teachers having ESL students in her classes before, but one can never truly appreciate the burden on American teachers when one sees the burdens of American students, whether they be white Americans, African Americans, or new Americans, my point is until I was in a position where I could not communicate with a student I never really under stood how fucked up things were in our system. Maybe its it our system, but our culture that is the problem, this archaic idea you need to pull your shit together yourself is allow hell and good, until a teacher is forced to take from their already meager paycheck to get their supplies. On top of that to have to be able to communicate to a student who no matter what you do will feel in some way a step behind or left back. That is the reality I came to terms with after working there, the reality that no matter what we do some kids just will get left behind. Some reasons are perfectly fair and others are completely not, and the more one teaches the more ones sees how many are actually inherently unfair.
FOR THE LOVE OF DEAR SWEET CHRIST NEVER TEACH 6th GRADE!!!!!!!!!!
People have often asked me “What do you do?” Apparently that is what defines who I am, or we are all really just that lazy when it comes to small talk. So I always answered, “I’m a writer, but I make ends meet teaching.”
“Oh that’s cool.” They’d say, “What do you teach?”
I would then tell them I’m a sub, then they usually ask me something about teaching. Do I like it, am I trying to go full time, but more common than not people would ask me either, “So, what is your favorite class to teach?”
Or “what grade is the hardest to teach?”
Well to be honest, my favorite classes are anything in the arts and humanities at the high school level, those classes make me feel like I am utilizing my degree like I’m Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. But if you want to know the hardest grade to teach, it really depends on the kind of teacher you are. If you are the quiet patient type, high school is the way to go, if you are extroverted, a workaholic, and great with kids, elementary is the place for you, if you had a puberty from hell and have empathy for the struggles facing modern teens, middle school is right for you. However universally, I think it is well agreed upon my most if not all teachers, that the worst grade to teach without a doubt, is 6th grade. No matter where or what kind of school, 6-8, k-8, k-6th, no matter where I go, 6th grade is a hellish time for the students, and any teacher who decides to be the martyr and teach those classes, but hell, someone has to do it.
JB Eisenhower Middle School. A 6-8th charter operating out of one of the now rented out holes that used to belong to the catholic church. It could not have had more than 200 students, but its 67 6th graders were enough to call to action every resource, trick and trade any competent teacher might have to get the little buggers to shut up.
Needless to say I arrived at the job promptly, though stoned out my gord while doing so. I smoked three joints in my car on the way over, I received the call for this job late in the morning, meaning I had no time to self medicate before I hit the all to crowded road to downtown LA. I rushed out the door, tucking my shirt in with one hand and trying not spill my thermos of cheap coffee with the other. The school was in the middle of downtown LA, and my only route took me into the heart of the congestion that is LA morning traffic on the 110, and the surface streets driveling along with everyone trying to leave or enter the city, everyone trying to get their child to school before they get to work. No matter which route I took I would be hitting traffic, that was a given. Which means it would be a given that unless my veins where pumping with THC, I would not be in a good mood by the time I get to work.
As I said when I started this chapter, 6th grade is the worst to teach, so I try to make sure I come into each job in the best mood and by now Dear Reader you know what my idea of a good mood is. That is not easy to do when you suffer from a road rage that would be the envy of even Bruce Banner, so to summarize, I arrived at this job flustered from road rage, stoned out of my mind, about to teach the hardest grade out of the k-12 grade range.
The school itself was one building, the only room with any carpeting was the main office and the rest of the school had nothing on the floor except that stained glaze on top of the concrete foundation that has become popular to modern interior decor. The main entrance was decorated by a square of concrete, and a square of grass. Some students played soccer on the grass, others mingled or rough housed on the concrete. I always hated it when I had to pass students to get to the office. I was back to being the circus freak, taking in the stares of the awestricken pubescent youths filling the yard, some of whom have never seen blue eyes in person before my arrival. Some are just curious about who the well dressed stranger on their turf is. Some of the young girls, and boys for that matter, check me out. It was always a collection of reactions, all just from being seen.
I went through the front door and was immediately at the front desk which looked more like the receptionist desk at a yoga studio or gym. That is a common theme I have noticed. Many schools I have subbed at have there front office as a receptionist area where you walk up like you are about to check in for spin class. But instead I am signed in to be a teacher and baby sitter and security guard all at once for a day. I was then given a folder and walked by one of the latina ladies behind the desk to my class from the day. The inside of the schools halls went in an L from the front office and desk and back around to from a square with doors to a multi purpose room in the middle. The halls each had a 2 -3 classrooms on the same side of the walls. The ceilings where high and open, with the air ducts dangling here and there. The acoustics of the entire school were set up like an obscure coffee shop in an industrial barn, it even had the stained concrete floors to match. I knew the volume was going to be high already, and the classroom I later realized was making it worse.
The facilities at all charters varies. Yet this kind of design is not uncommon for the McDonald’s of schools. Much like all fast food franchises and chains, which is what charters are, the chains and franchises of public schools, you have good ones and you have bad ones. You have ones with new age facilities and architectures, you have others that still look like the jazz cups from the nineties under florescent lights.
So there I was, another day another dollar, and this day would be one of echoing voices that have been shattered and cracked by their introduction to testosterone. A field day of puberty with no play grounds or fields to play on. That is what sixth grade is at most middle schools, puberty and no more playgrounds.
After I was walked to the room and given my roster I looked over my lesson plan for the day. While I wait for the kids I would usually have a sip of my coffee. I looked to the little net pouch on my back pack where I keep my water bottle and coffee mug expecting to find my caffeine fix, but I only see a water bottle. No mug, no coffee, no caffeine.
I know I have briefly mentioned my need for caffeine a few times now, but I would like to stress that the drug is used and needed by teachers and will be until something is done about class room over crowding and the other unfair burdens we put on American teachers. Not only do I think bathroom access should be ample but I think all schools should have constant access to free coffee for all employees, especially the teachers. So not only was I going to over look a playground of puberty that was no doubt going to be used by the class as a jungle gym with painful echoes, and I was to do it coffee-less. Up to 35 kids in each class for an eight hour day, all with no coffee to keep me fueled. The worst part of it is the whole day was of 2 hour block periods.
Think back to when you were twelve, now think back to how long you sat in one spot or two hours that didn’t involve video games or painful masturbation, I bet there were not many times you were that patient or that attentive for that long, especially at the age of 12. Yet that is what I had to deal with, two hour block periods of a room full of 6th graders and I was expected to keep the peace in a classroom where the acoustics turn the students whispers into yells and heckles.
I looked over the lesson plan, the day started with me collecting the kids outside after they line up and walking them to class, not an uncommon practice at any school. It was there I got a sense of just how much of a ruckus this day would be. I walked up to my line of 12-year-olds all of them looking at me and a sense of all and curiosity.
“Hello,” I said trying to use the deep bellow I naturally have that always sets up my dominance in the classroom. “I am Mr. Boxer your substitute for the day.” I had to yell this over my students the other lines of students and the other teachers and substitutes that were giving a similar speech. My voice cracked a little bit in that yelling but I was relieved when it seemed like none of the students noticed. As I walked the students in through the hallways I was right about the acoustics of the school, their heckles and yells or only accentuated by the high ceiling and slick carpet less floors.
I’ve been having a difficult time trying to describe what I experienced in the classroom that day, so I’m gonna ask you do you my Dear Reader to work with me. I ask you to remember when you were 12 years old when you had a substitute, and to a time when you were with one of your teachers. The chances are the two instances were immensely different. I think we were all more likely to make paper airplanes with a substitute present than our normal teacher, but that still is not accurate enough of a description…
In order to give you a firsthand look, here’s my journal entry from that day;
2/9/15 JB Eisenhower Middle School
My new practice is to write what I feel compelled to write. Well, what do I feel compelled to write now as I sit here “teaching” a class? I make my living as a substitute teacher, and today its ELA and social studies for 6th grade.
We open our practice today with “silent” reading.
As I look on at the class, as I write this, I occasionally look up.
It’s a brilliant system I developed, I get practice writing while on the day job and my job is getting done by me practicing writing.
When I stop writing and look around the classroom, I do not even need to get up. That’s what is great about this writing idea, they think I am writing about them, they usually suspect this is a report on them when in fact I’m just writing my normal content or just getting in some writing practice. It’s brilliant,
I pass the time, do my day job, and get work done on my grind done all at once. Now back to the main point, write what I’m compelled to.
Well, I guess I’m compelled to do is just write for writing’s sake. Something to pass the time, something to make students cooperate and I get writing practice.
But there has to be something more compelling than that. I’m always trying to pass the time. When work is slow, writing now is nothing special, so what am I compelled to put down here. My stream of thoughts I suppose.
This job is not for the overly self conscious. I can hear 6th graders laughing at my bad hair day or giggling when they see any of my weird artist writer habits like flicking my pen, random fidgets, or the occasional muttering to myself. But I don’t care, like I said this job is not for the overly sensitive. This work is good for me, it helps me think about what I’m too conscious about and what I’m not conscious enough about. An occasional zit or bad hair day is no big deal. A form of dress that doesn’t command authority, now that is a problem.
This job is teaching me what really matters in this world. What is really important to dwell on and what is not, you must let go of, you have to let go to survive this world.
Maybe that is what is compelling me to write…
I can’t get this class under control. I’ve given up, I’ve let go. The kids are yelling, screaming jokes at each other, climbing over desks, play fighting, and doodling. The energy so high, the volume so painful I am getting migraines, plus I don’t have coffee.
One student has been cracking inappropriate jokes and whispers nonstop. He can’t stay in his seat, the Little Shit is constantly heckling me. He is passing notes, drawing gross things, so much energy. And here I am with no coffee.
Caffeine deprivation and 6th graders, a deadly combination. Little Shit who wouldn’t stop heckling is about to try to negotiate with me. I always get annoyed when students think this will work, no, the smart thing is to plead the 5th, not to plead or beg even more. Teachers don’t have time to negotiate plea deals, they have other kids to teach, look around you Little Shit, you are not my only concern.
My response shuts him up for a while, “If there is a brain in your head, you will stop talking to me and get to work.”
Good one Mr Boxer, I’m sure that one did no damage to a 12 year old child.
Another student, a skinny little girl, she asks me to quite the class down because she can’t work, “Its’ too loud Mister.” She says it to me with giant brown sad eyes, she knows she isn’t learning today, and she feels its my fault, I know it.
“I know I tell her, I’m doing my best.” Which I really was.
“Okay,” I declare with my boom of a voice, trying to suffer through the crackles since it has been used so much. “Some of your classmates are complaining they cannot hear, this is a problem, keep it down, be respectful of your fellow classmates, you guys can do better than this.”
Nothing, the minute I’m done talking, the dead silence is lost in the chaos that is their bellows and screeches. “Mister you should take a video and show it to the principle so they know who was bad.”
A well intentioned little girl, but I don’t like it when any one tells me my job. “I’m writing it all down” I assured her, and I was, I left every paper airplane thrown, every heckling and stupid joke and the name of their perpetrator in my always ever detailed notes for the returning teacher.
My voice becomes more and more sore as the day goes on, I have to yell over them ever time I try to talk to them. Even when they aren’t misbehaving, I have to yell.
No peace today, there is just no peace.
Two hour block periods. Keep a 12 year old in one seat for 2 hours in 2016. You try that for an 8 hour day. This school is mad. What did they think would happen with a sub?
And damn I miss my coffee.
It is the last period now, and another adult has come into the room. An elderly black woman with a very dumbfounded constant smile, like she had just taken a fresh batch of her meds, and looked numb and happy to everything. When I asked who she was, she only Identified herself as one of the classroom “volunteers” well that is all well and good but who the fuck are you? To be honest she did not strike me as the most well rounded of people but she was very sweet and kind. I hoped her presence would be a help. Normally when kids are in the room with someone from the school they know, they become more well behaved they remember this is not a day off but rather a day like any other just with a guest teacher and adjusted lesson plan. Every other time, they were a help in bringing back the peace, this time nothing.
The volume stayed just as high, paper airplanes and repetitive questions berated the both of us now from all sides. I bounce from student to student, but she just slowly strolls from one to one, never losing that Xanax smile of hers.
She even says to me, “I don’t know why they are being like this, normally they know exactly what to do.”
An added adult for once was no help at all.
So much damn energy. How does their teacher do it? How does she teach, them!?
“But mister, I been good now.” Said one after working for ten minutes when just before, for a good thirty minutes, he hadn’t even put his name on his paper. His deplorable English was like nails on a chalkboard to me.
As my fellow millennials would tweet whenever anachronistic thinking rears its ugly head in our media, smh.
“No you haven’t, and you know you don’t need it explained to you.” That’s right Mr Boxer, put it all on them, remind them they know and can do better.
Finally the last bell rings, I write up the last of my notes for the teacher, and I will be out of here. I just want to sit, and enjoy the now silent, empty class room for bit first.
Never teacher 6th grade part 2
That was just one instance of the psychosis that comes with teaching 6th grade my Dear Reader, but I do not think I have quite fully grasped in complete detail what a hell teaching 12 year olds really is.
Another grand old row I had with a class full of the early days of puberty happened at one of Axis middle school locations. The following is the journal I kept from that day. I should also mention in addition to teaching 6th grade I had once again forgotten my coffee, which I think further demonstrates just how fucking draining those puberty stricken little buggers can be.
Axis Olga T. Charter Middle School
I got the call to work at 7am. 6th grade science, a challenging subject and the hardest grade to teach. But no matter, I dress confidently and pump myself up, get high as hell, and I am ready to handle these punks.
I arrived at 9. I got my rundown from the woman in the office. Two hour block classes. For two hours at a time I need to keep 6th graders on task.
It seems to be impossible today.
The loud screeches and hollers of the class gives me a migraine. The pestering questions drive me insane.
SHUT THE FUCK UP AND WAIT YOUR TURN YOU LITTLE SHITS! What part of “Raise your hand quietly,” don’t you get!?
And stop talking when I’m talking.
A rude little shit named Anthony, a kid that definitely deserves a beating. The kind that was never told he was wasn’t special. No coffee, that’s a double negative, I’m not thinking straight.
Anthony is still at it. He’s one of those kids you don’t feel sorry for. He won’t stop whining to me. “This is hard.”
“Good that means your learning.” That’s true you know.
“I don’t like this.”
“I don’t want to do this.” I can relate you little bugger, I don’t want to be doing this either.
“I don’t like work Mister.” That was the kind of shit that earned me a back hand from my dad when I was 12.
This is the kind of kid whose mom dotes on him too much. Make your little “mi hijos” do there fucking chores god damnit! These little shits make it harder for everyone, especially our girls.
I want to beat the shit out of him, I really do. But I’m a “professional.”
You don’t like work, all you Anthony’s of the world, well I’m sure your parents don’t either you little fucks. I’m sure they don’t like whatever shit job they have to do to keep you stuffed with Cheetos and occupied with video games.
Seriously, why do kids love Cheetos so fucking much?
Two hours of this, now I have to pee, and the class is so loud, so chaotic. I have no caffeine to keep me going either.
The pestering and yells continue.
“Mister.” From one side of the room.
“Mister!” From the other.
“MISTER!” Screeches the most impatient of them.
“Mister I need help!”
“Mister he’s distracting me.”
Shut the fuck up and work goddamnit!
One kid, none stop out of his seat. Pestering me with question after question. Like he can’t read the fucking directions himself.
They are on the board you little shit, just look up!
A lady from the office tells me about an earthquake drill today. I need to come talk to her about it during lunch. Great, little shits and a drill and a shorter lunch break. Not in a good mood for the next class.
In fact, they are even worse.
Our word of the day was “Respect.”
HA! Little shits, just stay in your seats, you know the rules.
I have no choice. I have to shout at them to get them to hear me. I shout for the billionth time, it’s the only way to get their attention, the neighbor teacher hears all the yelling, and comes in to help….
The Earth quake drill went down. A complete debacle as you can imagine. They all thought it was play time. It takes myself and two administrators to get them to shut the fuck up. You need to take an earth quake drill seriously, especially in LA.
The drill riles them up, I know I will have no chance at peace until I leave for the day. My hips and shoulders and tight and clenched with tension. This has been one of the shittiest days in a while.
After the work day was done I was driving from the school, and just as I had pulled out of the school lot and stopped at the first intersection I saw a car drive directly into a pole at at least 40 miles per hour.
Literally my Dear Reader right after all of that day, I was sitting at the corner of 54th and Arlington, and a sedan just slams head first into the light pole on the sidewalk. Smoke fumed from the engine and the air bags were clearly deployed. As I pulled over to help, I started to realize my day wasn’t so bad after all.
But that is the reality of teaching 6th grade my Dear Reader, it took witnessing a car wreck to put my day into a better light.
charters aside, what i know about kids today
I started this job as nothing more than a working schlub who needed a paycheck. I was a living modern cliche of the white male middle class waywardness that comes with the gained rare privilege of a debt free degree. I was like the Graduate but without the affair or anything actually interesting happening to me. I was just out of college with an English degree and I did not want to end up in the service industry like so many others of my demographic. I left this job worrying that every single day what these schools are doing to our next generation. For the sake of my sanity, I need to put that aside every once in a while and just focus on the fact that I had the good fortune of working with today’s kids. I got a front row seat to their drama, their first loves, their humiliations, all the experiences that would go on to make them who they were, for better or worse.
It started as just a paycheck, but it became so much more than that over time. When I was actually in front of these classes, sharing my knowledge with them, when I actually got the and helping to build their own views of the world, I can tell you Dear Reader that I take confidence in what I have seen and experienced. While I may not sound like it because of some of my previous tangents but I actually did learn some good things about today’s kids. Plus I made a living by giving back as best I could, and I am now a part of all these different kids educations and memories all across the world famous city of Angels and its neighbors, for better or worse I am a part of their development. Even if it was only for a single day at a time I was a part of it. I truly do hope every single one of them goes on to do great things in this world. I also wish I could say I’m sorry to the children and teens I had made my sacrificial lambs, to the ones I responded to with anger when all I was doing was matching their cynicism with my own. Escalating instead of de-escalating. Cynicism does not beget cynicism, only love can. If only my students knew how much Max Boxer actually hated Mr. Boxer, especially now, I feel they would understand.
More to the point there are somethings I think the world needs to know about our youth, at least the ones I have seen working with and watching in LA, and this goes for all of them, from the yuppie kids of rich beach town private schools to the segregated hell of LA prison schools. There are several truths about about our youths that we need to actually admit;
First of all we assume too little of young people, especially teens. A lot of shit is thrown about by the ever popular pundits on TV and in the media about future adults who are growing up in these weird Charlie Chaplin-less Modern Times.
“They have no attention spans!” Neither have the rest of us since the invention of television. And where are they most commonly complaining about this deteriorating attention span? Besides Time magazine apparently, its on the very source of the deterioration, they get out and say this shit on television and the internet!
“They do not appreciate… BLAH!” Did you appreciate anything in your life before it had context? How grateful were you in the 60s when your father and mother worked for that free college education you got thanks to their survival of the Great Depression? You Neoliberal economist Baby-boomer Fucks!
“They don’t appreciate this show, or that artist or…” Well maybe that, thing, you’re talking about doesn’t hold up like you think it does. I love watching old movies with my old man, especially the Marx brothers, but WC Fields is just impossible for me to watch, and as great of a director as he was if I ever brought a Native girl home I could never show her the work of John Ford. I think I can understand why kids today aren’t interested in films like The Jazz Singer, important though they be to history. Some shit doesn’t hold up when the tides of history turn.
“Their phones make their lives too easy!” Just like how the internet is just for nerds, no one would vote for Bernie because he is a socialist, and the post office will make women sluts right? (look it up.) Oh and while we are spouting out of touch shit, racism is over in America and what is the big deal about Feminism anyway. (Insert whatever emoji’s I need to connote sarcasm here please my Dear Reader.)
“They’ll never know what we went through with walk mans, pay-phones and vcrs!” A popular complaint of the Gen Xers who seem to be using walkers already. And you fucks didn’t live through the great depression like all of our Grandparents did, so shut the fuck up.
“They are so entitled.” This coming from the coke and LSD baby boomer generations who thought drug dealing would stop Vietnam and created the generation that The Simpsons and Family Guy raised. I got news for you, that is a good thing. Entitlement regarding public choices and services is a good thing. Because I can list a few of the things my students in LA seem to feel entitled to; clean water, freedom from police brutality, citizenship, and equality.
Much of this line of thinking is agist and presumptuous. It seems to be inherent in our culture that each generation belittles the ones before and after it. From time to time you can argue one of those points fairly well but the truth is it has become inherent in our culture that we just talk down to our youth, then we steal all of their new ideas, water them down so the rich and powerful can stomach it with their pathetic and delicate constitutions, and sell then them the next best thing when we think they are old enough for our time.
Something I must also say is that, and I realize this will sound even more cliche, but some things only sound cliche because we are so jaded and we’ve heard them so much that we don’t believe them any more as there is truth in this cliche. Drumroll, Children really are our future. What we do and say around our offspring and our students, of any age, has an impact one way or another. We can pretend that it doesn’t and that eventually our kids will become resilient individuals strong enough to become who they are on their own. That is to a degree what happens, however it is us, the adults, who dictate where there lives can go because we are the ones who put a path before them. My generation was given no paths, we were told “you can be anything you want” as we were children then we got older and they added “but you got to find your own way, so good fucking luck!”
For some reason I don’t believe these kids see things that way, provided they are getting the resources they need, which we all know is not always the case. I feel that they are being given paths, or at least they are able to make paths for themselves that those my age could not. This does not mean all students or children have the same opportunities or access to the same resources in anyway, nor am I defending a system that I’m spending a whole book critiquing. No Dear Reader, I’m saying that students are being given enough foresight by our culture now, thanks to both our advancements and the dark cruelties made apparent in 2016, and I think it is because students are talking to each other like equals in ways we never have as a culture. Yes, I do meet a student who buys into anachronistic racial or gender lines or things of that like every so often, and bullying and harassment is up after 2016, but I notice it does not change the internal zeitgeist of students in California, their is not blatant treatment of their classmates as inferiors. In other words they may believe something stupid yet they don’t all act upon it, at least when I have been present, because while they believe they are different they do not believe they are inferior or superior. That is not including the few students who I have had to endure being blatantly ignorant. Yet within our culture, much more so than when I was a teen and I was a teen not very long ago, kids today have an actual sene of equality now and I think it is because they are able to look back on the many many mistakes and evils we as a society have committed and they can see first hand everything else being committed as we speak. They have more context on our world and our past than any other generation before us ever had, and they are getting a front row seat to one of our weirdest phases in history.
This does not mean that the playing field is equal in anyway, I would not have opened this book with the words “black lives matter” if i thought so. Racism, sexism, bigotry, bullying, all of these are real problems that I have seen, and I have not even mentioned the gaps of the classes I have seen in this chapter. I do think however that our children, our future, have taken the step that we have been wanting to take for a long time, racism and all other kinds of hatred are very real folks, they all exist in this world and has not gone away by any means, however if you ever need hope, if you need proof that Dr Kings dream is becoming a reality or at least that it can become a reality, look to the children and teens of this world today. They have a better concept of equality than any American generation yet to come. I have many young relatives who I see this quality in now that I have been a teacher, and it warms my heart and gives me hope in the face of a world filled with so much violence tension anger sexism and racist hate.
But maybe all this anger in the year of our lord 2016 is just the last hemorrhage of a dying way of American life. I do not sene hate in this generation as I have sensed it it mine or the previous ones, though it is their make no mistake. The rank offensive smell of racism is always pungent, but it is less powerful of a smell to our kids, and that is a reason to give us all hope my Dear Reader. Remember in this shitty economy of ours out to commodify our kids, hope is the one thing we all have that is still free and one day it might be the only thing that will still be free.
So dear reader take note, there is always that single glimmer of hope. As an eye witness I assure you that you can take hope in that we can trust our kids when they are all grown up.
Remember the fire drills of our youth, or the duck and cover Earthquake or lock down drills to brace us for the next Columbine? They were the fun and exciting change ups to our normal classroom routines, and we never understood why our teachers got so mad when we would get rowdy or playful during them. Well when you are responsible for 30-40 kids, or in some schools even 50-60 kids at a time, you need be prepared for every scenario. While we were enjoying a change in the routine, they were basically undergoing performance reviews. “Just how ready are you to keep these kids safe if the worst is to come?” Though when you are a substitute it is a different story.
Ah yes, nothing is more exciting than a fire or earthquake drill in the middle of your day as a sub, especially when no one tells you it was going to happen or when it goes off just because some pubescent comedian decided it was time to move on to felonies.
It has happened multiple times at several schools where I have worked, whether it was a boy cried wolf moment or a planned and organized drill I have had to go through all the motions I remember my teachers going through. I found it frustrating when a school planned a drill in advance and a teacher had decided to call in a sub for that day. Organized fire drills should really be the priority of only the full time teacher, To be honest though organized in either case might be too generous a term.
Every fire drill at every school is different yet follows the same or at least a similar pattern.
The alarm rings out for your simulated doomsday. There is the fire alarm’s constant clarion call for evacuation, the deep loud buzz to signal an earthquake evacuation, or the long haunting screech of a lock down alert, all of them in one way or another echo painfully in the halls when they go off like a scene from Blade Runner or THX 1138.
In some schools, kids would just chaotically spring to the door with every fight or flight instinct and reflex taking over, or their reaction was one of calm, pavlovian discipline and order, where slowly and collectively I could walk the kids out in a single file, take the proper roll call, and walk the kids back in all without incident.
In most cases however they would just rush to their rendezvous points, taking the opportunity to chat with friends along the way, very “prepared” for the real deal as I am sure you were during your school fire drills. Don’t let my sarcasm be lost on you Dear Reader.
Yes, the kids and schools will be just as ready and able when the real Armageddon happens to them, because they met the state standards and filled in the paper work, even though the full time teacher may not have any idea what to actually do, because they were too hungover that day to show up.
I remember at one school in Watts the alarm went off, it was no fire alarm though, but rather a loud ring that went out over the loud speaker, followed by an announcement that is all to real for America in the post 9/11 Columbine age.
“We are officially on lock down, teachers please keep all students in your classrooms until the lock down is lifted.”
No Dear Reader, this was no drill. This was the real deal. There I was, responsible for the safety of over 30 7th grade kids on the top floor in a classroom with one door. Needless to say I was also stoned to the core, but that news was enough to sober me up real fast.
Do you remember school lock down drills? They are basically the practice for our kids when you think there might be a stranger on campus. This was the middle of the American shooter epidemic, guns and public shootings were a problem then, one that will go on to define a chapter in American history.
The kids just seemed agitated they were seemingly not allowed to leave the classroom, and this was a middle school in Watts, so the kids were already bit on edge. However what I found especially disturbing was the kids were not that bothered by the situation itself, in fact one said that lock downs were so frequent on their campus that they were used to it. Charter or no charter, that should never happen to any child’s education. Not just in their education, but in their entire life. It is a grave injustice that any child’s day is interrupted by the potential threat of violence even once, for it to happen frequently is something my suburban gut still can’t quite stomach.
I stood by the door, diligently keeping the peace in the classroom as best I could as I was looking out the glass window on the door for any maniac coming down the halls with an uzi. I do not know how the kids would have escaped if there had been a shooter since we were on the third floor of this fortress of a building, but I was ready to throw myself in front of the door to at least put some extra barrier of flesh between the madman and the children. When you are in a classroom on the 3rd floor and all the windows are barred, how the hell are we supposed to escape being some monsters prey?
Well, we could ban assault rifles and get rid of open carry laws in all states. But we have no time for logical solutions, this is a charter school world after all.
Eventually though it turned out to all just have been a precaution and I was allowed to release my students for the day.
I remember at another school during an earthquake drill, an administrator was taking it a bit too seriously,
taking children’s phones and books away as we walked down the stairs, it was at Oakwood if I recall correctly. One of the same administrators who would scorn me so later on.
I saw her grab a book out of a girls hands as she was reading and walking, “This is not play time.”
Two kids were chatting as we walked down the stairs during the evacuation.
“Quiet! Stop that, this is not fun time. Quiet!” It startled both the kids and even myself.
“Lady,” I thought “you’re having an earthquake drill and several of your teachers aren’t even here, not only that one of your replacements for the day is under the influence of top shelf medical grade indica and recovering from a night of too many jello shots. So have fun when the real deal hits, you are not well rehearsed no mater what you are telling yourself right now.”
Of course neither was I, but Im’m not the one in that classroom full time, am I? I know I had to be ready in case something happened when I was in charge of a class, but it should not be up to a teacher to decide they don’t want to be at work on a day where they need to prepare themselves for the worst in order to protect their students.
I am not absolving subs from being ready when danger strikes, nor am I unsympathetic to a teacher who is actually sick on the day of the drill. Also note Dear Reader as a real professional I always checked the evacuation plan on the wall and I looked for the classroom emergency pack, which is usually a red backpack with everything a teacher needs if there is an evacuation, the most important being a roster to be sure all students are accounted for.
I remember at one school, the same one in Watts that had the lockdown, there was an evacuation because someone had fun and pulled the fire alarm, and for my class the whole process was a complete clusterfuck. There was no evacuation map on the wall and no backpack, all the students just walked out when they heard the alarm, and I had to be directed by other teachers to our rendezvous. When I was there I was scalded by the principle, who was then sympathetic and apologetic when I told her there was no evacuation plan on the wall nor an emergency pack ready for me to grab. Imagine going through all of that while having a stoned panic attack.
She was sympathetic but not happy about the missing items, especially since that meant she was one attendance roster short. I do not think the teacher I was subbing for had a good day at work the next day, because that missing roster can really muddy up the paper work.
That is the magic slip during any drill, the attendance rosters, if there is any discrepancy with the days attendance records, you have serious problems. Big problems, problems that will make you wish you had those bargaining rights those public school teachers need so much. It could be as simple as your student is just over with another class visiting friends, and in all the chaos it is too easy for one or two students to slip through.
But in the end it does not matter to administration as long as the paper work gets turned in, we can worry about it when it actually happens. As long as the paper work is filled in and it says they practiced, they are good for another term.
“That’s right, no worries, the paperwork says you are rehearsed in your emergency plans.”
That’s all that matters, what does the paperwork say, the paperwork is always right. Think I’m wrong? Then explain all those goddamned standardized tests.
“We do not care if you are all just winging it, you tuned in the paper work, here is a check and an armed guard.”
“Good luck, and we’ll see you when it’s time to shame your teachers for their test scores.”
Test scores, ha, wait until they find out what happens when our kids get killed in an earthquake or a fire,
or the unspeakable modern reality we created thanks to our gun fetish.
Just wait GOP and DNC, just wait until we have a real emergency at one of those charter schools you all seem so much in love with, these places that have someone like me responsible for their safety.
Just wait my Dear Reader, just wait until there is a real fire and you have someone like me at the helm with Junior and your princess.
charters included, what i know about kids today
I started this job as a working schlub who needed a paycheck. I left this job worrying every single day what these schools are doing to our next generation. For the sake of common decency, I cannot forsake acknowledging what they are doing to our kids. We are not educating our kids, we are commercializing and commodifying them, which in turn is training them, not teaching them.
I am full of hope when I think about our children’s progressive and seemingly collective sense of equality, but what I am worried about is what the actual effects of these charters may be. What are all the uniforms and chants actually doing to the minds of these kids? More importantly what are we doing to their souls? What are they actually learning about the world? About how to work? About who to trust? Once all the paperwork is done and the are standards met, who is the person we now have on our hands walking amongst free, taxpaying, able to vote citizens?
If a kid goes through the motions at one of these EMO run schools or under-regulated charters and makes it to college, do they then go off into the world with an identity of their own, or are they well groomed for the new dot com corporate workforce? Will they be bought in by the devils promise of jeans at work and a ping pong table at the internet centric coding or research job for either a game company or giant search engine? What I mean by that is there seems to be a correlation with tech and dot com companies needing a complacent, low union work force in order to maintain high profits into the future and many of these same people running these companies also seem interested in pushing for more charter schools. The same people who made Netflix and Microsoft are the same people pushing for more charter schools and a corporate learning environment of “competition.” There has even been a connection found to the famous Walton family of Walmart and the expansion of charters. The list of people cashing in on charters is already too long for one book and the list is only growing the more we ignore it.
Let me give you an example though Dear Reader of what I mean when I say our kids are being trained, let us return to Inspire schools for a moment. At every Inspire school I went to, since they were uniformly run by am EMO, they all had the same uniforms and mission statements. In the statement Inspire claims that the main goal of their schools is to essentially do two things, get your child to college and get them thinking about a career. This starts as early as 1st grade in these schools, for in the elementary level the students are broken up into groups with their desks, something I am sure we are all familiar with from our stints in school. In some classes I remember my “tables” being numbered, others got cute team names or colors, however at Inspire schools in every classroom from 1st -8th grade the groups are broken up and named after colleges and their mascots. Instead of sitting in “group one” or “table one” you would be “USC trojans” or “LMU lions” The students are asked seemingly every year what they want to be when they grow up, and it is disguised as a cute little look into who they are, but in actuality they are teaching the child “who you will be will be what you do.”
Garbage. Pure and simple in my opinion Dear Reader. I realize I speak from a place of privilege and bias, but that just sounds like pure garbage to me.
It may seem cute and fun on the surface, and it may seem like a very smart and disciplined path to put your child on in the American education system. I remember being asked that question from time to time to school and it was a harmless fun game, but here it seemed to almost dictate the kids learning.
I just feel like the whole idea there is garbage. Pure dogshit. You are not what you do. What you do does not define who you are. Who you are defines what you do, at least it is supposed to. You are not your job, you are not your clothes. What are you?
That should be up to you. All people should be free to live the life that their psychology and biology tells them they should be. And how can you expect to be in touch with who you really are if your education, the foundation of your identity, is built around where you go to school, and what you will do?
What happens when you get into the school your thinking about since forth grade? The identity you were making for yourself for years is no longer your identity, who do you become? You spent your whole childhood planning on becoming a trojan or a bruin, now you graduate. Are you still a bruin or a trojan? Is that all there is to you now? Who you are now is where you went to school? So you’re a trojan who is a bank manager thanks to Inspire schools you say? or You are a bruin now coding for google or Netflix? You know not to dress too crazy since you were always in a uniform, and you know not to act up too loud at work because they are free to call security and ask you to get out any time if you do not have the proper bargaining power. These are the things you learn when you enter the workforce when you go to the Mcdonalds of public schools.
I would always want to ask my uniformed students, who are you? What makes you, you? I can already see them on the freeway behind their car’s steering wheels just like me when they are grown up. “Dressed for success” in the same rayon noose I was wearing with an alumni license frame to let everyone know they did in fact go to college. If I takeaway the bankers tie and badge, if I erase the name from your parking space and steal your UCLA alumni license plate frame, who are you? Who are you with out those things to dictate the identity thats been dictated to you?
In other words, what have you really learned. In my opinion nothing, for when you graduate and are forced to adapt to the realities of life, that career you have been planning since childhood might not be the right fit anymore so if you are forced to quit or get fired, who are you then? You have to start your whole sense of self from scratch, and while your doing it you will probably need a job, so you work for one of those companies using the degree and the “skills” of complacency you learned at the charters that are owned or operated by their board members or investors. They know some people will have no choice but to work for them so they want their employees well groomed to their liking. So they lobby for more of their schools.
So what I know about kids today is that these charters are either giving them a means of education they would not otherwise get or their uniformity is robbing kids of developing an independent sense of self, leaving them prey and perfect labor to the corporations that are monopolizing our way of life today. Kids may have a better sense of equality than any adult but they have zero sense of identity unless we let them be free to find that sense. In my opinion we cannot do that if we just pump out our graduates from McDonalds schools were all the kids wear the same thing and all schools want to achieve the same thing. Further more I do not find it coincidental that the same people behind todays largest corporations are also the same people pushing for the expansion of charter schools.
lifesaver, the hallowed halls of hell
Whenever I got the calls to work the there for a day, it would always take me a good long head change to emotionally prepare. It would almost be like the opening scene from Apocalypse Now, a rickety fan clicks on my ceiling while I lay on my bed in my underwear, dreading what lies ahead but accepting it as my fate.
“Compton, Compton, I can’t believe I’m going back to Compton.”
I have subbed in all parts of Los Angeles, the south bay, Beverly Hills, East LA, Watts, and Compton. I made a point of accepting almost any sub job Subpool found for me but especially when they asked me to work in places like Compton, at least I did after I realized I actually cared about the kids. I would do it because I knew what kind of subs these kids can get, I had met some of the other subs, and let’s just say some of them were not cut out for Compton. I remembered my previous behavior perfectly well and I wanted to make up for it. I wanted to give the kids someone who actually wanted to be in the classroom and would work with them, not someone uninterested in helping them and quick to anger, as so often many teachers and subs in cities like Compton can be, as I can personally vouch for. Again you may refer to my other stories as proof Dear Reader, I make no secret of them for a reason.
Yet in that effort to take these jobs I got a front row seat to what charters are doing to the children of the city of Kendrick Lamar. I can summarize my experiences in Compton with a single school, Lifesaver. Lifesaver charter school, I do not know what is going on at that school, but its enough to make you think it was almost haunted.
I didn’t see aberrations or feel a creepy draft as I taught the kids, nor did I “feel a presence,” as many frauds may claim. It is just that the place is such a damn prison, such an ominous trap, for what surrounds or lies ahead for these students. For christ sake any school with the word “Life Saver” in its title in any city is ominous, it makes it sound like this school is the kids last chance. Take that and put it in one of the cities with the highest homicide rates in California and you get one nervous teacher. I felt guilty when I was able to get out at the end of the day, I knew the kids would just have to go back tomorrow. They would have to do it every day.
However when I was called to work there I would still show up promptly and ready to teach as I would at any other job. Yet every time I came to work at this school I always felt unsettled. It always starts with the bars on the windows and the big fences. Fences and bars are to Compton as sand is to a beach or how blue is to sky. This school was no different than any other poor part of LA, always so full of the iron plumage that are these endless amounts of metal bars and fences.
This schools building was a rented piece from a long gone catholic school. It was just a single building with two floors of classrooms and a patch of grass next to the giant concrete plain that surrounded it. This patch counted as their “soccer field.” All of it a was fenced of in all four corners from the surrounding houses, buildings, and alleys. The fence was high enough to cover the whole first story and then some of the second. My car was allowed in by the armed guard at the parking lot gate.
I parked my rickety Toyota next to what I know was must have been one of the administrator’s Mercedes. It does not leave a good impression when I pull up to a school in the middle of a neighborhood like LifeSaver and I park next to luxury cars, especially when you remember charters receive less money than public schools on a per student basis. They receive it with little to no oversight as to how the money is actually spent as long as the facilities are up to whatever pathetic standards the state sets and the test scores meet the states satisfaction. I can’t stress this enough, but all that seems to matter about our kids education to the general public any more is how much does it cost and what are their test scores. That is what you get when you look at a child’s education as an economic output or piece of productivity, you forget that somethings learned cant be put into a scantron, not everything is in the paper work, a concept that is always lost on the white man’s culture.
So whenever I pulled in to the school, I’d park then I went through the usual motions of working in any school, signing in, getting a bathroom key, security walking me up to my room. There was really nothing about the days I would work there that was so traumatic or out of the ordinary for the job, however there is something about the school that makes it stand out from all the others. What makes this school stand out is the ominous vibrations of everything around me.
The security guard and the receptionist walked me to my room and we passed students playing rowdy games or counting there change by the Gatorade machine. We went up the stairs and into the halls of the second floor, which seemed to have no light but the dull fluorescence. All the windows were in the classrooms, which had more light from the ceiling because the barred windows only blocked the light from outside all the more. I didn’t even see the bars cast their shadows on the desks, they just blocked light from the room completely. So luxury cars in the parking lot, a 15 foot fence, one building with barred windows and gated doors, automatic locks on the classrooms, armed security, and darkness in the halls which had a deep echo when they were empty, which made the door sound like it slammed shut every time the guard opened it for me then let gravity close it, or rather slam it it seemed. All of that together gives one the feeling of being trapped. I wondered how the students felt coming here every day.
The classrooms were all the same when I taught there, dismal and dank I think are the right words. The light from the windows too high to open was always gray thanks to the metal sheen of the bars outside. The rooms were thin but stretched out long with a desk sitting behind the students and a chalk board in front of the rows of students. The walls were a vomit inducing shade of faded red, aged from the years gone by and faded by the dreams lost in this room.
The classes went as you might expect them to, while I will first fully acknowledge that there were plenty of good students, there were also plenty of others who I could sense resentment from or who were just obtusely uninterested in working or learning, but in that environment who can blame them. One student decided to mock my shoes and then gave me a 20 minute harangue about his Jordans, to which I constantly had to remind him. “I really don’t care.” Actually I wanted to say “Who the fuck gives a shit?!” but I was not allowed to swear when I played Mr. Boxer.
Another student picked my pencil off my desk and broke it in half and then tossed the pieces on the ground, as if I didn’t have more pencils. It would have been a seen from a cliche PSA on bullying had I been the same age, or if I actually cared. The student seriously looked taken aback and defeated when I in no way reacted and I just took out another pencil. I don’t know if this was just because I was high as kite on the job, like always, but I actually did not know what kind of reaction he actually wanted. It honestly in no way affected me because it was just a stupid pencil. It was as if I was supposed to break down crying or something. To be honest I was upset at the first instant, but I had learned to truly pity those kinds of students by this point, so I did not react in the angry way I had before.
Then a little bit later of course someone took offense when I asked them to do something and I was reminded that I was, “Just a sub, not even a real teacher.” Yet I remained resilient in my newfound patience. When students gave me problems at Lifesaver I’d just calmly ask them to leave, which they always did without me having to ask twice or get security. If they legitimately did not want to be in that classroom, who was I to make them? Also, based on what kind of a school I saw they had to come to every day, I figured the last thing these kids needed was some angry white guy they don’t know very well yelling at them. Truth be told, I did not want to be in that classroom either, some students may think me or other teachers as their enemy, they will never know I was there closest ally.
I went to the school multiple times and every time I went it was the same, I had the best intentions of helping the kids, yet most intentions I had of actually helping these kids would be a little thrown off by the darkness and ominous nature of the echoes and barred windows and the vibe of having an armed security on the end of each hall. Everything about the school felt dark and ensnaring to me and I was only the guy there for one day at a time. “This isn’t just a school to prison pipe, this school is a prison already.”
Yet the hardest part about this school is that every time I have been there, while I have had to endure the hell of some students, I endured the praise of others, which can actually make the job harder than the insults and hatred.
“You’re so much better than our other English teacher down stairs.” Welcome to the world of deregulation in your children’s public schools.
“Our other teachers ares so lazy.” Welcome to the Neoliberal economy kid, where ethics are made up and the effort doesn’t matter.
“You are so patient mister, our other teacher is crazy.” Welcome to the California Teacher shortage young lady.
“Mister, I wish you was our real teacher.” Thank you dear student, you are just too kind.
“You are the best substitute ever!” It pulls on my heart strings ever time I remember when a student would tell me that.
It made it harder for me to leave those kinds of schools. I have a hyper active imagination and whenever I had to see those fences and bars, or those big armed guards I just shuttered to imagine what some of the teachers might be putting those students through. I always feel obliged to go back to those places, hellish though they are. I may complain about this job but I do mean it when I say I cared about these kids. My spine shivers as I write these words reliving the days I went to that place. However as much as I hate how we criminalize our youth with barred windows and armed guards, and as much as I am bothered by what charter schools do and how I hate the modern education system, I went to Lifesaver as much as I could because the kids deserve at least one person who actually wants to be there for them, even if its a pot head like me, and even if I am “just a sub” for one day.
Just a Sub, a poem by Mr. Boxer
In an undated Journal entry, I had written this poem during one of my days at Lifesaver;
“Just a sub” I hear those words so often,
I even tell myself that sometimes,
I look in the mirror,
My neon blue rayon noose,
I hate what I see.
It seems everyone does something similar from time to time,
“You should never say you’re just a sub.”
Thank you kind principal,
You are one of the good ones.
Administrator, teacher, student body,
and then there is me.
The teaching temp,
“Fuck you you are not my teacher!”
I got news for you kiddo, today I am.
“You’re not even a real teacher!” Tell me something I don’t know you pimply little shit.
“Get out of my classroom!” Classic deescalation.
“It’s not your classroom.” Dems fighin words!
Today it is
you little shit,
The bugger is right.
What am I but,
Just a sub.
Just a sub, in his paper laminated badge
lanyard, and ties. Ties galore.
They choke me worse than a Bondage leash, and with none of the pleasure to.
Sign in, take attendance, teach, babysit, play security guard, enforce all the rules, and teach.
Pee during your lunch break,
Like the rest of the teachers,
you greedy bastard.
Got a problem?
Join a union.
Oh, you do not have one?
Fuck off, no contract for you then,
Oh and YOU!?
You are “just a sub,
You take orders, never give them,
So sit there,
Wait, we will walk you to your class for the day in a moment,
in a moment,
in a moment.
Wait there we will be with you in a moment, even though you are here right on time.
Never show up for work more prepared than the boss.
And they will be with me in a moment.
Remember to take attendance,
And keep the peace,
And by the way we’ll be watching you,
We take our jobs seriously, as you should,
This is our children’s future after all,
Has the check from the district come through yet?
We can pay the rent
Thank the E.M.O.
We can trust them, they run a tight ship, who cares if the E.M.O. C.E.O. is married to the landlord,
They work for us right?
And it’s good alphabet practice for the kids.
C.E.O., E.M.O., F.C.C., D.E.A., and many more my sweet children!
Look at all the happy little storm troopers,
They walk in a straight line singing something that would make even Barney gag,
But they feel good, and they walk in a straight line,
Jose, I said IN A STRAIGHT LINE
Our Stalin is watching to!
And tuck in that polo!
Finally, we all get to go pee.
My undershirt is the only thing keeping my pit stains at bay,
and my Van Hausen shirt dry.
Some classrooms are just so hot though,
“What’s that under your pits?”
“Is that sweat mr?”
Here take a big whiff and find out you dumb ass little shits.
Breath Mister Boxer,
They are just kids.
Sometimes you just need to breath,
Other times you need to teach a real lesson.
Change the world
Or take the check and go home,
So we can all keep moving?
Moving to what?
A dead planet and a corporate education?
Classroom to office building,
Classrooms in office buildings now,
It is not science fiction,
It was my average Wednesday.
School to prison pipelines,
And some schools are already prisons.
It is not fiction, it is already here.
Blacks schools, you go there, throw in the brown people with you too.
Whitey? You can stay were you’ve been,
Keep the change to.
What happens after 3pm is not my concern,
So why do I care?
Why can’t I stop thinking
about the students who have stopped showing up,
and why do i feel for the students who show up
only because there parents gave them no other path?
You think it is harmless to have no path?
I have a friend, he’s dead now,
Because they gave him no path.
But do they let me tell my students that truth?
or any truth?
Not if its against the schools mission statement.
Dare I protest?
I’m just a sub,
“Fuck you Mr Boxer!”
“I don’t give a fuck about you!”
“Fuck you you aren’t even a real teacher.”
“You are just a sub.”
All the “fuck yous” never sting,
but those three words hurt most of all.
Just a sub.
Just a sub.
Just a sub.
Not a real teacher,
Not even a substitute teacher,
Nor a “guest teacher,”
That is my “title” after all,
I’m just a sub
“I think subs have the hardest job of any teachers.”
Thank you kind Vice Principle,
another one of the good ones.
But the kids are right,
I’m “Just a sub.”
I’m “Just a sub,”
who loves his students.
I’m “Just a sub,”
who wants to see that the day without their teacher is not a day lost.
I’m “Just a sub.”
I’m “Just a sub.”
I’m “Just a sub.”
I’m “Just a sub.”
who keeps a back back of of bandaids at the ready, to help my students when they are hurt,
I am “Just a sub,”
who keeps power snack in his bag, always ready to keep fueled up,
to keep up with my kids.
I’m “Just a sub,”
with tissues in my back pack for when the class runs out.
I’m “Just a sub” with plenty of paper and pens for my students with none.
I’m “Just a sub,”
Who wakes up every day at 530,
With his lunch, breakfast, and backpack all ready to go so I can get a leap start
on the la traffic and get to the job on time.
I’m “Just a sub”
who has learned from his mistakes.
I’m “Just a sub,”
who has seen the beauty of well run schools and the hell that are some others.
I’m “Just a sub,”
who wants money to be meaningless to education.
I’m “Just a sub,”
who wants his kids to learn, laugh, live, and love.
I’m “Just a sub”
Who weeps for his girls,
Who scolds his boys,
Who weeps for his boys,
And scolds his girls.
I’m “Just a sub”
who regrets ever losing his temper.
I’m “Just a sub,”
who feels terrible for kicking kids out of class,
Even when I know I was right to.
I’m just a sub who cries.
Just a sub,
and a sub is expendable.
A mild cuss,
A lying child,
And all that after only 1 piss break all day.
No piss break.
We aren’t humans.
I’m no human apparently,
I’m “Just a sub.”
Yes, yes indeed,
I’m “Just a sub.”
and I like being that “just a sub.”
Because I am “just a sub”
who means it when he says two words
I’m just a sub,
who means it when he says it to a child;
I am Just a sub.
Just a sub.
Just, a, Sub.
Classroom Consciousness 7
Upon searching my journal entries, I only found two that talked about Lifesaver at any length. Here is the first one;
Life Saver Charter High school
Let’s take a moment to talk about contrast. Serious, real life contrast. Yesterday I subbed at a private school near Santa Monica with free espresso drinks for teachers and a group of the hardest working, most docile group of students that the Westchester and Mar-vista suburbs have to offer. Today I am at what is either an underfunded and or miss managed school in the heart of Compton where they demanded, I repeat, DEMANDED, I bring my own lunch. The grounds yesterday were lush and expensive but today they are cramped and sealed in concrete. Bars cover each window. Fences, locks and gates are around ever corner.
The students are rowdy and jaded, so ready to scorn my help or forsake any effort of their own. There is a burden of responsibility on them, but I would be wrong to say that they are all getting a fair shake in this world. Money means everything in this society, race, gender and sexuality these are just distractions, keeping us fighting as they rob us blind and blame the victim.
I see the patterns and it sickens me. We are the species that stepped on the moon, harnessed electricity, created vaccines. We invented poetry, philosophy, and democracy. Needless to say, we can do better than this. We can do better than what I am seeing right now. We owe it to the children of the world. We owe it to the people who are guilty of nothing but being born. I see now that when policy decisions are made no one is more affected than the children.
What’s even sadder is they have no way to realize or comprehend that’s what is happening to them. When kings play the Game of Thrones it is the people who die, but it is the children who suffer.
I wish I could make these kids care about their education more, the way that some other students seem too. It’s easy to say work harder when you’ve always had the resources you need to finish your work. some of these kids don’t even have enough money for paper. They would be starving if it weren’t for their free lunches.
It hurts when they lash out at me, but if they truly need a punching bag it’s a good thing 10 years of karate and a father who drinks gave me a hardshell. I truly feel there’s very little I can’t handle. I do realize I have a genuine fear of police however. I do not know if I will ever be comfortable around someone legally allowed to walk around with a gun in public. I do look forward to being able to quit his job, until that day I am glad that I can at least help.
My next assignment at lifesaver would not come until the next school year. For whatever reason their middle school moved locations, and was now operating out of a salvation army youth center. The following was the journal I kept for that day. This was the last time I ever subbed in Compton.
10/25/16 Life Saver Middle School
New location, a rented out Salvation Army center, walls covered with “Jesus saves” and “Jesus heals.”
This is supposed to be a public school, one student this period, tried to get him into hearing the truth about Christopher Columbus, he could barely whisper a word of English through braces and a thick accent. I don’t think English was his first language, but he talked so little I have no way to be sure.
The people in the main office can watch me through a glass window. They can tell if Im not really teaching. This gym is now for classrooms thanks to the dividers, all of them within view of the office. This is what counts as a “school.”
All the classrooms are in one big gym, filled with dividers on wheels. All of them being watched by the office, my “class” of one student are the closest to their view. Lucky me.
On the wall of my “classroom” “No one comes to the father but me,” well quite the ego on you Jesus isn’t there? The words and walls are yellow and red, bold for the whole “school” to see.
Yellow and red, hungry and angry colors. Colors matter in a classroom.
How can anyone get away with this? At least what these kids had last year were real class rooms, dank and dismal but real classrooms none the less. A kid deserves a real classroom, kids deserve at least that much and they deserve to come to a school where crosses aren’t shoved into their faces and decorating the halls. Inadvertent propaganda if there ever was such a thing exists is charters like these.
Bathroom access is limited for me, that is never good. That needs to be illegal. Make an extra copy of the damn key you cheap bastards!
At least the class sizes are small.
This period I have no students, they are paying me to just sit here. I can’t leave the campus. I don’t mind getting paid for nothing, usually, but something stings when they know they are paying you for nothing, where is the thrill in that?
I was warned about my 7th graders, my whole second half of my day. We will see. I’m sure they wont be angels but I’m sure I can handle them.
Now they got me stuffing envelopes. The old receptionist who doesn’t like me wants me put to work. “Do you want to help or do you want to just play with your computer there?” she smiled while she said it, damn she’s good.
Well bitch, I’ll have you know I am not playing with anything, I am writing the Upton Sinclair novel of the 21st century that will make or break your career, bitch.
No students until, 4th period, then its all 7th grade all day.
This is the quiet before the storm, and the office is still watching me. I will be stern, yet soft with the classes. Hopefully I wont have to be hard and mean Mr. Boxer to run the class. I don’t like when they are chatty and I have to yell.
A good middle school teacher knows how to use their voice so it is not sore at the end of the day. I must not be that good of a middle school teacher. My voice is getting horse. The word Jesus I’ve seen on every wall. This is a public school and our kids are still getting reminded that “Jesus saves.”
The class is rowdy, but they like me, they listen to me.
A sweet little girl, with braided pig tails and glasses, “Could you stay forever and be our regular teacher?”
Another student, “We don’t like our regular teacher”
Another student, “He’s mean.”
Another, “He yells at us all the time.”
Another, “He doesn’t even teach, not like you do.”
:’-( It makes my heart heavy….
I didn’t not complete the journal for that day because I was called from the desk to handle an incident in class that involved destruction of school property. I was away from my desk the rest of the day. But hopefully Dear Reader you got a little insight as to what it was like to teach in those schools, even for just one day at a time.
scabbing for scabs, union forever!
When I was 16, I was what adults would call, different. I remember once for a “motivational speech” project in English class when I was a sophomore, I got my hair dreadlocked and waved a copy of the communist manifesto around. For two reasons, I went to a school with lots of white conservative hipsters so I found their reactions to be hilarious, and the other reason was that I always wanted to side with the working classes. If you had ever told that person they would one day be working for institutions which are hurting unions, he would have laughed and in his youthful idealism cried, “No, never! I’ll never where a tie to work either.” The bitter realities of this society had yet to set in on this young idealist.
I am the son of one teacher and the grandson of another and I have a sister who is a professor. Teaching, seems to be in my families blood, as is Liberal Democratic politics. My mother and her parents were Lyndon Johnson Democrats, graduating on to the Clinton class. It goes without saying my mom is indeed the member of a teacher’s union.
“Union forever!” has always been my belief, I am after all a radical leftist and the child of two other leftists. In fact I take it a bit farther than my either of my parents, though I can be labeled as a liberal as far as not being a conservative at least, I am no democrat, in fact like most millennials I despise both the DNC and GOP with an immense passion, especially after the election of 2016. Yet the sentiment of my pro labor beliefs comes from my mother and inspired by my father who was born into the working class. I am always on the side of labor and I firmly believe that unions are a good thing. Not inherently good because several do loan themselves to corruption, such as the ones who endorse politicians with anti union stances or with stances that inevitably end up hurting unions, such as charter schools, which are actually endorsed by America’s largest teachers union, which also endorsed Hillary Clinton without holding a proper consensus of union members, but I digress.
The point is that as I have mentioned endlessly is that charter schools are allowed to side step certain regulations regular public schools cannot. Such as the qualifications of their teachers and substitutes and collective bargaining laws. Now because of the blurred lines some states unions have with charters it is hard to argue one way or the other how much charters hurt unions. In fact some charters are union and and in some states teachers unions are starting their own charter schools. The largest teachers union in the country was actually the one to first endorse the idea of public charter schools in the 1980s. However when you google this shit you are probably about to find that about 90-95% of charter schools only employ teachers who are not members of unions. Basically charter school teachers are scabs, and the options are becoming so limited for the new teachers, which are in shortage in CA by the way, that it is not their fault that they are scabbing. Every year more and more of the new teaching jobs seem to be going to charters.
When I realized how anti union Charters tend to be, or at least how they hurt a unions ability to organize I realized I wasn’t a scab. I was a substitute scab. I was filling in for the scabs, I was scabbing for the scabs. Yet what else was I to do, these kids needed a teacher and I needed to eat. What are these teachers supposed to do as well, the state begs for teachers, but sends more and more money to the charter schools. The new teachers entering the workforce every year are almost always bound by debt of some unfathomable amount and desperate to get the bills paid to keep the interest low. They trap the new work forces with debt so that they may be kept at bay to prevent any “unnecessary expenses” on labor, saving our school’s money. Which if your school is run by an EMO means more profits, I should probably add that point.
No matter how you look at it, it is never the workforce or the teachers who win in the scenario of more charter schools and more privatization of education. As I did my research and learned more and more about what I was actually doing by working for these places, I became sick to my stomach.
I was doing something I never wanted to do, I was going against my beliefs for my paycheck. I was putting my needs against the needs of the greater good. Yes folks, we all have bills to pay. However we also have a planet and our children to think about, and the more we fall prey to the hands of privatization and capitalism the less we can do anything to actually help them. This is why unions, competent and uncorrupted unions, are important. The protection of labor and the workforce is what assures competency in the people responsible for teaching your kids. If the people teaching your kids are driven because they simply have debts to pay, you are selling your kids short of the educators that they deserve.
That was what I was doing, I was selling your kids short. I was scabbing for the scabs, but none of us have any choice, we all have bills and debts to pay. Maybe even to the same people paying us at their charters. To quote one of my more apt students, “Aint that a bitch.”
Yes indeed, aint that a bitch that in order to eat I had to go against all my ideals, I had to scab for the scabs.
The Horror, the HORROR!
I am a feminist and I in no way hesitate to say I am. However I am also a byproduct of my biology and society. Judge me how you will in this chapter my Dear Reader, because I know that I did nothing wrong, in fact I think there is no question that my behavior was purely professional and that I did the right thing. What may cause you to judge me is not so much my actions but rather my thoughts, my internal monologue. I know there was nothing in my head millions of other humans would not have had floating around in their culturally constructed skulls, but again I simply say, judge me me how you will.
It was a four day assignment for a Government class at an Axis school location I had been to about 4 months before, and it was a purely uneventful job where I handed out worksheets and assigned reading to seniors for four days. The school itself reminded me of a Hooverville, it was a fenced off parking lot and a series of portable classes laid out like a maze around one building of classrooms that also held the bathroom. It was in downtown LA and neighbor to a car dealership and a STAPLES underneath the 110 freeway. Between the series of portables was a basket ball court and network of those blue metal tables made out of the uncomfortable netting we all used to eat lunch on to. There was not much going on worth documenting, until the last period of the last day. Funny how that works, it makes it as if it was almost meant to be written.
In California schools, the government course in high school comes at the senior level. I was in my early 20s at the time so the seniors were less than a decade younger than me. So I was teaching kids who were essentially the same generation as me, just barely 7 years younger, at most. So every once in a while yes I will admit I have found myself attracted to a student from time to time. I will be honest my dear reader, I have more than a few times had to remind myself I was a teacher when I saw what some might misoginisticaly label as “jailbait.” This would be the most difficult of all those times.
Did I act upon any desire? No, of course not. Yet was the desire there from time to time? The truth is yes, and I would be doing feminism a disservice if I did not admit that. If the girl looks 18, acts mature enough to pass for 19 or 20, and is especially beautiful, then yes the desire is very much there.
Once again, Did I act on it? No. Did I objectify them while they sat in the classroom? No. I am a professional and first and foremost I was their teacher, and here I was going to be their teacher for 4 straight days, I was not about to act on any such desire.
But there is a desire that must be acknowledged, to which if you judge, fine, but I’m sorry that being in touch with my sexuality and honest about it in the dialogue is a bad thing in America.
One student in my 1st period was especially beautiful. She had light brown skin and long wavy her, seemingly effortlessly brushed over to one side. This was one of the schools with mandatory uniforms, but even an unflattering polo shirt could not hide the fact that this girl had a very healthy bust. Her figure was the perfect balance of thick and fit, and her uniform slacks were tight around a pair of legs that made her curves were just accentuated all the more. She was the first person I had seen who could look sexy in a modern school uniform. She also had big soft lips that made her all the more attractive because they accentuated her little smiles when she would say “good Morning” to me. It was nice to start every morning seeing her smile. I knew she was 18 because she had a birthday at the start of my week there. I never flirted with the student or had any real extensive interaction with her besides when I would hand her work and she would turn it in or ask to use the restroom.
It was a rather uneventful four days, and finally there I was on the last period of the last day, having a rather peaceful time since seniors are the easiest to manage, more so than any other grade. At one point I saw the door swing open and in came the beautiful young woman, with a letter from the newspaper or yearbook or one of those free labor electives high schools offer. Basically she was there to deliver a message to a student, nothing out of the ordinary.
She handed the student the letter or note or slip or whatever the fuck it was, then she talked to the members of her click who I had in the class period. They exchanged the pleasantries I had grown used to over hearing at this job, about TV shows on Netflix and Grad Nights. Things like students visiting class happens all the time when I subbed so I would just let it happen, unless the student tried to pull up a seat and stay all period. Other wise the students just talked for a few minutes then the visiting student would leave. Eventually this girl made her way to the door and I thought she was on her way out.
As this girl made way to the door I was simply standing at the front of the class, leaning against the teachers desk in front of the white board. I would do that so I could show the students that I was keeping an eye on them and that I really did care that they do their work.
She made her way to the door, but out of my periphery vision as I’m looking to the opposite corner of the classroom I can see that she stops. Then I get the feeling someone is looking at me, so I am obliged to look over.
So I looked over, and we make eye contact, as I look away as we tend to do under social obligation, she did not. I could still feel her looking at me. I saw out of my periphery vision that she was still standing by the door. I could not see what but I knew she was doing something with her lips, so looked back.
We made eye contact again, her eyes half open in a very sultry and powerful “come fuck me” stare, it was the look we all utilize in the bedroom to tell our partner for the night that we mean business.
She blows a kiss as she winks at me now, i look away, pretending not to see. I tell myself that it wasn’t me she made eye contact with. “Her boyfriend must be sitting in class some where in front of me.” I told myself.
But he wasn’t, I could see as I looked around the classroom that no one was looking back at her accept for me. it was straight into my eyes she was looking, and she would not break eye contact. No matter how much I looked away or broke eye contact as one is expected to do, she would not.
I did not know if this was a prank or if she was genuinely interested in me, but either way I did not like it. This was not the time nor place to give me the “fuck me” eyes or blow me kisses.
“No, stop,” I thought. “You are too beautiful to do this to me.”
I look over again, she was still by the door. She still did not leave, she still does not break eye contact. She was even beginning to arch her back over the doors handle to push her already extensive, natural chest up.
She blew another kiss, and then gives me a wink and starts rubbing her tit.
“Please go back to class young lady,” was what I would have said in any other situation to show I was the one in charge of the situation, and I would have said it then with a boom in my voice that always demonstrates my power. I realized eventually I never needed to get mad at this job, I just needed to learn how to use my already heavy voice. However this was different I could not afford to draw the class’s attention to what she was doing, it would either humiliate her if she was serious, or it would humiliate me if she was pulling some Mean Girls prank. Worst of all it could not only humiliate me, it could get me fired. When a kid gets embarrassed at school it is a life lesson, when a teacher is embarrassed it could be the end of a career.
“Haha you like the sub!” Was one way the situation could end up.
“hahah you perv you like a student. I’m telling. You are going to get fired,” was another.
Talk about a lose-lose for both of us honey. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
She blew another kiss, and rubbed her tit some more, moving her hand in a circle to show how she liked to be touched, and how soft yet firm her body was. I have no idea how long she stayed there but it felt like she stood there for five minutes, just rubbing her tits and blowing kisses at me. I was confused how none of the other students had noticed yet, but as I looked away each time, they all seemed to be looking at nothing but their phones or their papers, one student was even asleep, which I allowed because how the hell did I know if the kid was not just sick and forced to come by his parents.
She still stood there with her eyes on me and her chest up, her hand rubbing her breast, and then she began pushing them together, “Oh Jesus, stop.” I wondered if I was beginning to sweat, to be honest I was enjoying the attention to a degree, I was at least flattered, but I was also frustrated and trying to suppress any give aways that I did actually like this.
Yet I was in luck because that was her finale it seemed, as she brought up her other hand to push the to two breasts together then she used her ass to pushed the door open, then she turned around and walked out of the class.
I sighed with relief and sat behind the desk because although I maintained my professional demeanor, when she left I could feel the on-sets of an erection. Imagine being seen with a boner as teacher, not a good way to be seen or taken seriously. My hard-on lasted the rest of the class period so I just sat there, replaying the whole event in my head on a loop even though I was trying to forget. When the bell rang I did not get up until I was sure every student of mine was out of the classroom and not likely to cross me on my path to my car. I speed walked out of the classroom and the school, not making eye contact with anyone hoping no one could see my bulge. In any other situation I would in no way have been embarrassed by my biology or sexuality. I just do not need any one at the place I work thinking I am a pervert when I need a paycheck. I was happy though when I made it to my car without seeing a single student I had that day.
I will be honest folks my erection lasted the whole drive home. If you have ever been painfully horny, try being painfully horny during LA rush hour. I was lucky because I had a new tinder “friend” due to come over that night, and this might be too much information my Dear Reader, but I do feel like I owe that girl a thank you for how well things went that night if you catch my double entrdre which in this jaded sexual age I’m sure you do. It is actually unnecessary or even annoying to be coy but damn it just because we all love sex and want to fuck as much as possible does not mean we have to have no class about it. I’m not talking about discretion people, I’m talking about dignity and appreciation for the moment, not just mindless humping and pounding. Learn how to take the time to do things right is all I am saying. More to the point, thanks to my little incident in class, I had a little extra wind up in my pitch is what I’m saying. Alright I’ll just say it, thanks to that student hitting on me just beforehand I was able to channel it and fuck the shit out of my Tinder date.
So that is what happened with that girl, and that is all that happened my Dear Reader. I did not act on my desire in any way with the student herself and if anything I tried to be as professional as possible about the whole bizarre incident. It is just annoying on multiple levels when you really think about it. On one hand if she was seriously attracted to me, why on earth would she have chosen then to make a move? When I’m in the middle of class, how would that be the time to show it?
Also if she was not actually interested in me and if this was some sort of prank to try and embarrass the sub or get him in trouble, how ignorant and cruel can you be? Confident yes, I will give her that, she clearly knows she is attractive, but if she was messing with me, trying to get me to do something back to her in front of the class, or just messing with my head for a laugh, who is she to do that? What if I had been gay? Did she think about that? No, she just acted, no matter how you look at it, she acted in a way that was inappropriate for a public school classroom. I also do not think it would have been a problem had she simply flirted with me, students flirted with me all the time, nothing ever came of it because I’m an adult who can spot awkward teen flirting from a mile, so I just laugh and make sure not to flirt to much back, like a good teacher should.
Yet since I had never had a student rub her tits in front of me as she blew kisses when there was a whole class in between the two of us, I didn’t know exactly how to react except to fulfill the social contract and look way every time we made eye contact.
To this day I cannot figure out what was happening, whether or not she was serious or joking or if I should be complimented or insulted, but in all honesty I do not care because I know I acted appropriately and I always do the right thing, and this time the right thing was taking the imagery she had given me for free and using it to help me on my date.
So thank you, pretty senior with a nice chest and poor judgement, you actually made my night, go figure. By now you are a graduate and of legal age, and if you were being serious, I am more than happy to oblige you, from one consenting adult to another.
Like I said as I opened this chapter, judge me as you will Dear Reader, judge me as you will.
Classroom Consciousness 8
I rarely got the chance to teach at private schools, although Subpool catered to both charters and privates. However I did get the experience of subbing for a Catholic school twice near the end of my tenure. Something that I just had to document just for the sake of documenting it.
St. Pete and Pete Catholic School
First time subbing for a Catholic school ever, funny how it comes in my last few months of work. I am only a little stoned, I accidentally missed breakfast, I am already frustrated and uncomfortable.
I stood in the back for the morning assembly, I wonder if anyone saw me not praying or pledging to the flag.
They added an interesting part after the “under God” line of the Pledge of Allegiance. “To protect the unborn,” I desperately wanted to vomit. I almost lost my shit. I wanted to pull a Kaepernick and protest, but I just couldn’t. My professionalism just won’t let me do it. Being respectful and responsible is never fun.
It’s infuriating that I cannot be me at my own job. If it wasn’t a quick way to burn a bridge forever I would have just stormed out of the school. Why didn’t I? What did I possibly have to lose by not standing up for what I believe in? But at the same time what would it accomplish, and I am the guest here today, I can’t this is their place not mine.
I can say nothing, I am their guest and this is their domain. Never would I think I was going to teach in a Catholic school, even for just one day. I need extra debauchery to make up for this one. Extra sin.
Those uniforms, and decently behaved students so far. But good Lord, so much bullshit and I can say nothing. I can’t say “keep it in church” when I’m in the fucking church. Those prayers, those chants to “Guadalupe” and the voice of the children ring around my head like weird songs. Plus the smile on the Father’s face, one of pure joy. He so clearly loves where he is, so genuine, but to fill children’s heads with such bullshit at such a young age, especially the girls. Those poor girls.
If it called for it I would protest, but what would my protest accomplish? What would it do except get me fired for my final notice was even up?
The joy on the priests face, and the drone of the children’s voices, it will never escape my mind. I grew up Protestant, I have never been to a Catholic service except for one short Catholic wedding. This was all new to me, all of it was so bizarre, it’s beautiful from one perspective and incredibly unsettling from another.
I am out of it, I am not in my usual state of mind. Is it the fact I am at a school I’ve never been to now? Is the religious nature of everything that surrounds me today? Is it the fact that I skipped breakfast? It is probably all of that and something much more as well.
I already hate the Pledge of Allegiance, add anti-choice horse shit to it in front of the children and make it so that I can’t say a word. It all makes me sick. Do you want religion, fine. but why is it always so goddamn motherfucking anachronistic? Always. Always about controlling women and girls. Stop it, Let them be.
They are such sweet and well behaved students, working in front of me as I write this. There is something to be said in favor of the discipline of these schools but to separate the lines of students by gender in 2016, good god, again I want to vomit.
A crucifix hangs over the classroom door with Christ painted in gold. A statue of Mary in the far corner, and the last supper by a skeleton missing his right limbs in the other. A Pikachu and Charmander decorate the desk and file cabinet, and I am reminded of my childhood. Seeing these toys makes me realize my childhood is still alive and well and this makes me feel relieved and happy.
I do not like adulthood. I have to be honest it scares me, all of it at all scares me. We were so protected as children, then we were introduced to a world that does not care about us. I look for a pattern in it all, and eventually I find one and it also eventually becomes chaos. I miss my childhood, everyone does, especially millennial’s.
Are these kids seem better off than others I have taught and why must safety come from faith? That bothers me, and why most faith put forth bullshit?
Shall we contemplate the afterlife? I am all for that. But why must they take it to a level that must control women’s bodies. I do not understand. Why do they need lights and why did any bullshit to have faith? Why are they allowed to have whole Schools like this? But we dare not educate in our public schools about Planned Parenthood or Other options. Why do we let anachronistic’s and reactionary mines set the tone of the dialogue? They are not our equal. To make progress we don’t need to make everyone feel comfortable, if you can’t handle the fax get out of the dialogue. Resort to yelling, you lose, unless your friends flex muscle for you.
We are not all equals, racists are beneath us all. The pariahs of our society should be those who want to make others so.
As I watch my students work I will be honest, unless I was to see them on a woman already at age I failed to see how you can sexualize these Catholic uniforms. I remember being anti-uniform when I was their age I was not even that fashionable but the idea of being told what I can and cannot wear always make me sick and it still does. That’s another reason I really need to quit this job.
These children are so very well behaved for middle school, so far at least. Something just unsettles me though.
I want out, I want change, I want something different, something better for me for the whole class for the world.
The father introduced himself to me at one point today. I showed him the proper respect at least as best I could, I don’t know the protocol with Catholics. I even got featured in a class picture today that the father is going on a pilgrimage with and he will be showing to the pope. So it was quite flattering but also very unsettling. I did not want to be rude or disrespectful what it was like to say “no I don’t want to be in the picture I am not actually a Catholic I don’t want to be seen by the pope “I did not want to out myself as an atheist, it would’ve been a very uncomfortable for me. The kindness is appreciated and the views they might not seem problematic but they lead to other views other dangers perspectives.
suddenly there is a loud beep I think we are about to have an earthquake drill but all of the students stand in turn into the back of the classroom. I have no idea what they’re doing but I stand as well. I see they’re facing the statue of Mary and a voice starts over the intercom that is a prayer. They have interrupted to all pray for forgiveness as sinners. I sit on the armchair since I don’t know what to do in this ritual nor do I actually want to take part in it. Some students see me as they recite these prayers in unison and perfect memory, I am honestly incredibly creeped out.
“Lord we beseech you….” blah blah blah.
The voice on the loud speaker, “and now we say grace.”
Then again in perfect unison, they turn to the crucifix above the door and recite another prayer, all in perfect unison. They all can see me not standing all the way, not participating, I don’t care though, they know they have more important things to do.
I look on from the front of the class. “You are sinners, yes, ha! but fuck making you subjective, guilty just for existing.”
It is all just so unsettling to me, I could be self righteous or indignant, but the fact is I am the guest today. This is is their house.
Throughout the day everyone has been so kind, which just made me all the more uncomfortable. There is nothing worse when socializing than when someone you know is full of shit but is also the nicest person in the world to you.
I must admit though, after years of being in more agnostic or progressive settings this is a very insightful experience. I learn more and more about who I really am. Whenever I do this especially when I work outside my normal entrance. One student tries to play me but a boom of the voice and they are back to being perfect.
I sit here with a heavy guy, I am hungry and tired. I should’ve eaten more. Those damn uniforms are enough to make me cringe as well. The students don’t seem to care. Or they are at a point where they’ve stopped fighting it. I wonder if anyone has noticed my discomfort. Certainly not the father or the principal, or have they. That is probably just some pot paranoia nothing to worry about.
I still can’t get it out of my mind how insensitive they were about me being in the picture. For the rest of my life a photo of me as a Catholic school teacher will forever exist even though it was just one day. It will exist forever until the father or the school the deletes the file. I can’t see how that could be used against me, but who knows someday that photo might be my greatest shame.
The father comes in the classroom and the students all stand in unison again. I stand to, not realizing that was what I was originally what I was supposed to do.
He tells the children I have a chance to come to confession today during class, he tells me I can let them out one at a time. The concept of confession, that is something I always envied the Catholics for. The chance to get everything off their chests. It’s like therapy where you’re made to feel ashamed. I need more therapy.
The behaviors good, ending with a docile last class. How innocent are these kids really? I’ve had some middle schoolers who are monsters.
My day is about to end it went fairly quickly and I was productive and I kept busy. I’m damn good at this job, too bad I’m quitting. No, no, it’s not actually, someone has to leave, someone has to tell these kids stories.
Catholic school again. Found the free coffee. Fuck yeah!
Watched the kids rehearse for Xmas pageant, too funny for words, too funny.
The principle told me she requested me specifically. Why do I not want to do something I am so clearly good at?
Because I am a good sub, but I would be an awful teacher. I do not like excess structure, I find it tedious.
Cute kids, still can’t get that pageant rehearsal out of my mind. If I ever hear another Luke Bryan song I will wretch.
Sweet kids, keeping them busy as they wait their turn for an art project. Sweet kids, and the coffee is keeping me going. Thank god this class is so small, nice to see I can handle 5th graders in small doses. I could teach, I could, but do I want to? No.
I feel weird the school requested me, I must play this character well. It makes me feel weird I play this character so well.
They are almost too peaceful, this is almost too easy for 5th grade. Maybe I have finally gotten the hang of this. Just before I quit to, aint that some shit.
classroom consciousness 9 New Roads Charter
New Roads are a chain of charter high school that cover all of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Boyle heights, but most of their campuses are downtown. This particular journal entry was an interesting one to me. This was the Monday after Trump had “won” the election and New Roads serves neighborhoods that are primarily if not only hispanic. Not to mention my day started with me waking up late with a hangover, forcing me to skip breakfast which made me brutally hangry as I was getting lost trying to find the school near Figeroua and 3rd Street. I also only had time for one bong hit, and the only thing worse than a stoner short on his regiment is a coffee drinker pre first morning cup. So on a day when I was having an especially bad morning I was due to teach Spanish, (I shit you not) in an all Spanish speaking neighborhood high school on the first day of the first week after Donald J Trump became president elect of the United states.
That was all just so you have a little context…
Just days after I marched these streets against Trump, I am back, but instead to teach. A group of students for me all ages ninth through 12th grade. Small class sizes too. But no goddamn bathroom breaks for two more hours.
Not fun, but manageable all the same.
I do not like what this job does to my bladder and my urethra. It burns holding it in. But I can do nothing but wait.
The kids sit silently, some are barely working yet others work very well.
The drive sucked as usual, and the parking lot sucked even worse. Full of boxed in double parking. I don’t think I will be boxed in. I would park on the street if it wasn’t for the goddamn street sweeper today. I want to write something more productive in this journal, but I can’t. My mind is too preoccupied on my body at the moment, also on my state of being and the world around me.
I am already weary and I have many classes to go. I am glad to be leaving this job soon but I am scared. I’m scared about what is next and what will happen to these kids, to their families.
The kids will live with our sins for the next four years and soon will be there turn to pay us back. I journal today to keep my mind working and my writing practiced. I want this damn book finished! What good will it do? Who the fuck knows, all I know is that I must write it.
My future is up in the air and so is the whole world’s it seems today. What is the future? How can someone be so stupid as to waste the only free education they will ever get? I didn’t even waste as much as I thought I had. Time passes quickly because I work like this. Taking down these scribbles as the kids are staring at screens. My urethra still burns, I need release but I must be still for two hours. Two hours.
Red ink is my friend. I write these journals the best in red ink. I write the most adamantly in red ink.
All these kids, so silent, are they learning?
Who cares, honestly today, I think you deserve a day off. I know I need it. I needed to rest my voice from all those “not my president” screams.
“say it loud say it clear immigrants are welcome here.” The revolution is here and I will be a part of it, for these kids, especially for the younger ones, who will see a rapist is going to be president.
A rapist, people actually voted for a fucking rapist! The lack of subtlety in the massive willful stupidity in this world would be astounding if it weren’t so validating. But is it stupidity on their part, was it a lack of understanding on mine?
A question that does pain me in my mind.
I quit this job in less than one month. I have one month to show these kids who is on their side. I have one month to figure out a plan for myself and my world. One month until the end of this job. One month.
My need for release grows. I don’t think I have to go as bad as I always think I do, I just get focused on my bladder when I’m so bored like this. I do not know why. If the class was more chaotic and I had stuff to do maybe it would be different. If class was energetic and chaotic my mind would probably go to other matters.
Yes, these are the parts of the job I hate, a shitty drive through cramped downtown streets, early mornings and extremely limited bathroom access. But there is also a part I love, small classes that are easy to manage, but it is still hard to do my job when I can’t stop thinking about pissing. Plus I can’t stop thinking about the fact people voted for a rapist. The system is broken and hope is masturbation if it lacks it’s partner, action.
I marched for these kids on Saturday, I marched for them because they are my, nay our, equals. So who the fuck am I just sit on my ass and hope for the best?
I sit listening to the kids gossip about dating while they “work.” I’m letting them, they know what they are supposed to be doing right now.
I find their conversations funny and entertaining. I didn’t date in high school, very much want to but I didn’t and now I’m very glad that I didn’t. High school dating is all drama, all of it pointless because odds are you won’t see most of those people ever again, unless you never leave your goddamn neighborhood or hometown.
I have to laugh at high school dating, I used to think it ruined my life it because it made me feel like the most unfuckable and attractive individual in my whole school. Not an unrelatable feeling I’m sure.
Sexual minds developing around me and that’s what I was to. Dating as a 20-year-old, it’s all casual sex and smoking weed. Dating in high school, it’s gossip and rumors and even if you move up the social ladder and find a lady or man it is always fueled by drama and rumors. I can vouch for all of this as a fly on the wall. All these kids think I’m deaf or just not listening or plain stupid, but I hear it all, all of the rumors and all of the drama. I’m like the janitor from the breakfast club I know everything in front and behind the scenes in school. I know how things run now and I know what the students are saying. The fly on the wall.
But all the same it makes me chuckle.
“are you dating her?”
“what happened with you two?”
“I lost her because I wasn’t as good looking enough for her.” The poor syntax in that one always cracks me up.
Plus that one also sounds a little too familiar. I remember saying to a classmate of mine, “why would she like me I’m ugly as fuck?”
I have to laugh, dating in high school, I’m glad I have avoided it, now. At the time it kept me chained it to self-hate, and little did I know I was just chaining myself. Some of these kids see the side of it that I did not at their age, I saw the negative, they see the positive. But I can still see them chaining themselves.
Buddha said what we think, we become.
Buddha said what we think we become.
The classroom is decorated as a Spanish class would be. Class projects on one wall, Mexican and Central American folk art on the teachers desks. Small printouts of flags of all Spanish-speaking nations decorate the door and the wall nearby it. A typical Spanish classroom, and I might be the one in the room who speaks the least Spanish. Aint that some shit.
Fuck trump fuck trump fuck Trump.
I tell you these are kids, not criminals Mr. Trump. Fuck white supremacy and long live human equality.
I was lucky enough to get an unexpected bathroom break, I am in a much better mood now but still my mind and my plans are wearing on me. I will no longer be a sub in one month, so what is next?
Soon I eat my meager lunch then it’s one class a break then one more class.
I’m scared, for their future and mine. But every day I get up and every day I write and I work for them believe it or not. That’s why I’m actually leaving, I’m leaving for them. I have 10 more minutes until my meager lunch break, then I have just two more classes with a break in between them.
Soon this journal will be full. I find it fitting that has my journal closes so does my time as a teacher.
I tell them to please put the phones away, but they can’t seem to live without a selfie a day. A selfie a day keeps the therapist paid.
I see so much now, yet I worry that I think too little. Is it the times or my own privilege, but I worry about minds more than I worry about bodies.
Well, two little shits just walked out of class on me, little shits. Fuck them. Let us see how merciful their teacher is. A minor slight, but one that pisses me off no less.
Well some idiotic brat wouldn’t stop back talking me so I kicked him the fuck out. I haven’t done that for a while but today I savor it. If you backtalk me and you have an actual point I may get a little annoyed but I’ll damn sure respect you. However if you come into a class late, interrupt me, then just talk back because you need some kind of entertainment then get the fuck out. Only the boring stay bored and everyone gets bored at school, but if you stay bored to the point you’re only kicks are being a dick then you don’t deserve the free education you are so fast to waste. Let him fester out there. The kids who stayed care more than he does and they deserve to take advantage of what he has wasted. It’s like when I eat out of the trash at the schools, take advantage of what others are wasting. I will not let whole meals go to waste as I literally have to count pennies.
I hate losing my cool, I hate it when they give me no choice.
“You always have a choice,” said by someone who was never a goddamned substitute teacher.
I grow weary. The caffeine has crashed, after this class I have 1 break then 1 more class. My largest class of the day, but it is also an AP class. APs are almost always a cake walk.
That is a funny term, cake walk, I use all kinds of terms like that ever since I became a teacher.
Young man, young lady.
They make you sound older and more mature.
I’ll be darned, gosh darn it.
I actually caught myself saying that, gosh darn it. I was alone, in my home, no students in sight or even in mind, and I said “Gosh darn” it instead of goddamn it. All by myself and I choose not to cuss for some reason.
I see now most teachers are not actually against swearing, they are against swearing at the wrong time and the wrong place.
To hell with all this stupid shit,
“Fuck you Mister Boxer, I have to be here.”
Oh boo hoo, Poor you, you have to go to a place where you are literally given a free education. Ridiculous. Such a ridiculous complaint.
Yes, our system does not cater to all needs and that is a serious problem. But there are ways to handle the problem, making others jobs even harder is not one of those ways.
I am scared for my future but I am confident all answers will come simply through letting go, and living.
I do wish I had not lost my temper with that student, but I wish even more that the young man would suck up his frustration and find another way to get his kicks.
But was I so different at his age?
We all make choices, that includes how much we suffer. But that might be easy for a white boy to say.
Just one month, one more month. One more then we see, to leave these kids now though, of all times…
No, no more doubts or second guesses. I leave this job but I will not be leaving my students.
Break, prep period, finally. What hope is there in such a time of hopelessness? Society, smh.
Interesting to see where the mind will go unprovoked by anything but silence.
I remember hearing the clock tick in silent classrooms when I was a boy. It was ominous then and it is ominous now. Always so many omens in this damn world. And wouldn’t you know it, I have to pee again. Insert rolling eye emoji here, am I right…
Last class of the day, almost to the end, then just another day, another dollar, another notch on my already too long belt.
Yes, too long, I have been here, in one place doing one job for too long. The future is scary and unknown for us all.
Two students in front of me clearly aren’t doing the work, they are not even trying. After what happened to us all last week I am going to let this slide. I think we all need a little release still. Just a little extra help with the mourning. If you do not need that you might be a part of the damn problem. They may not be working but they are laughing, they laugh and they are finding joy in these days past. How can I punish someone, anyone, for finding a reason to laugh in the face of fascism.
Before they were gossiping about dating in the class, I have three actual couples in this class now. Some seem to be genuinely in the throws of young love. Others, well, we all climbed the social ladder once or twice right? The problem with that though is we always get knocked on our asses by the drama it causes, don’t we?
Dating in high school, all drama.
Dating in college, it’s all hook ups and painful self realizations.
Dating in real life, well who the fuck even knows anymore? Just live your life and to fuck with the rest of it.
30 more minutes until the day is done. Each of these thoughts, each journal in the classroom has been 100% unfiltered. As I think, I write.
Or rather I try to, my hand and my mind rarely work at the same speeds. The mind is quick, it is my hand which is slow. I wonder who else feels like this.
Every time I look at a student, he or she looks away. The international red flag of not doing what you should do in a classroom. But no, I will not bust them for it, not today.
It is not fair, they are all about to start the real world and they will have to start it with an orange nazi after a benevolent intelligent yet problematic man was their leader.
Fuck complacency. Especially when evil is present. If you still do not know what evil is by the year 2016. You are an idiot and you can take that existential tripe and fuck it.
No, no retreat and no surrender. Your silence is as bad as the outward violence of others, if not worse. No more, no more silence Max.
No more goddamn silence.
jumping jack flash
Well, that’s it. That’s all my folks. We reached the end of my plotless odyssey Dear Reader.
That’s all I have for you.
A series of introspective tangents on the times, the state of California’s education, and some stories about what some schools can do to our teachers and kids. As i said when this book began, this is no expose, no whirlwind of yellow journalism or muckracking, it is simply the truth as I see it and have lived it. It might have been through a stony fog filled with my leftist bias, but it was a real tale of experience and perspective. It was all true, as I see it. I am sorry there is no climax, no epic conclusion. But that is life, a long movie with no epic conclusion, because it keeps on going after your death scene.
I do not know where the road for me leads from here. I have in fact left the classroom for good. I will not be returning to teaching any time soon. I do not know where the road will take me, but I am going to walk or drive on down it, however I get to what is waiting for me next will not matter, because I will get there.
The point is I have a road, I have a path, a destination, many kids in this world are being robbed of their paths, or given the veil of one that eventually falls out from under them once they flunk out of the dream college they had since they were wee children, never knowing they had the hand of a great painter or the voice of an opera singer.
What happens to the children robbed of their paths? Not robbed of a future, but robbed of the direction of that future. I believe what you get is the Hunger Games, you get Insurgent and Mad Max and Terminator, you get Blade Runner and Max Headroom.
I won’t say you get 1984, we already have that with all the screens we so willingly watch, and seem blissfully apathetic to the fact that they are in turn watching us back.
Dear Reader we live in a time were we can talk to someone face to face and even have sex with them in a way if they are thousands of miles away. We aren’t running away from a future with trippy punk haircuts of all colors and bizarre casual fashion thats been mass produced, we’ve been sprinting towards it since Reagan and the baby-boomers took over as grown ups. Now we are there. Thanks Obama, and thanks Bush, and thanks Clinton 1 and Clinton 2, I’ll let you decide which one is which, I’m no sexist.
And thank you other Bush,
and thank you mr Reagan.
Thank you DNC and GOP.
Thank you for privatizing our health care, our water and energy, and now our kids, you goddamn neo liberal economic humping greedy fascist near sighted capitalist bastard swines! you killed us! you fucking killed us! now you want our kids! you are actually going to privatize our children! you have no souls and no shame!
Are charter schools inherently evil, of course not, nothing is inherently evil, hell hitler started the first anti smoking campaign on earth and was a vegetarian who loved animals, maybe not the best example but when you think about the worst man of the 20th century going “aww” when he gets to feed a baby deer, you get some perspective on what evil really is. It is what we do that effects people the most that determines if history sees us as good or evil. With that being said, It is evil to privatize education, and while charter schools aren’t the inherent culprit, the lack of regulations certainly is.
Charter schools are something we can debate about all day, but two things need to happen in charters, especially in California.
1. The teachers need to unionize, there is power in numbers charter teachers, if you need help seek it, we are stronger together than apart.
2 EMOs need to be banned. As long as they are allowed to operate and pump out our kids and collect checks, which are of our tax dollars mind you, then the privatization of our children will only be fast tracked.
To quote Mrs. Lovejoy and Maude Flanders from a certain popular American cartoon series I need not mention the name of lest you live under a door mat, “Won’t someone think of the children?”
Yes Maude, someone will and someone is. I do. I think about them every day. Even though I drink and toke to my hearts content morning noon and night now that I am not working, I still think about them, each one of them, every day. And I worry Maude Flanders, I not only think about the children, I worry about them. I worry about what identities they are being robbed of inside those polo uniforms. I worry about what we are teaching them. I worry if any of them even take any of what I try to teach home with them or if they just scoff off what I have to say since I was “just a sub.”
Yet most of all, I worry that our children are being robbed of their path. There is no path in profits, only pain and robbery, and we now live in a culture that runs on pain and robbery then disguises it as progressivism because finally white people aren’t the only ones out to make a profit, as if that is going to make up for 400 years of genocide, slavery, mysogyiny, sexual repression, mob vigilante justice, war, and classist condescension.
I worry because we live in a world that has monetized and commodified our children. The Democrats and the republicans, the bankers and developers, the dot com companies and the corporations, they have done it, they have successfully turned your children into a commodity.
That is what I leave you with my Dear Reader. No epic finale, no peak or climax, no Rolling Stones blasting as I floor it away from Las Vegas. All I can leave you with is the one consistent truth that I have no doubt about in my mind. I have seem what they are doing and what they have done. The owners of the world have done what you used to think was unthinkable. But they have done it.
They have privatized our children.
2007 Me: I’m a socialist, so of course I’ll vote Democrat.
2008 Me: I’m a communist because shock value is fun.
2009: I’m a socialist so I’ll give Obama a chance.
2010: Senior year of high school, fuck politics & give me a beer.
2011: Freshman year of college, Anarchy forever, Occupy Forever.
2012: “I invented my own party, Progressive Libertarian Socialism. Everyone admire what an intellectual I am while I pompously bombard you with my weed tangents like every other white college hipster.”
2014: Fuck it, I’m a socialist?
2017: WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE, WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS!
2018: Sings Internationale as we mount the Red Flag on the corpse pile of the oligarchs.
“Mr I need help with the uterus,”
Not long after my first day at Youth Built I was subjected to what easily counts as one of the worst work days of my teaching career, if not my entire life. Once again I was to be introduced to the workings of another Red Dot school. I was told the job for the day was middle school English. “A cake walk,” I thought to myself. I shake my head now thinking about my naivety as I write this for you Dear Reader.
“When will he learn?” You may be saying Dear Reader. Well from what it felt like, never.
“When will he learn to expect anything at this job except for the unexpected?” Again, it was not until I decided to sit here and gurgle all this out. It was not until I choose to quit being a teacher and looked back at it all in hindsight, as is the human condition. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and we remember more than we want and we forget things we want to keep. Yet at the time in my state of working ignorance, I decided to give Red Dot schools another chance, after all, they couldn’t all be terrible.
Still though, I needed at least five joints to brace myself and fog up the memories of that previous Red Dot school and the abuses I had suffered there. To this day whenever I hear the words “Red Dot,” I immediately am reminded of that linebacker of a young woman and everything she had to say about me and my “faggot ass.” So I took bong hit after bong hit after bong hit of kush that morning like on any morning. It took me until I felt like I was floating and I could barely keep my eyes open, then I was ready to get on the road.
Luckily the school was close enough so that I would not have to subject myself to a morning on the freeway. Though the streets of Alameda and El Segundo are so congested with a chaos of cars and pedestrians that rushing and merging amongst several other 2 ton hunks of steel all moving at 60 miles per hour at five lines each can actually be a welcome change of pace from a drive through the city.
I arrived for work, promptly as always, and I had to be buzzed into the school from the inside office. They were looking at me through the camera above the intercom and the buzzer, most likely seeing an unflattering angle of my nostrils and chin. The whole school was behind a 15-20 foot fence that was guarded by a flat metal steel frame. It looked more like a compound than a campus, like a fortress ready to fend off whatever soldiers of the federal government would be sent to it. The fence it self were a series of black metal spikes all connected at the top, but what stood out was the steel frame behind it. Like plywood patching up a window the steel frame covered the entire school looking like a bullet proof sheet. Like I said, it was more of a fortress.
I felt like I was about to enter a steel mill since it was in a rather industrial neighborhood, next door to a small factory and a car junk yard. However behind the wall was what would look on the out side to any passer by like any other normal school. A small yard with students running around on either blacktop or a patch of grass next to the two flag poles. I passed several students as I walked to the door, getting several curious gawks like I usually do at any school. The building itself was just a single story chamber built like one long hall with classes on either side and an office by the front doors.
I walked in to see that there were traffic lines and arrows laid out with colorful duct tapes on the floor. No chaos of the freedom of choosing how you walk here. No, no, no, no, that would be anarchy! Straight lines one way and straight lines the other, quiet in the halls and tuck in those shirts maggots!
This is supposed to be the kind of environment where its “is easier to teach.” If the school is in order, the classroom can run smoothly, in an idealized world. Seeing the intense level they put on discipline I expected to have an easy day ahead. “Except the unexpected Max.” Yet at this point I had no context, no reason to expect anything.
After I was let in and entered the office was then greeted by a very personable and kind receptionist. A man in his thirties with a better mustache and pair of glasses than I had wearing a Star Wars T shirt. I was given the impression this would a professional and good environment to work in.
“Expect the unexpected,” again Dear Reader that’s all I hope you take away from this chapter, expect the unexpected.
My classroom was a small one for that day. The high ceiling combined with the low windows gave the classroom the illusion that the walls were shorter than the ceiling. The room also had a chalk board in it instead of a white board, which was a rather surprising choice to me considering most Charters I have been to, ignoring the more corrupt ones, have all been fairly modernized. Also in my entire tenure as a student, K-12 and even in college, I never had a single teacher use an old fashioned chalkboard, so I had figured they were long gone. Yet there it was, a relic from a time in education I was never a part of, but it’s still there, still in that class. The room also had three grey walls and one big black one in the back, and the fluorescent light fixtures hung low and stretched long shadows over the tables, adding to the illusion of the ceiling.
It should have been a rather easy, do nothing type of day. The kids were to do homework they had for this or other classes. I could let them out one out at a time to pee or drink water, and I was told to send any student who misbehaved out to the office without warning, how hard of a day could I possibly have?
Well each class period was basically a symphony of pubescent screeches, yells, and so many paper airplanes flying I might as well have been an air traffic controller. However to go into detail about every grievance would be long and tedious, so let me break it down to the important stuff;
One incident that stood out was more homophobia in my classroom, this time it came from a seventh grade black boy, while though it was annoying, ignorance in a child is at least forgivable verses that of adults of any age, old or young. Yet still the ugly prejudice that exists within the white mind that there is an epidemic within African American or all poorer communities are being rift with homophobia, was validated once again in my establishment media mind. I sent a student out of my classroom for it. Actually, it wasn’t even because they said something homophobic, it was what they did when I actually did my job and tried to teach them. I was not bothered by them being teenage boys, I was bothered by them choosing willful ignorance.
It was a simple enough incident that was handled simply enough but still frustrated me all the same. Two black seventh grade boys, one short and round the other tall and gangly making the two look like a vaudeville act. The students were wasting time and teasing each other while I was trying to help another student. I told them to get to work then I went back to helping a student with a sex ed handout. He had called me over after he asking me and I quote, “Mr. I need help with the uterus.” I had to stop myself from saying “So did I. When I was your age son, so did I.” As I was explaining the connection between the vagina and the uterus to the young boy I heard your typical inappropriate 7th grade banter. I turned my head and sure enough the two problem children where back to doing whatever the fuck it is they were doing before only now it got physical. They began pushing each other away, almost falling out of their seats and one was blurting out, “Ew that’s gay, you gay.”
I stomped over and stood over them, my arms crossed and my brow furrowed with fury like a good sub. After appropriately scolding both boys like a good teacher would, I tried to calmly talk to the one who was blurting out “you gay!” so loudly. I tried to tell him calmly about why he shouldn’t use such terms, and what it actually does to people who are gay when they hear such negative speech. I tried to keep a compassionate and understanding tone, even if I was just doing this for the pay at the time, I still knew my day would be easier if I kept my cool. However in my self righteous indignation my temper got the best of me once again, because not only would the little shit not make eye contact with me, he started to roll his eyes at everything I was saying about being understanding of gay and trans people. So I kicked him the fuck out of class, and as he stomped out I told him, “I refuse to teach people like you.”
The kid had nothing to say to that, and he still refused to make eye contact with me as he left the room. Another shinning moment where I look like the good guy, right? In my head I was a social justice savior, in practice I probably didn’t do anything to help the dialogue. However let it be known that while I may be a degenerate dope fiend hiding under a veil of casual professional attire, I never stood for any kind of sexism or homophobia in any classroom I taught in.
Now let is cut to 4th period for this work day when someone from the office came to tell me that another teacher did not show that day, so she was wondering, “could you fill in the science class down the hall for us until the end of your day?”
In my head I thought, “Lady, Im on the clock until the 3pm bell, what the hell am I going to say no? You could ask me to shovel shit and I would have to do it, its in Sub Pools guidelines.” Yet of course, like all working adults, I said none of that. I merely responded as I was obligated, with a professional smile and and a hearty “Of course.” So in short I was off to the same shit, different classroom.
Again, or so I thought. “Expect the unexpected Max,” that is what I learned.
Well, as luck would have it this would be where I indeed finally learn that lesson. My day had been hit and miss so far, the incident with the boys being a definite miss. So they now decided to stick every single problem student who would make my life a living hell that day into one class. Just how difficult I would not realize, until they kicked me the fuck out of that school. Yes dear reader, this is the part I foretold you about. This is where I actually got kicked the fuck out of a school and it would not be the last time.
The class room was better lit than the other one, the tannish beige walls had chips in them from when old posters were be taken down and the tape would peel off the paint. Little holes from years of thumb tacks spotted them as well. With the exception of a few student projects the walls were rather blank in this class room. The lights did not hang as low and window stood at the top of a metal office cabinet, the dust and scratches on the floor were well illuminated by the natural light from the window. The fluorescents were attached high to the ceiling where the sound proofing white tiles covered and seal the jar that was this class room. Contrary to the other class this one had a white board, I am not sure if that matters but it seems relevant. In any case this one looked like a real classroom, not an optical illusion like the other one.
The students were almost all boys, and they were the 7th graders from hell. There are two kinds of 7th graders, angels and demons. They can be one or the other and it can change from day to day, but I stand by that there is no in between. The angels tend to be the innocents and the late bloomers, the ones who sincerely are putting school first, the demons are pretty much just the rest of them, the ones who have just tapped their pubescent potential and have let it completely take over. Lucky enough for me, I had a class full of those little monsters.
The following can sum it up pretty well;
“Please stay in your assigned seat,” I said to one who thought the class room was a place to train for the hurdle run.
“Don’t throw paper in the class room.” I then had to tell someone on the other side of class almost at the same time.
“Get your work out and get started.” I would have to keep telling them.
A paper airplane then goes by, “Plus I told you guys to stop throwing things!”
I picked it up off the ground, crumpled it up and turned around to throw it away. My back was only turned for a second, but I looked back only to see three more airplanes fly by and crash from different sides and corners of the room. Once again I just picked them up, crumpled them up and threw them away.
“When I say stop, I mean stop.” I say with my deepest and most dramatic voice to let them know I meant business.
They seemed to have gotten the message and started working, so I throw the airplanes away and sit down. Sure enough the volume starts to rise, students start throwing things at each other again, and then they even start leaping out of there seats, it was a constant repetition of what I just went through earlier.
“Please stay in your assigned seat.”
“Don’t throw paper in the class room.”
“Get your work out and get started.”
“I told you guys to stop throwing things!”
“When I say stop, I mean stop!”
“Get your work out and get started!”
“Stay in your assigned seat!
“Get your work out and get started!”
“I’m not going to tell you again. Get, to, work!”
Eventually I reached my breaking point once again, so as they leapt out of their desks like a playground I leapt out of mine, banging my hands on the faux wood and thrusting the chair back as I stood up so quickly that it toppled. All of it created a loud boom and thud which silence the classroom. I had their attention. Using the depth in my voice and the heat of my temper I let it all out.
“You guys are pissing me off!” They stopped in there tracks, they looked at me in shock, and I even got a verbal “woah.”s and “oh my gods.” from a few.
“Cut off the crap and get to work.” There eyes went even wider. They had just heard right, they had just heard a teacher swear at them, twice.
So what followed was a few more “awes” and “woes.”
“Yeah, that’s right guys, your teacher said it, that is how mad he is, get to work don’t make it worse for yourselves now.” I didn’t appreciate the irony of that statement until I thought about it later.
Now let me stress something once again to you my dear reader, at this point in my teaching career this was my idea of watching my language. The hardest part about this job was in all honesty the fact I had to watch my language so closely. I could not say any my favorite words until I was off campus at the end of my day. There is nothing worse to me about the job than the fact I had to listen to kids say “fuck” and “shit” all day, but if I let it slip even once I can get in big trouble. You could argue I should be enforcing the schools no swearing rules in the class by sending those kids to the office, but if I kicked out every kid I ever heard say fuck I would end up with a class of 5 students by the end of the day.
I thought I had found a loophole in the no swearing policy by getting away with using milder cuss words like crap and damn or piss as I has just used. Up to this point I had used those words somewhat liberally in a class room and it was no big deal, this was the first time saying them had ever gotten such a shocked reaction. At this point I had been able to sneak in a few of these junior cuss words into my teaching style, they were the cuss words that flew with my teachers in middle and high school. Why shouldn’t I get away with them to the way that they did?
The answer by the way was because I don’t have tenure or bargaining power like those teachers did. This was the day I learned that their is power in numbers, in more ways than one I learned that if you don’t have numbers on your side, you’re pretty much fucked. This is in a way many millennial’s problems, we live in an era where nothing matters but the numbers, that is my problem at least, I am not a man of numbers but I have always been a man of letters, and apparently all we are good for is sitting in a classroom to tell your kids to shut the fuck up and get to work.
After this period of hell and my too short of a lunch break I was called into the office in the middle of my second to last period of the day. The vice principle and one of the other faculty members came into the class. One was wearing the same uniform the kids were but was my age and had a whistle, while the other clearly the administrator in the room, what with her pink pant suit and matching lipstick and all. She approached me with her hand out for me to shake. She introduced herself as the VP which I already knew she was, or at least I knew she was some kind of administrator. I shook her hand and I smiled as I cordially introduced myself as Mr Boxer in front of all the children. She then asked if I could come with her to the office for a matter that she needed to discuss with me, when I asked her what she told me it was “something I’d rather not speak about in front of the students.” Those were her exact words, “can we talk in my office please?” which led me to expect the worst for our meeting.
“Ah crap,” I thought, “did the little bastards rat on me?”
Sure enough, the little shits had done just that. The group of little bastards ganged up on me and reported me to the office for saying a bad word has it I was just another 12-year-old. I must say they worked fast, the incident hadn’t passed 45 minutes by the time the Administrator asked to see me. The vice principle even had three fully typed reports in front of her, each one confirming that yes, indeed I had sworn in the classroom. All of which I copped to.
However what really pisses me off to this day was the part where one of the little fuckers lied.
“And do you want to explain why you threatened our students.” She said.
To which I went wide eyed and replied with an eloquent, “I beg your pardon?”
Well apparently, one of the little shits had said I told them I was going to kill them, and one of the other little shits backed him up. Apparently the VP never considered the fact they might both be lying but we will leave that alone. My Dear Reader, I may have acted out of anger at times where I should have been more understanding, I may be a sinful soul who on his summer vacations snorts and smokes random plants, but I am not a monster. I would never threaten the life of a child. Yet all of those shifty little fucks were in agreement, I had said that, word for word and as such I was asked to leave by little Miss bureaucrat administrator of that shitty prison to pipeline charter school. They will tell the kids how to dress and even how to walk in the halls, but be damned if you say crap to a 13 year old.
This is where I groveled, but I did not beg to stay because I knew it would have been to no avail. What I did do, with genuine tears in my eyes something even I did not know I was capable of, I reached out and grabbed the Vice principle by her sleeve. With my arm and body stretched across her desk I assured her, “I understand your position and I will leave with no problem, but I assure you I did not say that And I would never threaten a child.”
Then like a dry walk of shame, I left the school never to return.
I was confused, hurt and mad all at the same time, I left peacefully without causing a fuss but I was just racking my brain with fear and disgust. I did receive a disciplinary phone call from Sub Pool but that was all that happened afterwards. When I learned I would not be fired I was relieved but I still could not believe those students would go out of there way to lie about someone who just there to do a job.
When I got home, I honestly had never been more tempted to go full Walter White in my life, to just shave my head and drive back to the school so I could chuck a Molotov cocktail over the fence in the dead of the night and peel off in my shitty car as the building burst and shattered behind me. Yet I knew that some camera somewhere would catch me, that is what keeps a lot of us from doing what we know we should do, the cameras, or the fear that someone might actually see us doing the right thing.
The fantasy of that school burning to the ground and leaving the piece of shit administrator and shitty kids with no god awful charter school to hide from the neighborhood realities is an idea that I must be honest still satisfies and thrills me even though I know the kids don’t deserve to be punished in such a way. Despite how horrible and spoiled they may be, how much they may have exploited the system, those children do deserve their education or at least the access to one. Who am I to burn down a whole school for one petty squabble.
Still, I do smile whenever I think of a freshly bald me chucking a coke pottle of gasoline and fire over that big steel frame, and peeling off in my rickety Toyota as the glass shattered and the flame erupted.
That was the only time I ever groveled to an employer, something I had sworn before I would never do, that I was better than, that was before a child had lied about my own words. Ive been capable of many things, but I have never been capable of groveling like I did until kids were involved.
I have banned from 3 schools, this was the first of those three.
As you can see I got over it but at the time I was so heartbroken and insulted that I had to turn to my mother, a teacher with years of experience, for advice and incentive to keep going. Apparently, and this also broke my heart, this is not an uncommon happenstance for teachers these days. Students are still people, and people can be pieces of shit folks. I got news for you, some of you are pieces of shit to, and the fact you are raising kids to be like you means you are just raising more pieces of shit. Sorry folks, some people are just fucking hopeless and its usually the ones already born to other hopeless people. Not always, you have the ability to make choices about who you want to be in this world, just usually.
My point is students can lie and get teachers fired or moved all the time, and my mother assured me if it wasn’t for tenure, she might be in more trouble than she has been in to. My mother, the daughter of a homeless advocate and pure hearted lover of children, has been accused of saying things like I have to students. That was unimaginable to me, and I developed a great appreciation for my mom and my teachers after this day. We already live in a world were politicians and the willfully illiterate masses shit on our teachers, so not only that but kids get away with doing anything to their teachers now as long as they can agree on their story. We need to protect our students, but folks I must ask why are we not letting teachers teach? And when they actually do why do we hate them for it? I seriously would like to know because it damn sure doesn’t make sense to me.
So in short when a few students agree to a story it can get you in trouble at the school as if you were no more than one of the students. If you don’t have bargaining power or tenure an administrator can kick you the fuck out no problem, even if you are innocent or if the matter at hand is not that big of a deal.
Like I said folks, expect the unexpected, and there is power in numbers.
Locke High, Red Dots mark the Seven rings of HELL
The weeks that followed, if I recall correctly, were rather uneventful. My habits made it easy for me to quickly forget the previous incident and I had become absorbed into the routine of the job at this point. Every day I’d wake up at 530, wait until 9 by the phone to see if there was work. Somedays I would work 8 hours, others four, either way the pay was too good to pass up especially for anyone of my demographic. Also the schools I was being sent to had become rather routine and my days became less and less eventful, I went back to my private school Shangri-La of free lattes every so often and then occasionally I would be put into your run of the mill charters that honestly don’t really warrant any kind of rant or gonzo journalistic expose. They are just schools like any other schools with students like any other students.
That was all until one grey October morning, I was called to work at another Red Dot school, one of the biggest and most influential, Locke Academy High School.
To be clear it was Locke academy A, the school was now seven charter schools. Something I was blissfully unaware of at the time.
Here is the fun history of Locke Academy High school before we begin; Locke was opened in 1967 as a response to the Watts riots. Forty years later, the school board of Los Angeles voted to hand over control of the school to Red Dot schools company. In 2008 it reopened as the seven schools as I mentioned earlier, those schools being Lock A, B, C, D, Lock Tech, Lock Watts, and Lock ACE. Lock A, was the freshman school and was to be my department for the day. I knew it was going to be a hard day already because I was subbing for my weakest subject, math. There is nothing worse than subbing for a class you are not actually qualified to teach. When students find out you cant help them, it becomes hard to win them over.
“Why the fuck are you even here?” Some will ask, and to which I rarely had a good answer since to be honest I think that is a good question. Why would Sub Pool ever think English teacher would want to teach math?
“I don’t know kid, I don’t know why would I have the audacity to show up and not even teach? I really don’t.” Of course I never actually said that as you can expect. When in actuality I knew that it was because I needed to eat and that the school just wanted a warm body to take attendance for the day, “welcome to the Millennial uber economy kid, it sucks and you are caught right in the middle of it, and no one is going to bother to tell you.”
Well my day as you can imagine, was not a breeze. Before leaving, every experience I had with Red Dot was still fresh in my mind, I did what I’m sure you would expect me to do by now. I got ridiculously high on some variant of THC I had laying around from the weekend in order to emotionally brace myself for the trials at hand.
The work started with immediate ominous indications that I was in for another roller coaster of taking one for white peoples sins once again. Sons truly pay for the sins of the fathers, and we are a generation of white people that will have to answer for a whole empires GDP worth of racism and sexism for the rest of the next century, rightfully so I might add, it’s just not a very fun part of reality. The grey skies let little light out onto the cracked roads of the neighborhood that early morning. Once again I was in the heart of territory still feeling the ruins from the Watts riots. I was a circus freak once more in this neighborhood, “Come see the thing with blue eyes!” Besides the stares I received as I approached the school at the intersection I saw two cars get into an accident at 40 mph. It caused quite a ruckus with the students waiting in front of the school to go inside, but I too, the opportunity to keep my head down and get to the office with out being gawked at.
I entered the main office and I set down my lunch, and briefcase at the end of a wide desk at the front reception area. Then I walked to the other end to sign in where the member of the school staff was. Everything about the school was immense, everything built like a fortress, the walls thick and the ceilings tall like a cathedral. It was like the other LAUSD campuses I had visited and worked at. The school colors were loud and vibrant, the tiles were scuffed and high fences and iron gates complemented the barred windows exceptionally well. Within 30 seconds of me walking away from my stuff, while I was still in the room I might add, I heard my lunch sack begin to rustle like it was being opened. I look up and from across the counter I see three boys have entered the office and were trying to sneak a look into my lunch and briefcase. It was the lack of subtlety that was the insulting part. It was as if I was not standing right there, like my presence meant nothing and they legitimately thought I would be vapid enough not to notice anything. Plus what is the person in the office doing, staring at her goddamn computer. It was as if I was invisible to everyone at that moment.
“Well, I guess your not going to say something,” I realized, “time to establish yourself as no pushover Mr Boxer. ” So I swooped out of nowhere from the three kids right side and grabbed my lunch back right from out of there faces, and told them “I hope you guys don’t have Mrs Dias today. ” I then looked over at the receptionist, who then realized her error and shooed out the students. She then apologized for the students actions, but not for her own inaction I noticed, yet I just smiled and nodded and maintained a professional air, something that is not always easy to do when you’re stoned as I usually get for this job. Security then came in and I walked away with the security guard who was to open the door to my classroom.
I was already put into a gruff mood, I never like having my things touched and this was the first time a student had the audacity to touch my stuff and seeing do nothing administrators always pisses me off to no end, so for this to happen before class to even start was not going to have me in the best of moods. The grey from the clouds outside made the hallways very grim since you could see the dull greyed light from the barred windows.
We walked up the monumental stairs and around the corner to my classroom, a fortress behind a locked door, and needless to say, barred windows a plenty. The security guard searched his ring for the right key, so I took the time to have him validate my premonitions.
“Hey man, can ask you something?” I asked trying to carry the tone of one working man to another.
“Shoot,” he replied still fumbling with the keys.
“How are the kids here?” I said with my arms crossed, showing I meant business just like him.
He found the key and began to unlock the door, but he had started to smile at what I had said and replied after a pause, “You want me to be real man?”
“Be real son.” I said back.
Still smiling and shaking his head, as he opened the door he said “Arm yourself man.”
Unmoved on the surface, I just nodded and replied, “Thanks for being real with me man.”
He said no problem, and I swear the door sounded like the echo of a bank vault shutting when he let go of the door and walked back down the stairs.
There I was in my class, my fortress, hollow and alone, still off-put by the doors vault like slamming echo. The sun cast a bleak shadow of the bars outside the windows onto the desks. If I wad to take a picture then write something online derivative from the most self righteous tragedy porn about prisons or schools or both, it would make Facebook crash. The high ceiling was complimented by the huge glass windows which had an iron bar fence gating them outside in from being opened to wide. The room over looked the street by the side of the school, where you could also see the dilapidated streets and houses neighboring it. The floor’s white and blue tiles were scratched and scuffed from years of sneakers and desks moving about. The desks were all organized into neat rows, but they looked disorganized and chaotic because the chairs and designs of the desks were almost all different from row to row. Some were all plastic, others had the metal and ceramic seat that blessed most newer schools, some had baskets under them, some didn’t, some looked modern some looked like relics from god knows when, and only two in the front row were left handed.
Like my previous stories, I will keep the details brief and focused on the brutal, the entertaining, and the honest truth.
The day consisted of three classes under a block schedule, one and half hours for each class.
Cut to the First Class,
INT. SOME SHITTY SCHOOL IN WATTS- SUNRISE
A class of 34, 16 actually show up.
A chubby fifteen year old Mexican boy with awful acne asked me “Do You party sir?” in that ‘Let’s fuck with the nerd” tone of voice. Then he followed with “hows your beer pong game?”
“A hell of a lot better than yours kiddo, Ive been to college. ” I thought to myself. “Talk to me when you’ve played a game of rage cage then maybe we will have something to talk about.”
Of course if I was to say any of that to him I would probably get fired. However to this day I wish I had said this aloud.
In the class there was a stout black girl with braids in the back corner sitting with her friends, listening to music as they worked, which I don’t mind, but every five minutes she would bust out with a curse word so loud the whole class looks up like they just heard their morning alarm clock. We all know Max Boxer swears like a mother fucker, but Mr. Boxer had learned his lesson and was watching his language from now on. Plus to be honest Mr. Boxer heard students swearing all day and he didn’t do anything, but when it was so blatant that the whole class couldn’t get their work done, well Mr. Boxer had to be a professional now didn’t he? As an adult you are expected to be so in a classroom since that is what you are there for after all. Classrooms are supposed to teach cordiality, and adults are extensions of the classroom.
“Watch your language please,” I walked over and calmly told her. Its fair if you don’t believe me at this point, but I assure you, I was not about to bring anger into the classroom immediately like I would before.
“Fine.” she snootily retorted as she rolled her eyes and went back to whatever she was doing to put off her work.
Soon after as I explaining to a student why I could not help them with the problem because I’m an English teacher, like a bass drum I hear her bellow “Bitch!” After which I hear her and her friends chuckle. I turned around, and once again I calmly told her, though I told her sternly, “Watch your language in the classroom,” I though maybe if I added that she would get that it’s just not the time and place to get this loud and rowdy. I don’t care if she talks like that anywhere else, but who the fuck is she to do that where everyone is trying to do their math. Of course soon after, I hear another booming “FUCK YOU!” And then she and her friends giggle.
I look up, saying nothing but keeping my brow furrowed, and walked over, I kept my cool, I knew she was just trying to mess around with her friends, but she had no consideration for anyone else in the class. That was all I wanted to teach her. Im boiling with annoyance by now, but I speak slowly and calmly. ” I don’t care how you talk out side of class, but the classroom is not the time nor the place for this.”
She didn’t even look up this time, “Okay, I don’t care.” She quipped as she was pretending now to do her work.
“Well you should care because…”
“Stop talking to me.” So sudden, so rude, and not even a hint of eye contact.
To which I smiled through the rage, and just said back, “No,” and walked away. She didn’t like that, I could tell because I could here her angry shrug as her friends next to her laughed at my little joke. I thought the matter was done, and the lesson had been taught. When you get other students to laugh at what you say, it puts the numbers of the classroom in your favor against the rowdy student.
There is power in numbers.
Ten minutes later, as I finally calmed down was about to sit back at the desk and journal when I hear her, “Fucking BITCH!”
“OUT!” I finally declared with my boom voice and pointed finger. It was honestly out of pure annoyance at this point, not anger. Yet she didn’t want to leave, so I got security. When they refuse to leave I used to take that as a sign of disrespect. Now I see that its civil disobedience. She wasn’t going to leave the classroom, which means, well, she didn’t want to leave the classroom. It was I, the one who took her words personally, who wanted her out.
By the way, I feel obligated to mention this is not a vindication for letting students have shitty attitudes. I am trying to show it is a two way street. Yes, it is on teachers to set the right example and always put empathy first, and a student should understand a teacher usually has 30-100 plus students to attend to per year, needless to say it gets trying. If we all talked about our perspectives and actually listened we would really move this stagnant dialogue along.
This was only the first period of the day, I still had two more.
Cut now to,
INT. SHITTY CLASSROOM IN WATTS – 11am
I stood before a 25 person class with only 8 people in attendance. Thats a whopping 17 students who would rather ditch than endure either math, a sub or both. My pits were pooling through my shirt at this point.
Soon after class was supposed to start three boys entered, 17 year olds, 3 juniors in a freshman math class, “This should be fun,” I thought rolling my eyes as they entered.
They were marked tardy for attendance, and they took their seats in the back of the room with the worksheets I knew they would not do.
Twenty minutes later in the class where I am spending 90 minutes breaking up arguments and impromptu wrestling matches, 75% of them being started by those 3 boys. Each time I send them out, the office sends them right back. No matter how hard I try it looks like I am stuck with them for the day. I over hear some moronic conversations as well. Many of these boys will still use the word Gay as an insult, and i have stop them from rolling around in each others arms on a dirty school tile floor.
Cut to the very end of the class, five minutes left and all the students have packed up and are hanging out by the doors of the class. Pan to the back of the class where the three idiots decide to play T-ball using their arms as a tee and a bat and a bottle of gatorade, a full bottle i might add, as a ball.
I tell them “No,” as they set up the T.
I tell them “No,” as he prepares to swing.
I tell him “NO!” just before he lets her rip and knocks the bottle half way towards the other end of the room, bursting the cap off on the leg of a metal chair and covering the back corner with red sticky hell that I would have to call the already too much put upon custodian to clean up.
I could not hold it in any more. The anger was back.
“What did I SAY!?” Ah the thunder of my voice, I knew it was at its best at that moment, the whole class went silent. “When I say No, I mean no, way to blow it guys.” I pointed to the door like a furious Gandalf guiding the way as he scorns someone.
“What did we do?” one had the audacity to ask me. I could see it in his face, he actually did not see there was anything wrong with what he did.
The fact he was being serious, the fact he actually didn’t know only upset me more, I couldn’t be bothered to explain it this time. “Get out, get the hell out!” Was all I said back. Ah, that one I knew I would get away with here, I knew these ones weren’t smart enough, or brave enough, to snitch on me.
“Man, seriously?” said one.
I was now more irritated they could see what they did wrong than by what they actually did. I realize these kids live in shitty situations, but I promise they were also never destined to be rocket scientists.
“Alright!” Replied one giving me a face full of middle fingers.
“Well fuck!” Eloquently put another.
“Fuck you! fuck this class! fuck this school! fuck you! man fuck you bitch!” said the third. I knew they all actually wanted to leave despite their performance, because they left willingly and without security escorting them out. The door shut with the same echo of a locked vault as when the class was empty. The students could not stop staring and the conversations the rest of class got no higher than a whisper.
The last period of the day, thank god.
Compared to before, this period was rather uneventful if not completely uneventful. Only 6 of the 30 students showed up. No one cussed or fought, in fact everyone was quite respectful to me for the most part.
That was until one of the boys asked if I had a girlfriend, I had as a matter of fact just broken up with a girl I was seeing. And when I say seeing, I mean we were banging until we got bored with each other. So I simply laughed and said, “I used to,” to which they asked why I wasn’t with her anymore and some also replied with “Was she hot?” to which I would not answer, I just tried to laugh it off so they would drop it and move on.
One thin black girl over heard us and said, “Mister they are going to make you go to hell.” She said it with both condescension and sincerity as religious people tend to have a weird tango between the two in their rhetoric and intentions. I then noticed one of the books on her desk was one of these pieces of propaganda you see Jehovah witnesses standing with out side of the mall. She said I was going to hell, and she honestly meant it, without realizing the irony of the statement, so I was obliged to had to point it out for her.
“I got news for you kiddo, I’m already there, I’m a substitute teacher.” I said smiling and getting a few laughs from the other students. Not her though. She did not seem to get it.
“Aint that a bitch.” That was all she said back and I couldn’t tell if she was in on the joke or not. I just smiled it off and went back to my desk to enjoy this almost perfectly behaved class. It was a nice breather from the earlier part of the day. A period where a student told me I was going to hell was a nice breather.
“aint that a bitch?” as she so aptly put it.
yes indeed, aint that a bitch?
Finally the last bell rang, and I shooed the students out and I was out the door almost as fast as they were. Before I shut the door I looked at the room, any semblance of organization that had been there at the beginning of the day was long gone at this point. There were no rows of desks anymore, just a chaotic misalignment of plastic and wood and metal facing all directions with bits of torn up or crumpled paper decorating the desks or accentuating the floors.
As I left one of the security guards complimented me, “Good job today man,” he said giving me a thumbs up on my way out. “You were tough, thats how you gotta handle these kids.” To which I just smiled and said thanks, and power walked to my van. I was then off and I was to never teach at that hell hole again, or at least so I thought.
But again, I had forgotten to expect the unexpected.
Once again I returned home to fog my brain up once again with somewhat legal narcotics and alcohol. Quickly the day disappeared with every sip and every puff, and I was able to rest for a few days. I even called Sub Pool and was assured that I would never have to go back to Lock A again.
This was before I knew there were 6 other Lock schools in the same goddamned building.
Another day another dot, goddamnit.
I spent my weekend unwinding by doing cocaine with some cousins and their boyfriends. Then when Monday rolled around I was off to another red dot. Like little Office Depot stickers the seemed to mark my own personal hells, Red Dot schools. This one was just three miles away from my house. It was for a science class at a middle school, and since it was close that would mean my route would not require me to suffer through LA traffic. That is always a good way to start a working day in Los Angeles. “Why surely not all Red Dot schools are the same, surely some of them must be well rounded. Plus I mean, science class, 3 miles away, what could go wrong with that?”
Once again naivety reared its ugly head.
I am sure you can take a guess dear reader, at this point Im sure by now you know enough about how I worked that you can take a guess at the answer to that question. I’m sure you can also take a guess as to how I prepared myself for that day, so I will skip the excessive details and just say I indulged in my standard routine.
So with a decent head change and only a few streets between us I arrived at the school just off of Western Avenue. I approached the office and endured the typical cordialities I had come to expect at the front office of each school at the start of my days. I signed in, got a visitor tag to put on the back of my substitute badge, then I was escorted to a classroom by a security guard who would open my door for me. This guard was much younger than most I had been walked by. He was much shorter and thinner than the other one from Lock, who looked more like a bald night club bouncer rather than a school security guard. Looks can be deceiving though, someone who might look like the hardest cholo, might actually be the yard duty at your child’s school now. Never judge a book by its cover, one of the many things being a teacher actually teaches the teacher.
This man could not have been much older than me, in fact he was probably my age. So I thought he would be real with me like the other security guard had been. “Hey man, be real with me, how are the kids here?” I asked hoping to know this would be an easy day. If the guard every gave me anything less than an enthusiastic, “Oh they are great here man, no worries,” then you have every reason to be suspect.
He smiled at me and struggled to respond. This was not the same smile as last time, this was the smile of the veil, the smile that was hiding something. He took a second before saying anything, “I mean,” he said as he thought, clearly he wanted to be careful with his words so he was choosing them slowly, “I mean they’re okay man, they aren’t always angels, but…” He wanted to tell me to brace myself I could tell, but like me, he was caught up in the veil of professionalism, so of course none of us want to say “prepare for the worst” when you are talking about kids, but sometimes its the only way you can help them. How can I help these kids if I always just assume the best of their situations all the time, which I honestly know nothing about and have no way of ever really understanding unless they tell me or someone else tells me directly.
“I mean, they’re kids man, that’s all Im going to say man they’re kids.” He finally completed with that. Fair enough I thought, but when he said “Thats all I’m going to say,” I knew he was holding something back.
“I’m in for it,” I told myself.
Sure enough, I was.
My Dear Reader, at this point the day has replayed in my head so many times so horrendously as our memories do and it has just become just one long blur of cussing, kicking students out, shitty screeching 13 year old comebacks that are actually the meanest things in the world because thirteen year olds understand everything there is to know about insecurity especially when it comes to seeing it in other people. No one was working, phones were out non stop. It was every teachers nightmare.
The classroom itself gave me the feeling I was in for an an least somewhat comfortable day, the room had the veil of a competent teacher. The tiles were new and scuff less and the walls were a fresh painted red that hid any old tack marks or tape peels. Brand new posters depicting the chain of Evolution, Einstein and the periodic table, as well as several students projects dangling high on the walls, and molecules dangled from the ceilings. Once again I had the feeling that this would be an easy day because I was in the environment of experience, yet pretty and informative walls don’t mean you are going to have an easy day at work.
I do remember sending one student out. I told the office that I didn’t want him back in the classroom for the rest of the day.
The lazy bastards sent him back just after 10 minutes. When the class was being a rowdy merciless ruckus I heard a knock on the door. I cracked it to peak my head out to see him behind the plate of metal with his security guard escort standing over him with her arms crossed. “They sent you back!?” I almost said in shock. Yet ever the professional, I did not. I knew what was about to happen, I had experienced it as a child when I got sent to the office a few times.
“I’m sorry I talked back.” He said with the enthusiasm of a castrated steer.
Ah, the old, “Go tell the teacher your sorry,” routine, I thought to myself. The worst and most ineffective and lazy punishment an administrator can do. It makes it look like you are doing your job to the inexperienced outsider to teaching and it makes being a great disciplinarian, but you are actually just passing the buck, letting kids slip through without ever learning a lesson. A stern talking to and back to class with you. I didn’t send him to the office for a chat, I sent him to be punished.
Also let’s admit that nothing is worse than getting an apology that is an empty apology, but its even worse when you are forced to make one yourself against your will. No one has any dignity when a vice principle just sends a student back and “tells them to apologize.” There is no dignity for the student nor the teacher, nor even the administrator, and you just show that you don’t want to actually do your job. The teacher is robbed of dignity because that is all they realize they are worth to their administration, a hallow apology. The student is robbed of dignity because it forces them to say things they don’t mean to get by in the world, that is not a world we should raise our kids in. Lastly the administrator has no dignity because it just makes them look flat out lazy. Not to mention this puts the burden of discipline back on the teacher.
Despite people’s notorious misconceptions, a teacher is not supposed to be a disciplinarian, that is the principle and vice principles job, at lead it is supposed to be. The teacher, TEACHES! Rather they are supposed to teach. How is someone supposed to focus on a lesson plan if they also need to play babysitter, judge, jury, executioner, and security guard for a paycheck? As the kids would tweet, smh.
The security guard looks out for the kids and the office is supposed to discipline the kids, all so that the teachers can TEACH the kids, yet apparently all administrators do now it seems are find ways to save money, and usually, as it happens with management in any industry, that entails on getting your teachers, i.e. your labor, to take on more work for less pay.
So to maintain my position’s cordiality I nodded at his apology, fulfilling my role in this particular bullshit cordial discourse that is all to common in the modern educational world. ” Are you going to cause me any problems the rest of class?” There is one right answer to this, “no” its all you need to say to get back into my classroom, anyone of us would probably be smart enough to know that, if you just tell the person what they want to hear, you’d be off the hook and the matter done with, yes it sucks but it a lesson in picking your battles and some battles just aren’t worth it. who says substitute teachers don’t actually teach?
But this kid, this future genius, just shrugged, and said nothing, he couldn’t muster up a simple, “No,” I didn’t need a genuine no, if he had lied, which is what I was actually expecting, it would have been a forgotten matter. He just shrugged and went “ugh, I mean…” It was like he didn’t know the answer, just say no kid and you get in, how hard is that?
But no, he was too good for that apparently, too good to learn the basic lesson, “Just tell the guy in charge what he wants to here so he’ll leave you alone.” I just looked to the security guard and said in an irritable tone, “No,” shaking my head “No, get him out of here.” She sighed and nodded to confirm, understanding how the child had failed this basic life lesson and that this was how he would have to learn. It’s a shitty lesson to learn, and an even shittier way to learn it, but lets all remember something, a little cordiality, even if its faked, can go a long way, especially when it comes to mending social faux pa.
Now let us go back the misadventures of yet another middle school classroom from hell.
Another student, a pudgy girl with braided hair extensions, was constantly on her phone.
I would tell her to put it away.
She would roll her eyes as she took her sweet merry fucking time to do it. “Strike one you little bitch,” I thought.
Ten minutes later, she has her phone out again, using it as a mirror to apply her make up.
“Young lady, ” I said standing over her, stern and deep with my arms crossed. I would always do that when I wanted to sound older and more mature to the students. I called them young lady or young man and it sets up the dynamic perfectly. “I asked you once already please put your phone away, and get to work. This is not the time to touch up your make up.”
Again, no words from her, just a roll of the eyes as she seemingly obeyed, once again taking her sweet time. I would not have cared either way, but when she rolled her eyes, it was strike 2 once again. “Keep it up.” Now if she did it one more time, she was out of the classroom.
Sure enough, just a few minutes later, the phone, and make up are out. By now we were thirty minutes into class, and she hadn’t even put her name on her paper yet. “Alright, young lady, that’s strike three, pack your stuff and go straight to the office.” I said trying to keep a cool temper.
She obeyed rolling her eyes once again, laughing a little, smugly to, as she left. Looking back on it, as mad as I was, I have to give the kid props for not losing her cool.
Of course, the office sent her right back at the end of class with a note telling me to let her come back into class and thar she had been “properly disciplined.” Clearly she had been, because when she handed me the note she intentionally dropped it on the floor in front of me and walked away, still smugly smiling. I clenched my teeth and resisted the urge to smack the shit out of her the way my dad would have done to me had he seen me do such a thing. But all I took solace in was that I wrote every detail about her attitude in my note to the teacher, even including the words “This student was the rudest I have had to endure in a long time. See to it she is punished severely.” Check mate you little bitch. That was
I have no idea what happened to her, probably nothing, but I like to think she was punished so severely that she was forced to think about her attitude, and may be today she sees now how she behaved was beneath her, and has matured into a better respectful student.
One can only hope. Again, keep in mind, Red Dot is consistently putting this man, the one who just called a 13 year old girl a little bitch, in charge of your kids. Think about that before you send your kid to ANY charter.
Another day, another shitty ghetto Red Dot school, another day where the end could not come fast enough, either just to my day or all of humanity. Fortunately by this point in my teaching career I had been introduced to yoga and had assumed a healthy balanced regiment of coffee, yoga, alcohol, and pot. Not necessarily in that order. I will be honest though, were it not for the fact I was consistently stoned in every single one of the classes I had mentioned so far, who knows how I might have embarrassed myself further. When it comes to a teacher cutting loose, whether it be with brutal twerking, yoga, or narcotics, I got two words for all of society, Don’t Judge.
I would be happy to say this was my last time at a Red Dot school, I would be happy to say that because it is not true. I subbed at many more, and in the process I learned plenty about them.
Name Names, Just the “facts”
Let us take a break for a moment my Dear Reader from tales of my own experiences, and go into some cold hard truths about LA charters, particularly, lets learn more about some of the people running these schools. In my series of anecdotal pleas, lets have some hard evidence. Let’s stick to just the facts for this short chapter;
Fact : Red Dot was started by a man named Steve Barrett.
Fact: Steve Barrett helped co found Rock the Vote.
Fact: Barrett was also chairman of finance for the California Democratic Party during the Dukakus Campaign.
Fact: Barrett knows Netflix founder Reed Hastings.
Fact: Reed Hastings served on the California board of education and is an incredibly vocal pro Charter activist.
Fact: Hastings donates to pro charter causes frequently, and helped fund Red Dot’s launch.
Fact: Hastings wants to get rid of elected school boards.
Fact: School boards are an influential governing agency when it comes to teachers unions and collective bargaining.
Fact: Having less democratically elected school boards could potentially make it easier for private educators to treat teachers how they wished.
Fact : Barrett founded Red Dot after attending an event where then President Bill Clinton announced more public money would be released for charters.
Fact: According to Barr’s twitter, all his schools are all unionized
Fact: Even unionized charters do not have to abide by the same regulations and in some states are not obligated to recognize unions.
Fact: Barr is running for Mayor of Los Angeles.
Fact: If elected he could be influential in converting more schools into charters.
Fact: Those charters would be allowed to hire EMOs to handle operations since EMOs are legal in the state of California.
These are all just facts, people may do with them what they will, but they are all facts. Searchable, verifiable, facts.
I was going back to Lock, I had no choice
Well my Dear Reader, let us return back to the land of dreams where I spent my work days waking and baking and my weekends in a cross faded haze in order to forget how awful some things in this world truly are, especially some children. Then my work week began and Sub Pool gave me the clarion call, and wouldn’t you know it, I was lulled into another false sense of security. I do not know any more if it was naivety or just my effected short term memory but somehow I began thinking my hellish strain of venomous schools where I was helpless to do anything in my massive inexperience was over, and that I was ready to be a seemingly competent teacher once again, I was actually brought down by reality and back into the real world in the worst ways this job could find for me.
For a few weeks after that last Red Dot school work was rather uneventful again. I did have a few jobs at my private school free espresso Shangri-La , plenty of days off in between different schools, well behaved students, and for other charter I was going to I was going for Art or English classes which are my two strongest areas. I did everything to pray that this would be the rest of my school year. I don’t believe in god, so I think those prayers went unanswered for many reasons.
At the time though I was at peace. “No more angry days” I thought, Im sure you are all shaking your head dear readers at my naivety because I sure am.
Then one day I got the call for another Red dot, I didn’t hear the name over static on the phone but to me it didn’t matter at that point because they always sent me the address in an email anyway. A day of English at one of their schools would not nearly be as bad as anything else, as I said, it was a false sense of security. I have yet to have a positive experience with Red Dot Schools at this point, I fail to see why I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt.
I prepared in my usual way, filling my pack with necessities and my lungs with THC laden smoke.
I did not bother to look at the name of the school since the address was usually enough, had I been sober that morning who knows what I might have done, all that matters is what actually happened. What happened was I was so stoned on this morning I was misreading, mishearing, and overthinking everything but be damned if I would be late to work. I had my google maps directions and was off to combat, or what people outside of LA would call the morning commute.
As I was driving through my google maps route enduring the hell that is LA driving, pot holes, tight lanes, buses and big rigs hogging lanes, and slamming on the brake to avoid rear ending idiots who dont believe in turn signals. The deeper we went into the city the more I was starting to have flash backs. “This route feels familiar.” Yet once again in my lacking short term memory I could not figure out why. I was definitely feeling a dark deja vu, but I could not say why. It looked like the same run down buildings and barred windows of Watts that I had passed time and time again. It especially looked like when I went to…
“No” I suddenly thought, “it couldn’t be” I thought like a 50s horror victim cliche.
“Oh no! But oh yes, as I turned my car into the parking lot and google blurted out it’s robotic “Arrived!” all of my worst fears were confirmed, the address I pulled up to was none other than on the campus of one Lock high school. I realized now the name I could not hear on the phone was “Academy C” As in Lock Academy C.
I did not recognize the address immediately when I saw it because in this job they send me to so many different schools and places that many of them just begin to run together, especially chain schools like Red Dot or Axis. The only ones worth remembering are the ones I have been telling you about, or maybe its just my stoner short term memory demonstrating the actual dangerous effects of cannabis, minimal though they are. However, let this be a lesson to us all, smoke too much pot and your boss might end up sending you to the same hell hole twice. I was kicking myself for not recognizing the original address from last time. This is the real anti drug ad folks.
I parked my rickety Toyota with the missing front right light as close as I could to the exit then I just sat in my car for awhile. I began trying to find a strong meditative breath for at least five minutes. I closed my eyes, and just breathed. In and out, in and out, in, and, out.
In and out. “Be like water.”
In and out. ‘What would a yogi do?”
In and out. “What would a martial artist do?”
In and out, “What would Bruce Lee do?”
In and out, “What would a doctor of journalism do?”
When I opened my eyes, suddenly I felt like Hunter Thompson or at least some version of him. I felt like when he was played by Mr. Depp at least in Fear and Loathing. Particularly I felt like I was him in the scene where he fires his pistol randomly in the desert in his frustration. ” I was going back to Lock, I had no choice.”
The day started like all the other where I was dropped into the front lines of LA’s ghettos and prison training schools that are our modern Charters. Like clock work and deja vu combined I was taken through the same motions I was so accustomed. A security guard met me at the office where I signed in and he escorted me through the labyrinth of off white tiles, puberty, and poverty. I saw all the sights I had seen from last time, turning my deja vu into more of a Vietnam flashback as I saw everything I remembered from last time.
We walked by the aging 1960s lockers that were covered with a 1999 coat of paint and by what seemed like every barred window and door in the school. I honestly cant think of a single school in Watts or Compton I taught at, or any neighborhood I worked where the white population was low, that did not have bars on the windows. Segregation is not dead people. White students, or rich students so they might as well be white students, they get extra supplies and a free range to learn. The kids in the city get old supplies, old buildings, fences every where, and bars. Bars on the windows, at home, and at school. No matter where these kids go in life, unless they make it out, they will always see bars on the windows.
The security guard escorted me on what felt like a journey to the 15th floor at Hogwarts and used his ring of keys to open my door, which would no doubt lock behind me whenever it shut and I was given no key. The guard then stressed I “Not leave the door open” when I leave the classroom. Meaning I was basically a prisoner in my own classroom for the day when you think about it. This happened all the time at many schools, especially the worst of them like Red Dot or Axis. If I leave for anything, I’d get locked out. Which always brings up a big problem for me, “What if I need to pee?”
This brings up a topic that has yet to be discussed in my series of tangents and tirades about my experiences within the modern Charter and education system, especially in regards to the treatment of teachers. I am going to say, publicly and loudly, that all teachers, and I mean all teachers, whether charter or not, regular or substitute teachers, they all need more access to the restroom. My Dear Reader the things that this job has done to my kidneys are enough to make Cesar Chavez and his followers kick over the porta potties that farm workers seem to have to fight for. If you ever need proof teachers get treated like shit, besides constant attacks from over entitled FOX or CNN pundits, their shitty pay, or the inherent anti unionism of most charters, ask your teacher friends about their bathroom breaks.
Legally speaking, since charters are not subject to the same regulations regarding treatment of their employees, teachers and subs are only guaranteed the bare minimum for bathroom access, thats one 15 minute break after 3 hours of work and a 30 minute break for lunch after 5 hours. By the way for most jobs where you work more than 8 hours, you are supposed to receive overtime. Never say the words “overtime” to a teacher with 130 papers to grade which they are actually expected to grade in their off time, it seems.
“Oh but don’t all teachers get a prep period?” You may retort Dear Reader. No, not all teachers, not if they work at charters, where you have no contract, therefore no collective bargaining power. Plus you can only grade so many papers in an hour and a half. In fact even at some public schools the demand is so high and teacher to student ratio so low that many teachers are asked to cover extra classes for what should be their prep period, which means they aren’t getting ample bathroom breaks either.
Now you might also think I could just leave the classroom during the students passing periods and go to the bathroom and have security reopen my room, no big deal, and let the students wait outside of the class until I return. That is not always easy to do especially if you only have 3-5 minutes for a passing period and have to in turn borrow a key from someone for the restroom, considering how much relay you have to do to get just two doors open you are most likely to leave your students waiting in the hall. To some of you, you might think “So the fuck what!?” but subs and teachers will understand that a late sub or teacher is a trigger for a rough class period, if students are forced to wait in the halls when they should be in class time it’s like making your new baby skip his midday nap time. It messes with their internal clockwork, which they have become accustomed to working with in a pavlovian fashion. If you set them off their accustomed pattern you are viable to make them rowdy, like a baby, which means you will have difficult keeping class calm and under control so you can help them, like a baby. That is one reason why this is a bigger deal than people realize. Plus, with all the coffee I drink to stay fueled and all the water I need to drink to keep my voice clear, just having to keep asking people for keys to the bathroom can get very embarrassing, because it gives a stranger insight into a personal piece of clockwork.
I honestly don’t care what job you work, bathroom access is a personal and potentially medical matter and employers of any kind should ensure that bathroom access is assured and ample no matter what. I will say here that I also think a law needs to be passed requiring all school employees, temporary or permanent, to be given a bathroom key. Many schools say they don’t give subs keys because they don’t want to risk them being stolen or students getting them. To which I say, if the same key to open your employee bathroom also opens the school’s front doors, you are a cheapskate and if you think a student doesn’t have the audacity to steal one of your regular teachers keys you haven’t worked for Red Dot yet. I cant help but feel the real reason they won’t give people like me a key is they want to make sure we are in the classroom as much as possible, they don’t want to risk me coming and going too much, even if it means my medical dignity.
You might also ask why I wouldn’t have someone from the office or the security guard watch my class? That was because if 30 people who have yet to mature know you are leaving class to use the bathroom it can be embarrassing, it’s easy enough to say I shouldn’t care what they think when you aren’t the one responsible for them. Plus to be honest I have and some administrators simply will just not do it. Nor did I feel it was right for me to ask one of the other teachers to watch my class for me, though that does happen in some schools.
Where I work though? No, be damned if I left those kids with anyone else, “ME watch YOUR KIDS on MY off time!?” It happens, some teachers are more helping than others. Yet that doesn’t make them already incredibly put upon, and can you imagine the humiliation of having to have some sort of changing of the guards in front of your own students just so you can go take a shit or go piss? If you were 16 and still got thrills from drinking in parking lots, would you take a teacher seriously if in the back of your mind you thought they couldn’t control their bladder? It is not just a matter of health, it is a matter of dignity.
I cannot tell you how many jobs where this happens, where I am not simply given a key so that I can assure myself access to and from my class room and to or from the bathroom. Once again considering the amount of water and coffee I need to function on this job, it gets embarrassing if I have to keep asking for someone to let me go piss. That’s what it comes down to, if you don’t give someone a bathroom key where they work you are forcing them to ask permission to use the facilities, and there is no dignity for any adult who has to ask permission to use a restroom. I also learned something from my pee related misadventures on this job, I do not know about you, but growing up I always remember being fascinated by how often I would see my teachers pit stains. It seemed all too common for teachers to get sweaty pits, and I never understood why.
Then I actually became a teacher, and I realized, “Oh, its because they really need to pee but cant because they have a class of 30 plus students they are responsible until their only break.” In case you are the person how doesn’t listen to their teachers and didn’t do well in Bio, know that the body has three ways of getting rid of liquid waste, urine, vomit, and sweat. When you hold in your bladder for long enough, your body starts to look for other ways to get rid of the waste, you cant throw up the liquid waste since its moved out of your stomach, so your body will start to sweat and one of the places with the most sweat glands are your pits. Ergo, teachers are prone to kidney problems and sweaty pits because we are not letting them pee. So, be nicer to your damn teachers already. Stop shitting on them media, give them a damn raise, and let them pee damn it. Let everyone pee for christ sakes. We seem to be arguing about that idea on many fronts. We under regulate toilets for some people and we over regulate it for others. We have a weird bathroom culture.
I should also mention that I noticed a correlation between when I would be at my angriest in the classroom and embarrass myself and when I really just needed to piss. I am just stating that for the record because every single day I have mentioned thus far where the work day was abysmally awful and brutal and I was so quick to anger, were also the days where I was the most denied of bathroom access. Had I been free to pee at these places, maybe i would have been a little more understanding when I was turned into some students verbal punching bags.
Yet still, I had yet to reflect on these matters at the time, all I knew was that I was back at the shithole that was Lock, and that I was going to have a hard time making it to the restroom that day.
What else can be said of my experience but another day, another dollar. Yes another day, another series of verbal abuses and a garbage lesson plan that left me as prey to the children’s anger. This was the slowest day of work yet, because I would look at my phone basically every two minutes, dwelling on when the end of the day would come at 320.
The first period was enough to put me in a shitty mood for three weeks. For starters when ever I knew my bathroom access would be limited, my mind dwelled on nothing more than my break schedule, a distracting thing to have on your mind when you need to focus on teaching kids and keeping them from dying. I only had one complete break for the whole day, and that was at lunch for just an hour.
Not only that but my lesson plan was pure amateur hour. My Dear Reader if you are a teacher its one thing to leave a lesson plan for your sub where they are required to actually teach, I am always prepared to do that when I am subbing for any arts or humanity class. Yet this lesson plan was written as if the teacher expected me to run things exactly, and I mean exactly, as if it were just another day for her. It was like she expected the students to behave exactly the same as if she was not hear. Let me tell you something, no student is the same without the teacher their, not even the best of students. So if you are a teacher and you leave a lesson plan for your sub that doesn’t acknowledge the fact your students will behave with the same report as with you, then you are either naive or stupid.
I am assumed the best I could of this teacher and guessed that she was just a new teacher, not fully aware of the ramifications of teaching in a prison pipeline Red Dot school or how to work with your subs. I am not complaining, I was not upset that I would not get away with just showing a video or giving them a handout, what upsets me is that the lesson plan was written as if these kids would just listen to me with no question, like they’d automatically see me as an equivalent to their teacher. If I had been to this school enough times to have built a relationship with the students that might have been possible, but to just walk in and expect a class to respect and listen to you on the first day is unfair to both the sub and the students. Students need something they can do on their own if there is going to be a sub for the day, and the sub should be in a position to help the student when needed. If the sub is required to run the class exactly as the teacher would, when you consider the fact I have never met these teachers nor seen them teach, you see it is an inherent impossibility to run the class exactly as they would.
Yet I did everything in my power to follow her lesson plan. I tried to read with the students as a class like she asked, none of whom even had their books except for three out of the eight who showed up, which was out of a class of 35. Sure, plenty of students trickled in late here and there throughout the whole period, but by the 20th minute in I saw the lesson plan was hopeless, only 3 students were reading along, no one was writing anything down, I had no idea how to help them. I gave them instructions, they just stared at me like I was an alien.
It seemed to me all that Red Dot and Sub Pool cared about was that they had a warm body watching the students, but I did not think these students appreciated being watched by someone like me, something I cant blame them for. So I tossed the lesson aside and I just skipped to the handouts and gave them the class period to “work”, using the rest of the time to watch the hours click away on my cell phone and make sure no one kills each other.
The first class started with me trying my best to run this like a normal day, to skip over and avoid anger. I started the day with my usual opening monologue, “Hello everyone, ” I said pointing to my name on the board, “My name is mr. Boxer”
“Well obviously,” some skinny Mexican punk said in the front row.
“Really dude?” was my immediate response, gritting my teeth to keep my self from yelling again. Then I carried on with the instructions, before being heckled and ignored by practically the whole group of students that even bothered to show up. Thats the part that I always forget, while these students had attitude, they showed up. They might not have showed up to learn, but they did show up, meaning they must care to some degree.
Yet still I was not even done with my first sentence, and I got attitude. Top it off with the fact I was already starting to need the bathroom, I was not put into a pleasant mood.
He was asked to leave the classroom within five minutes, as sad as it is to admit sometimes I needed to sacrifice a lamb in front of the class to let the rest of them know I was in charge. I sent him out assuming the office would keep him the rest of the period. How foolish of me to think a Red Dot administrator would actually discipline one of their students.
Not ten minutes later, he came back to the class room, escorted by a security guard who looked like Eminem with a double digit IQ and piercing blue aryan eyes. Not the kind of pretty blues you want to dive into, the ones that scream “date rape” from across the bar. Add that mixed in with the Buzz haircut and all he was missing was is off brand silver chain to complete his look.
“This student has something to say,” he said with crossed arms and the tone of a scolding football coach from a 50s movie cliche. The man was legitimately acting as if the boy was going to do something I had never seen before, as if i was about to be put in awe by the fact this boy is being forced to give an apology he doesn’t mean.
I knew what was happening and the fact the security guard came in with such a self righteous tone kind of insulted me for some reason. I do not know why exactly but I do not like it when people who have clearly never been teachers expect me to react a certain way. I knew the boy was just scolded briefly then sent back to me. However, later I learned that what happens when students get sent to the office at Red Dot schools is they are asked to call home to tell their parents they had been sent out of class as punishment, and then they are sent back to class. So how knows, I might have gotten all these kids a savage beating for something as trivial as talking back.
Once again, I digress.
Sure enough, right in front of the guard, out came his forced apology which always put me in a worse mood because I hate the fake pleasantries we have to endure in our society. The forced apologies we give that we do not mean or the tedious small talk.
“I’m sorry you felt I disrespected you sir.” He said with very little enthusiasm as he was leaning against the wall by the door. I could tell that he knew he had been defeated, but the tone of his answer had the air of “Yeah, so what else is new. Fuck it.” I think these kids have gotten used to defeatism. Also I have to compliment the boys intelligence. He did not say “Im sorry I disrespected you.” He said that he was sorry that I felt disrespected. It wasn’t his actions he was sorry for, but my reactions to his actions. He got away with not really apologizing but he still fulfilled his social obligation demanded of him to issue an apology to me. Clever kid, I must admit.
Yet this is all in hindsight. At the moment I just I followed my professional obligation and asked, “Are you going to cause me any more problems?” as I was professionally obligated to do, especially in front of another professional like the security guard.
To which the boy humbly said “No.” So I let him back into class because even if he was not actually sorry, which I’m sure he wasn’t, he fulfilled his end of the social contract successfully, he had learned his life lesson for the day.
Again, you can’t say substitutes do not teach.
He was being honest, he did not cause me any problems the rest of the day, but I cant help wonder what happened to him when he got sent home. Then I began to wonder what happened to all the other kids when they had gotten home after I sent them to the office to call their parents. There is no doubt in my mind that my insensitivity and quick temper lead to seat least one student getting a beating they should not have.
The rest of the period I had to ask students to stop swearing, stay in their seats, put their phones away, or all three at once.
I had too much coffee that morning, leaving me jittery and ever ready to burst from the bladder and kidneys. My allotted bathroom time besides my lunch break was the 5 minute passing period, but as soon as the first class ended the second one started coming in immediately, surprisingly it was an almost full class of 16 out of 28 total, which would normally be a good thing, and in many respects I suppose it was. 16 out of 28 was a good number, but it also meant more students I had to watch.
I was already in a bad mood, and when I tried to start the class with my monologue, I was literally ignored, students sat on desks with their backs to me as if this was free time. I had never seen such disrespect nor been so disrespected. I might be projecting but I did not feel anyone cared about there education that day. At the time this made me feel insulted and upset, now I just look back on it and feel sad.
My soured mood and full bladder caused me much tension and I resorted to yelling just to get the classes attention, which left me flustered and subject to 3 black girls heckling, I can not remember what they said exactly, but it was enough to get me to kick them out in front of the whole class. They had showed up for class though, they at least wanted to learn something i suppose, but your in the line of fire girls, and if you had kept your mouths shut you would not be my sacrificial lamb for the period.
“Get out!” I responded to their heckles with a screeching thunder that I realized would never be taken seriously once it came out. I had done everything I knew that usually worked and I was still not getting the class to quiet down, and it was apparent that none of them were leaving on their own.
All I got were more heckles, “You salty sir? I remember one girl with a large afro pony tail said.
“He’s so salty,” I remember two of the other’s saying while they continued to laugh and heckle.
“Oh no, Im not mad, nothing but pure joy here!” I said with a sinister smile trying to veil my rage, trying to get back in the reins and run the class. Finally after my beacons security arrived, of course it was once again it was Eminem with the bad hair cut and nazi eyes. “Whats up?”
“These three I want them out!” I declared proud to finally have my calvary here.
“He’s so salty,” one of then said again.
“Nope, nothing but pure joy here!” I said to them with my arms crossed, satisfied that I had back up. “Get them out please.” I said it like a warden and felt proud and in charge again. This is what Red Dot schools did to me folks, this is what I became.
I was still standing with my arms crossed when I heard the guard say, “Come here.” I thought he said to the students, and I was pleased I would soon have control of the situation. That was until he tapped me on the soldier, he was talking to me, “Come on I want to talk to you out side.”
To which I sighed, incredibly annoyed but helpless to the situation, I needed his help, so I followed him out. I knew what kind of self righteous bullshit was about to happen, but I bit my lip, and stayed professional. We left the classroom door open to be sure the students do not resort to all out war with us leaving the classroom. suddenly this man, the man whose job was to make my classroom more secure and help me teach, was going to tell me how to do my job.
“They really do not react well to any hostility. These kids lead hard lives.”
A point I now appreciate and I do my best to understand, at least as much as a white man can understand I should say. He is not wrong in that sense. I do not fault the security guard for trying to make this point to me. What he is wrong for is pulling me out in front of an already chaotic class to tell me something that I already know and that will in no way help me get class under control. I did not call him to be told how to teach, I called him to get my class under control. Because he walked me out of the classroom to scold me like I was just one of the students, instead of a “guest teacher” as they sometimes called me, I had no hope of getting any of those kids to take me seriously for the rest of day. They saw me get scolded by security just like they do every day. He basically castrated me in front of the whole class.
I replied as calmly as I could, since I knew that to a degree he was right, though I was still agitated I could not get the class under control and never would now. “I hear what your saying, and I totally agree,” and I honestly did. “But I need to teach the whole class and I cant teach the whole class with these three in there right now disrupting everything and I need you to get them out of there so that I can teach the rest of the class.”
“Tell me how to do job and I will tell you how to do yours,” I thought, “score one asshole.”
“Okay,” he searched for a retort but when he couldn’t think of one he just repeated, “okay.” He seemingly knew that it was time to actually do what he was there at the school to do, keep the peace. So he came into class to get the girls, and I returned to my monologue of daily instructions to which most people were now listening, but I knew how I looked in these kids eyes at that point. The security guard had in fact cut off all evidence of my authority, the bull was now a castrated steer. Why would they respect me if I can be scolded by security just like the rest of them? Who was I to teach them? If I’m just as pissed off at the world as they are, who am I to say, “Let me help you?” I knew thats how they felt, its how I felt to, and their treatment of me and the lesson plan showed it.
That was when I completely gave up. I knew this was going to be the rest of my day no matter what I did.
The girls that were taken out did seem to be the triggers that were setting off the class, the rest of class was no more difficult than the other, dragging along as I told students to put phones away and answer the questions on the board.
There is something from this class period that hurt more than the insults or the chaos. There was one particular question the students had to answer for their assignment and one particular student’s answer I would now like to discuss. The question on the board read as such, “The main characters in the book have to endure incredible hardships on their journey as refugees of civil war. Is there anything in their stories that you can relate to? What hardships do you have to endure and what journey do you think you are on?”
Only a few students actually bothered to do it. The following is one of the papers that was turned in at the end of the day, I would like to stress that this was written by a 17 year old black girl in a sophomore level English class.
“I can relat to the characters’ hardships bcus where we live is full of gangs. Like the armys in the book fiting they have guns and hurt people & so do the gangs and police. Idk what kind of journey Im on but I want to live in a world where there is no more gangs or guns or violence. I do not like bein afraid of police. Im tired of peple I no gettin hurt or dieing.”
These words, her struggling handwriting, the subject matter, everything about this answer was heartbreaking to me. The poor kid must have had a learning disability, it took her almost the full class period just to write this one answer down, and as you can see it was just filled with errors. I do not know about you dear reader, but this note was enough to shatter my heart and break my will, and still does every time I think about it. I wasn’t just ready to give up on the kids anymore, I was ready to give up on living.
To summarize everything so far, I had gone into a rage, then got castrated in front of my whole class which would then end with me reading that answer, all before noon and all while squeezing my bladder tight shut. I started to think the bars on the windows were to keep the teachers from jumping out to their deaths. Were I not locked in the room, and due for a yoga class at the end of the day, I would have crossed over the ledge faster than a 1929 stockbroker.
At last, the bell rang, the students stampeded out, and it was my lunch break. I have be honest, I made a point a point of peeing three times in that hour. I savored every minute of silence of being alone in my classroom and in the lavatory, it was the only peace I had gotten all day. I ate my leftovers in sweet, still, silent peace. That was until 3 students were let in by a teacher slash “counselor” who needed to to borrow my room to “talk with these kids.” She said smiling to me but carrying a stern tone so the kids would know she meant business.
I smiled professionally, gathering my things to eat in the teachers lounge, and said , “Of course.” Who am I to say no, I’m “just a sub” after all. I moved my personal feast to the teachers lounge, where I knew I would have to endure tedious social niceties with the other teachers, “be nice to the stranger on campus, make him feel welcome. Maybe we can con him onto subbing for us again.” HA! Not on your life sport.
I do not like to eat in the teachers lounge. I am not trying to network at these schools, Yet sometimes I am forced to. When we are placed into social situations we are forced to talk about ourselves in ways that make me want to vomit.
“What sub company are you with?” Oh fuck off, you do not care and we both know it.
“Man, the traffic this morning,” No shit Sherlock we live in LA, how about all the crumbling dilapidated buildings covered in barred windows we passed in that traffic? Not going to talk about that are you…”
“Do you normally sub for English?” No actually normally I fuck your wives and daughters while wiping my ass with the french British and American flags.
Do we ever talk about Platonic or literary theory for casual small talk? Do we talk about the educational activism of Neil Tyson or the legacy of Carl Sagan? No, “What shows are you watching?” Nothing you have heard of nor care about, I assure you. I have said it before, I hate fake pleasantries. We are on a blue rock floating in space around a star! I do not give a shit about the traffic we all have to put up with. Yet here I was enduring all the veiled break room office water cooler talk you have to have at any other job, all of it disguising a need for true connection.
My room for the day was eventually freed up with enough time for me to enjoy five minutes of solitude before the last lunch bell rang. This all soured my already damp mood. It seemed like this school would give me nothing. Not a decent piss break, not a peaceful lunch break, and not a student who didn’t want to murder me or at least wrestle one of their classmates.
Ah, but this would be the third and final block class of the day though, which gave me immense relief. That was something I could take solace in, though the classes were long, they were few. After this hour and half, I would be home free, and I could go through all the paper work to assure I never teach at Lock or any Red Dot school ever again.
This class was not as loud as the others, in fact it was only a class of 16 total and 8 had showed up. The class its self was easy, were it not for this one girl. By their behavior I knew most of the class would not do their work, but at this point I was happy just as long as no one was cussing at me or heckling me, which no one in this class did. This was the one class were I did not have to raise my voice to get class started, but I would need it to keep the peace, all thanks to this one girl.
To be honest I do not know why I did not send her out, I think if I recall correctly I was just too tired, to weary, despite my caffeine and carb boast at lunch, I was just done, I had thrown in the towel. As long as I could keep her from killing anyone as far as I was concerned I had done my job.
What was the girl doing you may ask? Well, let me begin with a description of the girl. To start with, she was built like a line backer, now before I am attacked by the PC police I assure you I am not saying nor do I believe their is any certain way a woman’s body or any body should “look.” I am stating a simple fact of my observation, this girl was my height, but had a build that could take me out in one tackle. Let’s take this time to admit that the sexist rules in American sports need to end. This girl belongs on the Philadelphia Eagles, not in a shitty high school in Watts. She was Mexican, her hair pulled up into a frumpy idgaf bun. Her uniform was of the grey half of the blue or grey choices the students had, and her pants were black jeans like all the others wore. The jeans made her look like she had a muffin top, which she actually didn’t, the girl simply had bulk. This is another argument to make against uniforms, there is no way for them to compliment everyone’s body type.
She also seemed to have the testosterone of a high school foot ball star as well. Every five seconds it seemed I would have to literally stand in between her and one of the boys she hung out with all class, keeping her from taking swings at him as she chuckled to her self. I could not tell in all honesty if these were friends joking around, or if she had a sort of joker side to her that caused her to laugh as she tried to beat asses.
Every time I stood in between them, “He’s talking shit mister.” She would holler, but she’d do it smiling.
“Mister but he’s talking shit!”
“Tell him to stop taking shit then,” The girl would not let me sit down in all honesty. They were basically doing this dance around the whole almost empty classroom. They’d stand and start chasing each other around, I’d get between them, “Mister, he is talking shit,” I’d get them to sit back down then a soon as I was about to take a seat, they would be back at it.
“Mister, he’s talking shit!” She still said it with her confusing smile.
“Okay, okay,” I would assure her. “I hear you just calm down.” She never did, but she never stopped smiling or laughing either. Clearly she enjoys standing her ground, I stand by my earlier statement that the girl belongs in the NFL, or maybe UFC, but not watts.
They started going at it again, so I leapt onto my feet for what must have been the 15th time, and sure enough DING the bell rings, 320pm, my night mare was over. I shepherded the kids out of the room, scribbled my note for the teacher, and immediately after them I followed suit. Once again any organization that had graced the classroom at the start of the day was long gone in the chaos that would be the necessary clean up. Desks were sprawled facing all corners and angels of the room, one was even flipped over upside down from when the girl “playfully” picked it up and brandished it over her head as her weapon. Like I said the girl belongs in sports not watts.
Yet none of that mattered at this point. The bell had rang so my working day was done. The minute the bell rang I was always officially off the clock. I maneuvered my way through the crowds of students and security and the like. My sunglasses on, not making eye contact with a soul, I power walked to my vehicle with my chest out to show I would not be defeated, and then while slamming my car door I peeled out of there to go home and get higher than I have ever gotten since I had been in high school.
The next day I contacted my employer, and was assured I would never be sent to any Lock school again. To this day I have not set foot on that campus again, however this was not my last tango with Red dot schools.
Ye are BANISHED, again
Let’s move on to a lighter topic. Let’s talk about the second school that I was kicked the fuck out of and banned for life. We’ll call it New California. It was a middle and high school that was actually just down the street from multiple TV network offices and studios in the Northern part of LA. It was one of those Charters that might as well be a private rich kid school because of the neighborhood it is in, except you and I are the ones paying for it. Which I would have no problem with if all students were getting the treatment these ones were getting. I just find it annoying that these kids get fields and art classes while so many of the other schools get nothing but cracked concrete and classrooms where the windows resemble cages.
Yet they had gourmet free coffee in the teachers lounge, to which I took noticeable advantage of, which caught me the stink eye of quite a few employees who seemed to noticed, but passive aggressively said nothing and just let me take advantage. At the time I thought it was another easy day of work sheets and “Yes you may use the restroom.” This is when I learned another truth about being professional, never get too comfortable, unless you’re the one actually in charge.
Looking back on it I see I did myself no favors by being so casual. I arrived to the school 20 minutes late, which to be honest was not my fault, my employer called me for this job at 820 when the school was 20 miles away from me and the first class was at 9. Now if you do not live in LA, that is a perfectly reasonable time frame to drive 20 miles on the freeway to and from work. Those of you who live in LA, or have even breathed in LA for five minutes outside, you understand perfectly that I would not have a snow ball’s chance in hell in getting there on time, especially when the only freeway nearby the job was the 405.
I should also mention that I was originally not planning on going to work that day, because if I am being honest, I was hungover as shit hence the coffee bumming. My cousin and a friend of hers split a whole bottle of tequila and a case of craft brews between the 3 of us, and that was just in the evening after we walked around Hermosa beach with two other friends with a joint and forties that we had poured into big gulps to trick the cops. I brushed my teeth and put on deodorant before I left for work, but looking back I realize there was no way I didn’t smell like beer that day.
So off I went. When it became apparent all lanes on the 405 would not move faster than 10 mph that morning, like every morning, I copped out for surface streets which were also a choke hold of slow Kias and Lexus that seem to have their turn signals broken. However I made it only 20 minutes late for the first class and only with a slightly jacked heart rate. I was as apologetic as I could be to the lady at the office as I signed in, who in turn was incredibly forgiving of the matter, at least seemingly. “Its okay,” she said smiling, “it happens with all our subs,”
A sigh of relief, and a cup of that amazing free coffee and I was ready to take over the class from the Vice Principle who shook my hand and greeted me with all Courteous professionalism I had come to expect at this job. She was a tall thin asian woman, dressed like she was about to give a speech at a DNC fundraiser. Once again I apologized and we exchanged professional pleasantries. I wondered while she was talking if she could smell beer or pot on me, but I listen to her instructions. It was all stuff I heard before and had come to expect at the job.
What I wasn’t expecting were classes of 40 kids every period of the day except for 4th, which was to be my prep, which means break for me. The whole day was seven periods, 50 minutes each, a 45 minute lunch and one whole class period for a mid day break. So to summarize, two breaks each more than a half hour, plenty of time to pee and breath in the sweet silence that comes due after hearing the conversations of 38-40 7th graders.
My classroom itself was one of the most modern I had ever scene. Though the carpet was one of those dotted standard dark purple and green patterns you would expect to see in a hotel waiting room or school library circa 2000, the white board was brand new and split screen with a smart board. Both were complemented by a projector hanging from the ceiling and another smart board on the back wall of the room. The desks were long with dividers for each students metal cubbies underneath and were organized into four simple rows, like a dining hall where everyone faced the same way like The Last Supper. The chairs were plastic as one might expect in a school but they were all brand new, the plastic and the metal of the legs all still unscuffed and shining, glistening even. The walls were decorated with nothing but student projects all clearly in order of the season and standards being studied. On the shelfs and cabinets were places for them to turn in there work, color coded by period, just like you might expect.
Each class was huge, the largest classes I ever dealt when I taught with Sub Pool but all of them were relatively well behaved students. The only thing I had to do was ask students to get back to work, and they were allowed to listen to music at this school, so I did not need to ask anyone to put phones away here. I thought it was the easiest and funnest day at work yet. Each period I gave my standard monologue while pointing to what I wrote on the board, “Hello, My name is Mr Boxer, I am your sub for the day, you have a pretty easy day.” I always opened with that even if it was not going to be that easy, it just put the class at ease, then I followed with “Now, here is your assignment…” I would then give them a piece by piece rundown of what they have to finish and what there homework will be, if any. Then off they would go to do the work and talk amongst themselves while I sat in my chair trying to nurse the throbbing veins in my skull with a temple massage. Occasionally students would look at me funny, but I would just look away and go back to trying not to squirm in my chair from the nausea and pain in my guts and sore limbs. That was my whole day and though painful all the same I thought it was rather peaceful. The only issue I had were the decisions I made the night before, not the students I had today.
Then, after what I thought was a long and uneventful day, 10 minutes before the last bell, the phone rang, it was the lady from the front office.
“Mr Boxer?” she asked. No you idiot Im the 7th grader with the voice of book on tape narrator, I thought.
“Yes,” was what I actually said, of course.
“We need you to move your car,” from the place THEY told me to park it I might add, ” because we are about to open the fence to let parents in to pick up there kids, and if you could actually let your kids out early so you can move it that would be great.”
“Are you kidding me? Sweet Jesus what a school.” I thought. Free coffee, well behaved classes, legitimate bathroom access, and I’m getting to leave 10 mins early, giving me that extra invaluable time to beat the ever blood pressure curdling traffic. They never even once seemed pissed that I was late. So I let the kids out, who were also thrilled to get out early. I left the school in a fantastic mood. Which helped my weekend start on a great foot.
It was the next Monday that I realized something was wrong, I got home from a party one morning when I saw a letter from work in my mail. They have yet to adapt to the electronic banking world so i’d still get paper checks in the mail. But this envelope was different, it was clearly not a payroll check because the address and return address was hand written. It was from the director and owner of Sub Pool, this was big, I already knew.
Immediately I opened the letter in a furious hungover panic, it read as such;
Discplinary Notice & Customer Check Up
After our standard post job check in with client schools New California, we must report dissatisfaction with our substitutes job performance for their previous assignment with this client.
notice of incident:
After arriving late, Multiple students through out the day came to the office to report the substitute was acting weird or behaving strangely.
Does the school want the substitute to return?No.
Disciplinary Action To Be Taken:
The substitute will be excluded from teaching at New California Charter School.
All right their in plain English. Another school that just didn’t want a guy like me around. I cannot tell you how enraged and insulted I was at first, yet the more I look back on it the more I think the kids were probably right to report me. I remember being hurt because I had enjoyed working there, mostly because I thought it was a fairly easy day which I had truly needed since I was so damn hungover, then I realized I was so hungover that I do not even really remember much from that day that I have not already mentioned, what I was doing to make students weirded out I do not know, but if my usual behavior when I am hungover is any indication to me of how I was behaving in the classroom, chances are I was not at my best.
I do remember feeling nauseous, sore, and groggy all day, like I had done an intense full body work out the day before with a belly full of tequila. The only thing my stomach would accept that day was water and coffee. I do also remember leaning on the white board to be able to stand up straight whenever I needed to give the class the instructions for the day because, again because my body was so sore. I thought I was covering it up pretty well to be honest. Needless to mention I was as you can imagine by now, stoned like a James Franco character using a Tommy Chong vape. Cannabis is the greatest hangover cure next to greasy food and coffee. If you have all three and a jug of ice water you’ll be back to normal by noon, fun fact.
However what still kicks me about the hole situation even to this day is the fact that one I was blamed for being late when it was the school who called my employer giving me only so much time to endure the war of LA morning traffic. Two, I realize now that the reason they let me out early, was because they wanted me to leave! I mean talk about the most unprofessional backhanded shit. I might have hated how I was spurned out of that Red Dot school without even a chance to plead my case. But here I am in what is apparently Kafka’s Trial. Some faceless administrators were talking about my fate at their schools with out my knowledge, and they never had the audacity to say “Get out” to my face! No, instead they further the veil, and give me a reward that is actually disguising my punishment. I was not allowed to leave early, I was banished before the day was even over. I may have been upset about that hovel at Red dot that gave me the boot, but at least that administrator there had the professional instinct to look me in the eye when she asked me to leave and never come back. The school has every right to be very discriminating in who they let teach there, especially if it means keeping an addict like me out, but they have no right to behave without professional curtsy. Let me stress the point further and add that none of you do. I may be a socio path who gets high before teaching your kids, but I am not above looking people in the eye when I have to fire them, which I have had to do when I worked management at other jobs.
So let it be known my dear reader, that yours truly, was banished from New California, but only after he was lulled into the false sense of security of loving it. Yet I must concede, my behavior and aroma was probably enough to traumatize those kids for years to come. So as the brits would say, fair cop.
Emos & test score, you get what you pay for america!
And now for something completely different…
I have been bringing up EMOs in previous chapters and I will mention them again in others, but I would be doing our shared narrative a disservice if we went any further without at least some kind of explanation of what they actually are. If you want to understand how charter schools catalyze the privatization of education just remember the words Educational Management Organizations. aka EMOs. Only a handful of states allow them to operate at the moment, and California is one of them.
EMOS are private contractors that can be hired by charter schools to run the school. The EMO takes on the responsibility of hiring staff and other matters that would normally be the job of a public schools administrators, although unlike Charter schools which qualify as public institutions EMOS are companies that have share holders. EMOs are hired usually when a charter wants to open a network of schools. If one group decides to open multiple charters the EMO can operate them all uniformly, much like a chain of McDonalds. EMO operated charters are basically franchises that are part of a conglomerate. This conglomerate does business with meal companies, land lords, and etc. That’s what EMO Charters are the McDonalds of education, which looks good and even sounds kind of good from time to time, but in the end its always painful shit.
Other charters operate independently and would be legally barred from making any profit, but while the schools can’t make profits EMOs are allowed to. Though regulations are minimal regarding how charters spend their money leaving them all frequently exposed to corruption. Charter schools are required to be non profit entities as they are supposedly public schools, as opposed to just being schools that happen to receive public funding which is what the actually are. However EMOS are legally allowed to be for profit entities who can put their shareholders ahead of the students they are supposed to provide for. There is nothing stopping them from collecting a profit from the way they operate charter schools as long as they don’t violate their charter with the district. There is also little stopping someone from opening there own charter and giving the contract to their own EMO, allowing one to basically monopolize education. Plus if your wife or husband owns the meal company your schools buy from, well they say keep the business in the family don’t they?
My dear reader, this is the reality of capitalism, its in the essence of the word its self. Capitalism, capital comes first. Its time for change, socialism, social, that means people, people come first, not the capital. It is a reality we do not seem to want to accept. Corporations are not on our side. So if you think any corporation is going to put your children’s future ahead of their own profits, you have learned nothing from the history of this country’s not so complicated relationship with business.
There is no way to be nice or make excuses for this any more, corporations do not have your back, because corporations are entities whose soul goal is profit, a corporation has no empathy. You know why, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT PEOPLE! When some of these EMO charters are forced to close midyear because of their deplorable business plans or administrators corrupt spendings, some children are left without a school and potentially the shareholders and the EMO could still get away with making a profit. It’s like the 2008 housing crisis on crack, your kid could be left with out a school mid year because of someone’s lack of ethics, and that person gets a bonus for it. Taking advantage of the ignorant and the poor has very high yield these days.
Education is not a business nor can you run it like a business, because this is what you get folks. This is the byproduct of the culture of capital. You get education talked about like its a goddamn commodity and the people doing it all talk about schools to us like they are fast food restaurants. Monetize everything, that’s the motto for the Millennium. Business business business, a child losing a school is not the same as a disgruntled customer complaining about a big mac, one of those two things actually matters yet to them it seems our children are just as much a reasonable means of profit as the fatass that still eats at McDonalds.
An especially important difference between how EMOs and other charters specifically function is that all charter schools have what are called “Mission Statements” in their charters with the district. Those are a sort of abstract general school philosophy. It typically talks about having a goal for what kind of students they want graduating from their school, it is basically a motto that the school will cater to in everything they do, from lesson plans to the school’s interior decorations, ie murals and quotes on the walls and such. The key difference between public education and privatized education is this mission statement. This means that charter schools are “mission oriented” where as EMOS are purely businesses, and since they are businesses they operate on a business plan not a mission statement. Therefore they are only market and profit oriented, and so they operate by means of that specific business plan rather than educational priority of the children.
They often function in ways to operate and promote a specific educational pedagogy* within their network of schools. (look it up damnit!) They do this less for the sake of educational philosophical dialogue in my opinion and more for economic efficiency, its like they view your children as output and its easier to output everything as a singular product than as individual products. This is one reason they tend to prefer uniforms as well, and it is also another potential means of profit if you play your cards right such as if you owned an EMO for a charter your spouse started and both of you had shares in the company making the uniforms. If you have a stake in the meal company that make the school lunches to you can essentially monopolize one whole population of kids education. The more we allow charters and EMOS to operate the way we do, we are basically giving the business minded people and the capitalists of this country, who are no longer the majority I might add, a chance to make a profit off two things, your taxes and your kids. Meanwhile, we not only ignore we forsake our teachers and schools.
I should also probably mention that if EMOs are free to hire and fire teachers at will as they already are they are able to keep the wages low allowing the profits to be even higher.
If we are going to live in a world with charter schools we cannot live in a world with EMOs. We already live in world where private companies sell us these standardized tests, we do not need to live an a world where a school is looked at like a fast food joint and our kids should not be treated like commodities of capital. The very place where you might be sending your children to learn could be lining the pockets of some stranger working the system into their bank account and you might be thinking the whole time “my baby is going to college.”
Call it hopeless romanticism or a poor business sense if you must, but gut instinct should tell anyone that education should be an institution of inspiration, imagination, and truth. Listen, I may be on drugs but when it comes to school I do have some integrity damn it. I care about objective truth, but I also know what I have seen, what I have experienced. The only truth in business is profit, the only truth in capitalism is commodification. First they came for our health care, then our water and energy, now they are commodifying the one thing never thought possible, education. They did it though, they found a way to make a buck off us for going to school.
Strike 3 after a perfect game? Fuck the empire!
You heard about strike one and two, now it is time to hear about strike three. This was the third school that told me to never come back again.
Now, the other two schools where I was banned, though I am not happy about either incident nor either schools treatment of me, I acknowledge to the degrees I am at fault. Hell I’ve been reading my own work, I know I don’t come across as the guy with the best temperament, or judgement considering my personal habits. Yes, I didn’t need to swear in the classroom, and yes, I shouldn’t have shown up to a place full of children high, hungover, and smelling like stale Fosters and thinly veiled morning tequila breath. Yet I must state for the record that the third school, to put it bluntly, fucked me.
The school was OakWood Charter. Oakwood was previously one of my favorite places to work. When supplies were ample, their was free food and coffee for teachers and reasonable bathroom access with very well behaved students and a seemingly very liberal culture. Piercings, tattoos, punk band t shirts, and that was just the school receptionist. I was allowed to wear jeans on the job. No tacky stripped button up and dockers combo at that school for me, just Velvet Underground tees and Levis. I worked the school several times and developed a good connection with some of the students.
This school actually marked a huge pivot in my career for me, it was actually the students from Oakwood that made go from treating this job like a job and treating it like I was some kind of a real teacher. No longer was I just trying to make a decent living in my first post college job, I was actually concerned about the example I was setting for these kids. I was not so much concerned about them learning from me, but after what happened at New California I began to realize certain things we adults think nothing of, gestures or empty words, can be over thought by a kid for years. I began working at this school several times and in that time I made note of the possible things that could have made the kids feel weird at New California. I realized I do tend to squirm in the chairs when the THC wears off or when the alcohol from the late night before starts its nasty day after effects. Yet Oakwood and the jobs I took there helped me work through them, to the point the kids started to know me, some of them even beginning to call me a favorite sub.
So needless to say that was just one of the things that made the schools rejection all the more hurtful.
The school was simply one building with a fenced off concrete lot that was not even used as a parking lot. Despite any modernization or renovations the school had a very retro vibe to its building. Inside by the front office and next to the elevator on every floor was a metal slot for a mail tube that went down to a collection bin in front of the first floor elevators. A sign that clearly had not been removed since the seventies dictated when the collection times, if it was still in use, were for the building. The building itself must have been a 30s office building, the kind they would use in Sunset Boulevard or any of your old noires, that is before the school came in and put in tiles and lockers. It was like gentrification goes to high school, “Take our 1930s throw back, and give us a charter we can charge rent to, enjoy the kitchy mailboxes by the elevators kids!”
It was also always a struggle getting to the school on time. It was about 11 miles from my house to where the school was in Downtown LA. Not to mention the fact that parking was never ample and the school did not have its own lot. The search for parking at some schools can almost be as long as the drive to the school itself if the school in question does not guarantee a spot. Just one of the many ways the unregulated charters bless us teachers and substitutes. Guaranteed parking for a job in LA? How dare I even ask?!
Yet I had learned my lesson from New California. Professionalism was key now and this school was too kushy to give up. I was not about to risk losing this venture, so each time I was called to go I would make a point of being ready to leave immediately and I had a secret parking spot in an alley I discovered. Like always I would be as high as Jeff Lewbowski and prey to the murderous racetrack of Downtown LA traffic. I usually would arrive on time, occasionally I would cut it close by 5 minutes under or over every once in awhile but I always put in every effort to show up to work at this school on time. I had started to care just that much.
Another reason why the rejection hurt so much.
Expect the unexpected. I guess that is just what happened, the unexpected.
My last day at that school started like a common day at work, though I remember this day in particular because it was the last day for everyone before Christmas break, or Winter break as I think it should be called now. I arrived 20 minutes early this day thanks to my driving and parking sense of cunning that would make Snu Tzu proud. I walked and signed my name in as I do everyday at every school. Yet many schools are not above making their subs wait after they sign in, and today it was my turn to sit in the stranger danger chair of shame in the school waiting area, the place where your sick kids wait for the desk lady to return so they can call you and get out of school early.
I sat waiting for my instructions and attendance sheets, and I was made to wait because the ladies in the office decided it was the appropriate time right then and there to have their holiday gift exchange, rather impromptu as it seemed like to me. It seemed like I was invisible that day. They became so caught up in there bag openings and envelope rips and giving each other the overly sincere “thank you” you get from only your work or school besties, for these people it is both. It seemed like they had forgotten me in the corner. What could I do but just sit there, it wasn’t my place to interrupt their little mini holiday party, after all as so many have put it, I’m “just a sub.”
Eventually they noticed that one of these things in the office was not like the other. “Hey, that scruffy hipster in the jeans with the peace sign belt buckle, he’s not a Hillary Clinton fan club mid thirties to late fifties woman in professional casual feminine attire working in a school personifying gentrification, and where is his tattoo!?
On my wrist by the way, but that is besides the point, can I have my attendance sheets please and my room number for the day so I can get the fuck out of here?
They apologized, to which I smiled and laughed it off, it was the last day before vacation after all and what was there for me to be stressed about. The receptionist, a 30 something woman with sleeve tattoos, nose ring, and an Ellen Degeneres hair cut, gathered my instructions and smilingly sent me off to work for the day. An AP history class, block schedule with 3 separate hour and 5 minute long classes, and I would be finished at 2pm that day. A sweet gig, because AP classes are the most do nothing gigs of the substitute teaching job. The kids always have an ample amount of work to do and they always seem to want to do the work, probably because they know how much their parents are paying for the AP tests.
Put a pin in that and come back to it later, if John Oliver were to do a segment about the corruption of AP classes and tests, it would be more than entertaining, it would by peace prize worthy as was his charter school piece, and everything that has come out of his mouth about a certain anachronistic tv star turned politician who is sadly a good representative of the dark side of our culture. The Huey Long of our times ladies and gentlemen, and he came from reality tv.
But Huey never made it that close to the presidency.
I digress, as usual.
So we now cut to me in the classroom, doing basically nothing but sitting behind a desk after giving over privileged 17 year old kids handouts and telling them where to turn it in. I was also the man who held the verdict on whether they could go piss or not, which I always let them, schools that limited me from letting students out do not understand what subs actually have to put up with, so a little classroom freedom really helped to keep the peace. I decided to get some reading done, I was indulging in the 9/11 commission report at the time that I had found for one dollar. So my day was spent getting paid for telling kids “Yes you can go to the bathroom,” while debunking conspiracy theories that poked my curiosity, and collecting the kids paper work at the end of each class period.
I would occasionally stand and stretch, to be honest easy days actually tend to drag when the students are this age and in this high level of a class. The day moves slower when you do not have to go back and forth from teacher to disciplinarian, but they are much more peaceful. Though you are not doing as much when the kids are well behaved. Go figure. So on a day like this I would keep myself occupied with a book and I assure you I stayed diligent in the class by looking up and checking on my students after almost each and every paragraph. I would sit and read then stretch for bit, then move to the teachers stool by the projector and continue to read. When I was sitting there looking through my book, near the end of my day a woman who I recognized as one of the administrators who had been ignoring me earlier came in the with a clip board. She was a short thin and dark haired woman, professionally dressed in a beige top with a black coat and skirt. Her skin was a deep yet light brown that could be either Mexican or Armenian depending on your prejudice.
I was used to administrators or other random school heads like her filing in and out of my classrooms when I worked. This happens all the time on the job, usually they are there to observe something in the classroom or document something for maintenance or talk to a student. Yet this woman did something I never saw before. She just walked up next to where I was sitting and stood there with the clip board. When she first walked in I assumed it was for something like the wifi of to clear up matter with a student. So I simply nodded and smiled at her and looked over at the class. “The boss is here, look busy.” This usually satisfied the administrator to see and they would carry on with there business and I seemingly with mine, but I was a little nervous when she did not smile back, yet I thought little of and continued reading. I let her do her job since she was not interfering with mine. In other words when this would happen usually they would leave me to teach and I would leave them to administrate. However she just kept looking at me as she walked up. Then she stood right next to me, still staring. As you can imagine Dear Reader soon I felt her look stinging on the back of my neck so I had to make eye contact. I looked up from the commission report. Smiling at her I said, “How can I help you?”
“Oh no, see I’m the principle,” she said in what sounded like a mild eastern European accent, but she said it so fast and muttering that I could not tell precisely what she actually said, she then just wrote something on her clip board and looked at me as I looked back at the class.
I already knew she was the principle since I had seen her at the school before so I was confused why she had felt obligated to say that. But I decided to ignore it and I chalked it up to the stresses of being a principle on the last day before the school closed for 4 weeks.
“She might be watching you” I thought, “better do some teacher stuff to show her that you are doing your job.”
So I closed my book as I stood up and I told the students they had “15 minutes to turn in their work,” as I erased something random off the board. I followed a teacherly order to the class with a teacherly gesture, both would usually let an administrator know that on the surface I mean business. Then I turned and said to them with crossed arms, “Remember, I’m collecting your work whether it is finished or not.” I went to erase something else on the other white board that did not need to be there. She just kept looking at me during all of this, then after writing something else she just walked out of the room. I thought it was nothing but her making sure I was actually teaching since she said so little to me and the whole matter took less than two minutes. It seemed so insignificant but apparently it would be enough to ruin me at Oakwood forever.
I left at 2pm to start a beautiful Christmas break. The next day I visited home and enjoyed all the nostalgia that comes with a Christmas at home with the whole family. Two weeks of no students and amazing gifts from my parents. I had completely forgotten about Oakwood or any other school I was sent to by Sub Pool. Every insult, heckle, smart ass comment, and threat just disappeared along with the hot and mild temperatures of summer and fall. I enjoyed all the classic and cliches, a warm fire, a fresh tree, a bearded father with a vibrant red Christmas flannel. For the holidays I was not a sub, I was a happy free child again.
When I returned home, when I came back to reality, I found another letter with my mail.
The letter had the always ominous, hand written addresses that had came with my previous disciplinary letters. Just what I needed after a 9 hour drive into LA, a disciplinary notice just waiting from work. Merry Belated Christmas you sucker, this is just how much your parent company cares.
I opened the letter, still frothing from the rage and clenched at the shoulders from two hours of traffic on the 405 after a 4 hour drive on the I-5. The letter read as follows,
Disciplinary Notice & Customer Check Up
After our standard post job check in with client schools, Oakwood reported dissatisfaction with the substitutes performance.
notice of incident:
‘Multiple students came to me and said the sub was “behaving strangely,” When I went to the room to observe the sub rudely looked at me and said, “Can I help you?” The substitute does not represent the values and standards we expect from our teachers.’
Does the school want the substitute to return? No.
The substitute will be excluded from teaching at all Oakwood Charter Schools.
It was one thing when the kids had lied about what I said, but when an adult, not only that but a principle, lies about what I said? I smiled at her with all the same courtesy I showed every chump with a clipboard who walked into one of my classes pretending they were important. I got out of my chair and fulfilled my end of the professional contract and pretended I needed to be there to do anything for the kids except take attendance and tell them where to stack their papers. But no, that was not good enough for her it would seem.
Just like that, I was never allowed back at that school again. All the students who I had come to like, who I had come to enjoy seeing progress with each time I come to teach, just like that because of one disgruntled bureaucrat, I do not get to teach in a place I actually kind of wanted to teach at and students get robbed of a teacher who actually cared about them, all because I didn’t bow apparently to the all mighty principle and her clipboard magic.
Folks I hesitate to use the term lying bitch because of many reasons, I seek to abandon my anger and I acknowledge the sexist implications of the word and our whole rape minded culture. That being said, Fuck that fucking lying bitch fake pathetic excuse for an educator piece of shit. Fuck her to death with the pen and clip board she sealed my fate with.
I would also like to note that to this day I have no fucking clue what I could have done to make any student feel uncomfortable. Seriously, I sat in a desk and read for every period, occasionally getting up to stretch and see what they were working on. But apparently just doing my job was enough to get me kicked the hell out. With the the click of a pen and a quick scribble, and a slight twisting of my words, and I was made to look like an asshole by some nameless woman.
I immediately burned the letter, and stormed to the near by seven eleven to pick up as much beer as I could possibly carry. I finished them all and beat the shit out of my dresser until the wood began to chip and my bloody split knuckles were full of splinters.
Like I said, the rejection hurt, and the fact someone lied about me only made me angrier.
Where the hell do charters come from anyway?
My annoyance at Oakwood led me to go on a quest. After I punched and drank and toked the frustration out of my system, my curiosity about how charter’s functioned was peaked. I wanted to figure out how someone I did not know could have had so much control over me that I never even realized. In between my normal habits of consumption I went on google and wikipedia binges that lasted for hours. This is where I learned about the jargon, like “co location,” EMOs, and how charters get started.
The following is just a piece of what I have learned about what charters actually do and where they come from. I had seen what goes on in the classrooms, but what created those classrooms in the first place? Charters didn’t come out of nowhere, but it sure feels that way. I wanted to know who was the stork that kept dropping charters on us?
Something that one must understand about the charter school market is that it is so chaotic and variable from state to state that there is no legitimate evidence to either defend charters as a whole nor is there enough to refute them completely. Each state has its own set of regulations for its charters and every charter school themselves has different charters with different school districts. Plus within those districts their are their own set of rules or sometimes lack there of to handle charters. In some states like Ohio charters are running amok. In New Orleans kids are begging the heavens for help. In California, it is very hit and miss.
Every charter school or charter network also has their own mission statements and educational philosophies and priorities. Where one charter might be business oriented and ran by an EMO another could be formed and ran by local activists who emphasize the arts or community organization. For the sake of time I can not tell you everything since it varies so much state to state in the country, in the city it’s district to district, and in LA it’s from school to school.
But here are some general specifics that I learned about the entire charter system;
Charter schools were introduced in the United States by a Professor Buddy in the 1970s after he failed in his appeal to the Budweiser company as a new mascot. Wikipedia might have that last part wrong but let us not digress too much now. The idea was embraced by the head of the American Federation of Teachers in 1988. Yes, something that is helping to disorganize unions is supported by the biggest teacher’s union in the nation but again, a digression.
Charters can be founded by basically anyone in the state if they are approved by someone who is known as what is called an “authorizer.” An authorizer is basically anyone who fits the requirements by state laws to approve a charter in their home state. Every state has different set of laws about who can be an authorizer, much like how each has different laws for handling charters. In some states it is the local school boards who solely act as authorizers while in others it must be the state school board, and some have third party agencies where you apply.
Now there really isn’t anything I can say here that hasn’t already been said about the negatives of charters on Salon, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and only god knows how many other progressive leftist news pages. All I can really do is talk about my experience and my perspective, and I can use my stake in the Bill of Rights to rant about it all until the cows come home.
EMOS and charters seem to be the result of anti intellectualism and a bizarre hatred for our teachers, and both institutions seem inherently exploitative of that bizarre twist in our culture. What I mean about that is they seem to perpetuate the idea that our children are more important humans than our teachers. A perpetuation of the “every child is special” horse shit. The are less about students and more about customers, and an age old pain in the ass about capitalism is that the customer is always right.
I do not know where to begin with how awful EMOs are as you have previously read. I want to also stress the point that charter schools need immense regulation immediately, especially in regards to the working conditions and pay of their teachers. I believe the only way to start this is by passing laws that forbid EMOS from operating at the federal level. Education is basically one of the last public services left that has not been privatized, but we are quickly getting there with the growth of charter schools, EMOs, and a blatant lack of regulations and seemingly inherent cultural disrespect of our teachers that seems to be inherently American.
The more we privatize education, the more we perpetuate that students are customers, and if customers are always right, labor is always wrong. Let me give you just one example of our weird national relationship with teachers. The original school mums of the old west were not allowed to be seen eating alone in public, such as ice cream parlors (specifically mentioned in some old west city’s guidelines for teachers) otherwise it would be assumed they were out soliciting men. “Well, theres that or she was hungry!?” I remember thinking when I heard about this anachronistic sexist cultural construct. A teacher was not allowed any fun and is constantly expected it seems to maintain this impossible level of “decency” that is actually inhuman. It seems we still hold them to it to this day. The teachers could not dress immodestly and were not allowed to indulge in any of the sins the rest of the towns would be, dances? no no. A night with the boy courting you? no no. Today a teacher can have a little too much fun in Vegas and thanks to viral video it could ruin their lives, it is not right.
Take that inherent anti teacher part of the culture, use it as incentive to get teachers and parents on your side of the rhetoric, then you can treat your labor however you want as long as the parents are on your side, because like the students they are just customers. Just like the old west where they over-regulate teachers out of the classroom we over-regulate them in the class room now, and we over-regulate everyone in the world now thanks to the fact that we are filming each other all the time. Big brother didn’t need to put cameras everywhere, we did it ourselves and we did it right in our own pockets.
Our actions have changed, but our hatred for the people who give us knowledge has not. It has now become, “You want a fair bathroom break? No, now get in there and teach.”
“You want a cost of living increase? Stop being greedy, and by the way here are some more kids to teach.”
“Pension? You greedy fuck, do not forget to call the parent of any child in your off time if there grades get low, remember you provide a service here, even if your pay is shit and all your new shirts are ruined from the pit stains under the sleeves.”
“Bargain for a better deal? If this were a real problem the union numbers would be hirer.”
The worst of it is what happens to new or inexperienced teachers, what happens is that newbies are getting fucked in the ass at EMO managed charters or dropped into the line of fire at the poorest schools with the kids in the most need, and where they have no context for the situation and now idea how to help. So they just return abuse with abuse and fall into a Catch22 of perpetuating a culture that keeps non whites from wanting to advance their educations, because they work with teachers made bitter by abuse they were never taught how to handle these situations. In other words, the can’t find people so they put in unsuspecting space cases like me, and then everyone suffers.
“You want out. Well tough shit, your options are looking more and more limited to charters and EMOs only, oh and did we mention that even if they are union, some charter schools can be exempt from a states collective bargaining laws?”
Just one of the many ways they “look out” for your kids. They make sure the teacher have little to no power, so that way it will be our fault if your spoiled brat who can’t take his eyes off his phone doesn’t get in the curve on some useless standardized test that’s making money off your tax dollars for charging schools for test materials and scoring services. You are so mad about your taxes feeding some poor family Doritos, but you say nothing about the thousands of dollars your money is going to companies pretending to teach your kids. Ive said it a million times in my lifetime and I will say it a million more, you are all idiots.
Education is not a business. If a school fails, closes, or lends itself to corruption and embezzlement and ends up getting closed, sometimes in the middle of the school year, then a child is left without a school. Kids are impressionable, what kind of memories and lessons are we teaching if we send them to schools that put the dollar ahead of anything else, or they show up for school one day and then it is just not there any more. What will they learn about the world then and what kind of people will the grow up to be, and what kind of world will we become?
Making anything into a for profit venture never benefits anyone but the few who are out for the profit, and constantly you schmucks are bought in by the pretty language used by both of our anachronistic political parties. These parties are handing our kids over to charter schools and you all seem to be okay with the idea. It is not only infuriating, it’s sickening. I have been forced to watch your children be brainwashed into pegs in a system out to exploit them. They are not being taught trades, or skills, they are being taught to be pawns, that its more important to fill out the paper work and make a dollar than it is to learn facts and philosophies and become a person around those facts and philosophies. Evidence and compassion, that is what education should be about. The modern pedagogy of “profits and competition make learning an improved environment” is a lie that you are being sold to perpetuate cultural constructs of racism, anti intellectualism, and class exploitation.
That is right, charter schools are also racist and promote segregation as they predominantly operate in low income areas, almost all of which are non white. The reason being these are the areas most desperate for educational resource. By the way I have not mentioned the fact that property taxes are what determine a neighborhood public schools funds. So public schools that are functioning in richer areas have access to more resources because the property taxes are higher there than in south central. So many of these intercity schools are forced to take advantage of Colocation and collect rent money from the charters. This makes up for some of the money the lose in the districts funding of the charter.
No matter where I go in life I cannot seem to escape the dominance of the dollar. When I went to college I did not choose my major to make money but to become the person I wanted to be. If the person you want to be is just someone who wants to make money, as its seems to be that s all our society wants people to be now, then we are doomed. The rivers will forever be toxic and the air always polluted, the plastics and fabrics and medicines that will sustain and save our planet will never be accessible to us. All because we will continue to have an ignorant and divided population, because you so called “loving parent” fucks gave your kids to the to EMOS and the politicians who put their own wallets ahead of the community.
The worst part is these fucks actually do think that their wallet IS the greater good, as if Neoclassical trickle down economics still works. “When one of us succeeds all of society succeeds ” is the philosophy. Please insert a rolling eyes emoji here and let me say, give me a fucking break. When will people learn money only flows one direction, up. It makes more sense to have money distributed on a wider scale so more of us have complete economic autonomy so we can then spend our money freely as we choose. That looks like an impossible lesson to learn especially if we let EMOs gain any more power or influence. After all if they can control what your kid learns, they should be able to churn out a well behaved work force for them later.
Folks i got news for you, all those kitchy movies and books about heartless cold futures with ignorant bizarre populaces divided by class labels or made up of sub group caste systems with endless screens and cameras watching them and endless chemical self medication, they aren’t science fiction anymore, nor are they ominous warnings, they are the world we live in. 1984 isn’t coming folks, it came and went and we have been there ever since. Brave New World was not a warning, it was a prediction. Here is the sign I want to see a crazy pan handler holding “the end of the world already happened, we’re just kidding ourselves.”
If we let charters take over our education system, it will be the final nail in the coffin of a society where money is now speech and a corporation is a person and it’s more important that we keep quiet and feed ourselves and families or pay off those crippling debts than say or do anything about it. After all they are paying me and I have debts to pay.
That is what is keeping the wheels moving and our mouths shut, we do not go out of our way to challenge the owners of our water, power, medicine, and education, because we all have those bills to pay, and we never seem to have enough to pay them.
Classroom Consciousness 5
The Following was written during a long workday where I watched a group of seniors, or almost adults as I like to call them, type book reports on Chromebooks. I normally would bring my iPad to work to stay occupied but on this day I forgot it, so I spent the whole day journaling. The following is a chaotic stream of what I witnessed, what I was feeling, and what I was thinking, moment by moment. This is what a mind looks like when living purely in the moment. It shows you the directions my mind would get when I was in the classroom and watching kids work.
Axis College Preparatory Collegiate Family High School
Son of a bitch, I forgot my iPad, no finishing the work today. No big deal I will just use the time to practice writing. Bizarre feelings, my usual time killer I forgot, now I must make myself look busy to keep students working. Subs teach by example. But I hate busywork. I must be productive. Will my book be finished soon? Will I at least complete my first full draft? I can’t work on it today now without my iPad, no point in wondering about that today.
Little by little, slow and steady, don’t overthink Max just do things right, follow the lesson plan and you can’t go wrong. Write things down in your little notebook, go back in and you can add the details later.
Students work on screens from all angles in the room and they distract themselves with other screens that they try to hide in their backpacks and pockets. Why does our culture revolve around screens? I’m glad I forgot my tablet today now that I finally get a look at them without a screen to be my security blanket, I lead by example, that is my job. The example I set today, I work. I work on my own to, let’s all work on our own today class. I am the one person in the class without a screen in front of him. I hope it teaches them that they don’t need all these screens staring at them all the time.
They stare at the screens, but the screens stare back now, we should be telling the kids that. I can’t wait until Edward Snowden becomes apart of the history we teach them.
Who says I’m just a sub, who says I don’t teach anything.
The notebook is almost full now and I will need a new one soon. So much time but so little money.
Money, C.R.E.A.M. Wu tang was more right than I ever realized when I was an angry teen bumping that lyric. I fucking hate it. Get the cash, rule the world, and then fall flat on your ass, it seems to be the pattern. Be honest America, would Hillary have made it this far if she had not been rich. Oxford educated, accomplished, and tough as a steel toed boot, but as exciting as a baked potato. That is probably sexist.
A baked potato is nothing without all those fun extras. 2016 is a shitty year. I miss 2015. 2016 is a shitty year. I miss 2015 and I miss Bernie, he knows the people and Hillary knows our rhetoric, that’s the American left in a nut shell. Say something but ignore everything else, pretend it’s all separate. Good rhetoric, pathetic policy. Intersectionality is for losers and nerds. Fuck off progressive purists, yeah who needs environmentalism and peace activism? How dare you care about what happens outside our borders! Yes we must beat men like Trump but we cant we stop killing brown people or children to keep Northrop or Lockheed in business. That would take the privilege away from the elite and corporations that already have it.
We are held hostage by dickless trolls they took it to a dangerous point, humiliate them good ladies, humiliate them.
One hour and half left, my energy is low, I’m writing this in red ink. I miss my childhood. I miss the childhood me.
Child me was more confident, there was no such thing as doubt in his mind. No words ever kept him down. I miss childhood me. I miss protected me. Safe me.
Well, teenage me got my wish in the end, no more safety, lost in chaos.
Hungry for rhetoric. Ungrateful and with no context for empathy. That is why white boys suck. Fuck white people. Fuck whitey. Yes I am white, Im not ashamed of that. I am not ashamed or apologetic for something I can’t control. But I hate the idea of anyone thinking Im one of, THOSE, white people. All white people are indirectly apart of the problem. Everyone is racist.
All of our culture, all of our successes, built on privilege, a privilege built on the backs of others. So many others. Like these kids parents.
Privilege, a very nasty word for the more pathetic. When I was growing up I thought what I had was everyones right, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t, my privilege, that is what it was. Sure I’ve worked hard, but I only worked with the options given to me, I never realized how my life is nothing but options until a few years ago.
Those poor kids, those damn uniforms. Fuck those uniforms, if I was one of these kids I would go nuts. Goddamnit America, stop getting our kids practiced to be your employees Reed Hastings. The money sits stagnant, it needs to move. Money shouldn’t sit in one place for too long, it needs to move around.
I judge no one or talk down to anyone about finances, knowing my record, who am I to judge?
Who the fuck in this porn soaked scientifically illiterate philosophically flat culture of ours? Judge anyone, shut the fuck up, you all wipe your asses, get off your high horses before someone shoots you off.
Axis Part Three
Let us return one more time in detail to our old friends at Axis my Dear Reader.
Something else that stands out the most about Axis schools is the vibe put out at every single one of their locations, now I suppose you can chalk that up to the hippyfied filtered perspective that is the marijuana fog blocking all I see and experience in this life, but that is what stands out the most to me, and it is the vibe that I think personifies charter schools perfectly. Uniforms give me a vibe that conformity and protection from reality is more important than individuality. Some Axis schools were run like military camps and others like San Francisco art experiments. Some show how charters can benefit from not having as many regulations, and others are so poorly run that John Oliver needs to do another expose. Then there is the fact that every school in the network has the same damn uniform.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, whatever that means anymore, but there is just something already bizarre about a chain of public schools. The concept just seems weird to me. A school should be local entity, whether private or public it should always speak to some degree about the people of the community, not to them. For one school to have multiple locations has always seemed so impersonal to me. I did not understand it as a child when I saw all those ITT and University of Phoenix ads on daytime TV and I do not understand it now that I have worked on the front lines of LAUSD charters. It is a vibe that is both of efficiency and impressionability. These schools give one the feeling this is less about teaching students, and rather about outputting graduates.
That is what capitalism does, once you commodify everything it all becomes a matter of the dollar, out put vs input and supply vs demand. Make sure what comes in is always more than what goes out, even if it becomes unsustainable, and always find a way to keep doing it. Having schools function within one network does simplify certain things I will admit, uniform dress codes, universal school rules and disciplinary measures all make things run seemingly smoothly, but people and communities are not uniform, one neighborhood might be more peaceful than another and if the school is not adaptive to that fact, as many Red Dot and Axis schools are not, then the school is clearly not designed to serve the student, but to be efficient for someone else when they grow up to work for Google, Netflix, or some other of our dot com masters.
Combine all that with the uniforms and I am completely unsettled, uncomfortable, and squeamish. Any place with school uniforms, the same unappealing school mascot shades of smock with emblems sewn into the breast like a Ralph Lauren polo horse, they just give off a vibe that these are not students, they are units. Units with test scores that need to be met and a graduation quota they are to be added to. They are the output from the schools thanks to incoming checks, units and means of their production-less production. That is what defines Axis schools, this vibe of uniform unity, a cost efficient output of graduates. That seems to be priority number one at charters, cost efficiency. Which is a fair point but the more we move to charters the more that idea becomes inherent in the educational dialogue and culture of our schools. It becomes about how can you teach my child math while pinching pennies? Can we use the cheap art supply? Don’t forget to buy the uniforms.
Again, call me old fashioned, but when I think of a school I say we should completely flip our cultural expectations and spare no expense when it comes to our children’s future. Granted, unregulated this leaves us prey to the “carpet baggers” of education who are out to make a quick buck off the government and already too often exploited people, but those already are a problem we need to address. If we continue to view education as something that needs to be scrutinized like a business with quotas instead of as places of development, change and learning, well, I’ll just be honest I do not like that idea of a culture. One where brand names not only dictate our food and clothes, but also our minds.
That is the vibe, the unsettling vibe, the one of efficiency over heart, of out put over insight, the sense of uniformity where there should be the innocent chaos of learning. The vibe that we are turning learning into another goddamn commodity. These networks of charters, with their abstract missions and spine tingling mantras and THX uniforms, they give me an old fashioned case of the jeepers creepers, the wet willies, the heebie jeebies.
The heebie jeebies
Speaking of the spine shakes and school uniforms, I can’t think of a better time than now to talk about one school that personifies the definition of conformist.
Lets now talk about another charter school, rather another chain of charters, that I have taught at frequently that are actually ran by an EMO. Let us call them INSPIRE schools so that I can continue to save money on lawyers and let me tell you about what stands out about INSPIRE schools.
INSPIRE operates a large network of k-12 schools and every time I taught for them it was for elementary level classes. The students I had have always been lovely and you do get the impression that Inspire has a decent educational philosophy when you learn about the rules for the students, “students should never say the words stupid or shut up, these are just as bad as curse words.” The school insisted we call them our “scholars” instead of students, everyones uniform was clean and neat. Seemingly they run a tight operation.
Yet I never want to set foot on another one of their schools for as long as I am a thinking breathing human being.
After my recent complaints of all those other so called schools, you may be wondering why I would feel so negatively about something so apparently peaceful. You would think that this would be an easy day for me. Well to be frank my Dear Reader strike one for this school was the fact that these schools made their students wear uniforms. I am abhorrently ANTI uniform, as I have previously indicated I am sure. So quite frankly I am as anti dress code as one can logically be. Dress codes are necessary to a reasonable point, you need to actually show up to school in real clothes and not a pair of fish net stockings with a jester hat, save that for burning man.
However too often than not school dress codes are inherently sexist in that they are written to shame young girls for their bodies, which in turn will guilt other girls into feeling they do not have the right kinds of bodies, and all children, boys and girls get robbed to a degree of their self expression. It’s a shallow concept but a real one of our times, you wear who you are, or at least you are supposedly given that freedom, unless the boys think your tits are too distracting or if the teacher misconstrues that joke on your Richard Pryor t-shirt as an endorsement of something completely misinterpretive. May God help you if you show in a black lives matter shirt at some schools or keep a rainbow flag pinned anywhere on your pack.
Some schools go as far s to block political speech under the guise of preventing fights, and “maintaining a professional atmosphere.” To translate what we are actually teaching them, “When you grow up, no matter where you are never talk about politics, even though that is what the first amendment is for.” This ensures a silent and obedient workforce for people like Reed Hastings. Most schools in LA have the excuse to use uniforms as a response to the gang situation. Because apparently they can’t change out of their uniforms in the street or at home into their gang colors and figure out who wears what colors in their off time when they get out of class.
Don’t read too much into that by the way. Not every black student is a modern gangland predator, in fact most aren’t. Just a side note Dear Reader. Let us digress no further.
School uniforms, the very combination of words makes me want to throw up. Like I said before, this was Inspire’s strike one.
Strike two was the fact that every morning the kids had to gather in the gym for an assembly, where of course they always started with a pledge of allegiance, something which always made me uncomfortable as shit. The other teachers used to look at me with a snotty stink side eye because I would never put my hand on my heart. This is because I do not pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth, pretty though it is and fascinating is its story and is Miss Betsy Ross. But I take a knee with the Kap to be honest, nobody is free until we are all free.
Yes Dear Reader, lot’s of digressions in this chapter but bare with me, this is becoming tiring. Let us move on to strike three.
Strike one was the uniforms, two was that bizarre ritual I have never understood nor practiced, and strike three, and this was the clincher, came just after the pledge of allegiance. During the assemblies each INSPIRE school had a different feel good motto they chanted that was meant to, yes you guessed it, “Inspire the kids,” and seemingly it worked. I am not knocking it if it works. I am not a child anymore so I cant say what goes through their minds when they are in a room all dressed the same singing the same mantra. Yet there was something about the whole matter that creeped me out and still creeps me out whenever I remember it. My spine is hemorrhaging as I type this like an icy draft from nowhere blows on my neck.
I remember as a kid fearing school uniforms becoming a reality for my school, I felt then as I do now that they were and are the only true freedom of speech a child has been given and in a way it was the only freedom of speech millennials seem to have left since we have no economic autonomy. The next generation in many cases do not know the freedom that comes to showing up at school truly dressed as who you are. And Dear Reader let us not forget what our genderism in these codes does to young minds.
One must wonder what trans students still in the closet must feel when you remind them they have to wear something specifically for a gender they aren’t. Those arguments aside uniforms are still understandable to me, but a school chant is just creepy as hell. A group of kids gathered into one room, ordered to stand and walk in and out in a straight line, in neat uniforms and forced to pledge allegiance to a piece of pretty clothes and then participate with the whole school, all in the same colors of clothes, in chanting the school motto. There is just something Nazi-esque about the whole thing to me, even if the kids feel good and learn a lot at the end of it, I just do not like the idea of a group of kids all being put into one room to where and say the same thing. Also there was still the economic pedagogy of profit that is actually running things behind the scenes. A Spock to my Kirk would ask me the logical question, where are they hiding the bad kids? Or did they get rid of them? That is another thing charters are allowed to do.
In all honesty the pledge and the uniforms are forgivable because they are so standard, but those chants, hearing a bunch of little kids being guided by some vice principle, some tired bureaucrat in a tie and khakis all together saying things like ” I am smart, and I am good, I will do my best every day and always” like drones, its all just enough to make me wretch. These administrators would always be conducting the whole school as if they were a symphony and this were beautiful music to them, the smile that the Vice principle’s would have on their faces as they’d all chant, it’s beyond cringe worthy to me.
I can see the beauty in making the kids feel good about themselves, yet I cannot put into words what it is that makes me so uncomfortable about a group of so many so young all doing the same thing, it just doesn’t feel right to me, but what do I know, except what I feel.
Now before we move one, I see how this could make not look like the most well adjusted individual. “Kids saying positive things in unison!? Some one call Stephen King!” Of all the things to be disturbed by, of all things I have seen and endured as a substitute teacher, like you Dear Reader I don’t understand why this is the thing that bothers me.
Equal opportunity schooling, yes Dear Reader another term I have become familiarized with through first hand experience. These are schools were special needs students and non special needs students are assimilated into the same groups and classes. Usually people who are called para professionals assist the students in the class with a special lesson plan made for them while the teachers work with the class as a whole, but all of the students take the same classes side by side. The idea is to show the differently abled and special needs students that they are just as capable as their peers are, and it is to show the other students how to put aside prejudices and believe in sharing opportunity, and thus a true sense of equality can be created.
Hope charter is one of these schools.
Hope charter operates on a small yet appropriate campus in the cozy neighborhoods of Westchester. I cannot attest 100 percent for how they treat the teachers, but I found the bathroom access ample so that helped my opinion of the school a great deal. What I can attest to is that the energy of this school was one of the first times I ever felt an energy of pure positivity and love, like there was a mutual genuine concern for the students. Hope caused a change in me, something happened to me at that school and with those kids. Something I never thought would happen, and it all started with a boy’s sweet words.
I subbed at Hope multiple times, the first day I worked there it was a debacle of navigating Sepulveda Blvd through LAX and the suburbanized streets of Westchester. After cursing myself horse before speeding my way through a neighborhood that looked like something out of Norman Rockwell’s wet dream but with more speed bumps, I arrived at the back corner of another once proud elementary school that clearly had marked a stepping stone in Johnson’s War on Poverty. It is not uncommon for school districts to rent out closed schools to charters. Several schools have even shut down and reopened as charters, such as the ones I have told you about.
I parked off the street and breathed ten deep breathes to relieve the road rage clenching me at the shoulders, then I marched to the school. I had smoked two joints of some homegrown and was in my usual floating headspace when I had left. The concrete battlefield that was full of people merging in and out five lines at 60 mph to get on and off the 405 was enough to kill half of my standard morning buzz, so I was not in the best of moods when I first arrived.
I was greeted in the front office of the school by an overly perky administrator of some important rank who seemed to be doubling as the school’s receptionist. I say overly perky only because I think that was the only way to maintain the level of energy necessary for her to operate on all of her required tasks. While she greeted me she attended to two students, answered the phone, and directed a parent volunteer to the proper rooms. She had introduced herself to me as, “Ms. Sara, nice to meet you.” Before I could muster a greeting of my own she immediately followed her greeting with, “Have you taught with us before?” I said no and she quickly interjected again with, “And what is your experience with Special needs students?”
Needless to say Dear Reader I was surprised by her question but I had learned at this point in my job that it never helps to show surprise. I knew that no matter what I always had to look like I knew what I was doing. I looked at her confused at first but after I signed in I was greeted with another new word of the day by Ms Sara, like when I had learned about “colocation” this was when I learned about equal opportunity schooling.
She explained to me they were one of those schools and what that meant and the students I would have today. Just like every other time before this, I was dropped into the front lines without warning to handle students that I had never been trained to handle nor told I would handle.
My class room that day was a portable that was a heavy walking distance away from the main office. It looked like a space for the management at a construction site to work, these are a very common site on campuses throughout California. The entire playground separated me from the rest of the school, and I was to teach 7th grade English. The school was a k-8, and the 6-8 section of these schools are always segregated away from our little ones to some degree. The room was a hot hovel with minimal windows and an AC that I could not coordinate. Seventh grade is an inherently loud group no matter what and adding a hot classroom to the mix does not help to splash cold water on their otherwise raging fires of newly lit puberty. Yet there was something different about these kids, about this whole school, and I was not able to put my finger on it right away.
It might sound a little hippie dippie of me but it is the truth when I say that there was something about the energy of the school. There is a vibe to all schools and charters that one can immediately sense whenever setting foot onto any campus, even for just a day. Some schools gave me a vibe of fear because they were basically prison training camps, others were of annoyance because it was clear they were all about rushing the kids through tests and graduation to stay looking good on paper, this helps to keep schools that shouldn’t exist afloat. Yet the vibe at the school was different to me than the others, I was not unsettled in any way, rather I felt an air of positivity, of love.
The longer this first day went on the more the love became apparent. Watching the paraprofesionals work with the special needs students was both a lesson to be learned and a blessing. While the energy of the students was high, the para profs not only assisted the special needs students but they helped me to keep the peace in the classroom. I did not have to send a single student out because when ever a student began to misbehave the PP would remind them that I was a “guest” and that they owed me their best behavior. This is the advantage of having multiple adults in the classroom. The class sizes were as large as any other school 30-40 kids per period, but that number becomes almost insignificant when multiple adults are there to assist the teacher.
Every class had at least one student with special needs, meaning I always had at least one other adult with me. Those adults were the sign to me, they were the sources of the energy of love at the school. For it was watching them interact with these students, these children who were so lost in their own minds that they need not only extra help, but extra understanding that I began to feel good about my job for a change. I could tell that the students had a sense of trust, a sense of comfort and safety under the guard of these adults, even if they were not special needs students, having them present definitely kept spirits higher than I had ever seen in other classrooms.
I came to sense that spirit and love more and more every time I subbed there. In case anyone does not understand what a “special needs” student is by the way, that is just the modernized PC way of saying “special ed” but since the school is “equal opportunity,” these schools are not segregated into special ed classes, rather all students learn side by side with each other in all classes and classrooms. Back to the point, special needs students are exactly categorized as that, those who have specific needs that must be met in order to assure they learn at the same pace as there fellow students. This can mean the student is autistic, has a learning disability such as dyslexia, or just has a lower than average IQ.
While the classes always went fairly smoothly, I was still at a loss for how I was supposed to handle these students when I first arrived and learned I would be teaching both special needs students and normies. It was dropped on me like a bomb that was no big deal, like a girl taking selfies at the Hiroshima memorial. “We’re an equal opportunity school.” Ms Sara said it so casually, “So you will have mixed classes” she was dropping terminology on me that I had no idea what it meant, but I played along, I was a credentialed sub after all. But I played along, as I was assured there would be “para profs” coming in and out of the classes assisting me throughout the day.
That was all reassuring but it was still a bit heavy on the emotions when I saw an autistic child being escorted in as he walked in very odd, very specific pattern, or when the young man with ALS was wheeled into my 3rd period. But I played it cool, whenever I was caught by surprise in the weird lack of communications that seem inherent and synonymous to teaching in modern LA charters, I always kept my cool with the greatest veil of competence and professionalism, while on the inside I would usually be having stoner panic attacks that would be horrific enough to be a scene from Reefer Madness.
“What the fuck?” I’d be thinking, “Im going to be responsible for students with special needs? I am to be there teacher with no training, no practice, no real qualification other than my degree and the ‘credential’ that I paid $140 bucks for. What the fuck is wrong with our system?”
I held my own though, I spent my life watching my mother work and listening to her talk about school and special education for the 20 plus years I lived with her. I got a front row seat to what teachers go through when they first arrive home and get to let their hair down. I was even lucky enough to be the son of a teacher who had started her career working with those with special needs. Not only was my mom a teacher, she was a teacher who started in Special ed, giving my lucky, inexperienced ass an example to follow.
I had no idea what I was doing, so I simply decided to behave as I had seen my mom behave when dealing with those with special needs, I had seen my mom work not only in the class room but in the every day life, whenever talking to szchophrics loose on the street or to the employees at our local businesses who showed signs of down syndrome, I had seen my mom apply her skills. She kept a calm tone, and maintained a positive energy despite ever being nervous. That was what I did, I just stayed calm, and kept up a positive energy, which for some reason I found very easy to do for the first time I had ever started could not immediately figure out why.
I would come to work at this school many, many times before I would quit. There was a mutual sense of something between myself and the students. I could not tell what.
One day at Hope Charter, I was eating my lunch and several students asked if they could eat in the class room, to which I said yes since the school had instructed me to do so anyway since the weather report had been unforgiving as of late. A young girl, Diana, an a 8th grader who looked like a classic emo 8th grader in my millennial year book, dark eye shadow, dyed hair and a new found fetish for Hot top t shirts. The kind of girl with plenty of Nightmare before Christmas merchandise for attire and accessories and room decor. She confided in me about her distant family, the harsh words of her doctor who did not reckon her heart gave her long on this earth. To be told a life longer than 20 years would be a miracle is enough to make one a Tim burton fan over night. when she told me this i began to wonder how many of the girls i knew in middle school like her had this kind of problem, then i begin to feel bad about what I used to say and think about those girls.
Catholic guilt has been replaced by elementary school nostalgia in the 2000s, never forget that Dear Reader.
Still, her words were saddening and humbling. She had in fact become one of my favorite students and knowing this, only made me hope she gets this fullest out of life all the more. Every student deserves to experience every though possible in this world, especially ones like her, ones like her deserve to live life the most. She is one of the few students to this day whose name I actually learned and remembered.
Another student I had there in the same grade was named Harry, a thin gangly black child. It was like a nightmare trying to get this kid to do anything he was actually supposed to.
“Harry, stay in your seat.”
“Harry get to work.”
“Harry how much work have you done?”
“Harry sit down.”
“No eating in class Harry.”
“Harry I said sit down!”
Every teacher will tell you that there is always that one kid that no matter how kind or good there intentions are, they simply lack grounding, I wont call them hopeless but they just cant seem to grasp the fact they need to just sit down, shut up, and turn in something completed for once. Then I found out he didn’t have a father. I then began to wonder how many other students I’ve had who did’t have fathers. Then I began to think back to when I was his age. I remember the Harry’s of my classes annoying the shit out of me, now I wonder how many of them didn’t have fathers either.
Another student, Johnny, who is very easy to remember because he was the only wheelchair bound student I ever had. he had ALS and needed a special computer to do all of his work. I began to see him almost every time I came to sub there. He struggled to speak, his aid wheeled him everywhere, to every class and around the lunch yard. Just seeing him was enough to warm my heart, but seeing him smile made me feel something, something I did not know I could feel. He slurred when he spoke, and lots of grunts came out to, it was like struggle.
“you are mmy fove su” he drops the last B but his aid decided to translate, “He says your his favorite sub.”
“Oh thank you Johnny,” I replied. I pat his shoulder and smiled back as he is wheeled out to his next class. When I am left alone in the class room something began to weigh in my chest, like my heart began to sink into my stomach.
The feeling stayed the whole rest of my day as I tried to teach and work through it. But it never did go away, not even after my long drive home. It just stayed in my chest, like a paper weight, or a fist pressing against it, I could not shake this new feeling in my chest. I feel it now as write these words my Dear Reader and I will feel it for the rest of my life every time I think about that boys smile.
Like I said something changed in me thanks to those kids. The weight in my chest has never left me since that one gesture by Johnny. It was the signal of something important, of something I had been lying to myself about for too long.
The Moment, a poem by Max Boxer
Every goddamned day it’s the same.
Wake up at the ass crack of dawn,
Oatmeal, instant of course,
A piss and shit,
Get high, get the call.
6-9, every morning,
Get a call,
Get even higher,
Get on the road,
Go to work,
Such a good pawn.
This is no 9-5,
Any millennial to have that
Is a lucky cunt.
Or so Time magazine tells me.
In the car, and on to the painfully full freeways,
Each car just full of faceless followers.
No 9-5 for me.
This is a 6am-3pm.
This is attempting to conquer infamous LA traffic
with a 2001 Toyota in a polyester rayon noose.
Still, hourly pay,
all for me,
so a lucky little millennial am me…
Pat on the head
Here’s my vote,
Let me look the other way
as you commercialize our children.
Cashing in on campuses,
its not bloodsucking, its entrepreneurship.
Did you ever believe that homework would become a commodity?
Your campus? Your grades?
I remember being a student, not a means of production.
Forget it, no overthinking work,
I have rent to pay,
Groceries to buy,
We all do,
But isn’t that quiet convenient?
My first job was a front row seat
To life lessons I had no context to.
White skin had been a filter I was so unaware of.
Foreboding me of experience in
The veins of our ever shrinking
And that word, “education,” is too generous.
Education? It’s more like training.
Stop it Max,
Stop it “Mr. Boxer.”
Stop thinking about it,
Just think about the rent,
& what you need to eat.
You need to pay those pesky bills,
and fuel that self imposed medical habit.
Why is it we have come to expect
we even defend
our commercial warlords?
Like Kagemusha, behind the brands they work in shadows.
Where are the voices of the voiceless?
They died out years ago
with the hounds of hell,
and an unforeseen community.
And we are supposed to pat ourselves on the back
because of someones stock portfolio?
Stop it Max.
I need to get to work.
I show up to a campus,
Something already successfully price tagged.
Campuses are another new commodity.
Stop it Max.
A big old building on a refurbished corner
of our our lady of gentrification.
Stop it Max.
Today is like any other,
No matter, I have work sheets to pass out.
I get to class, I get to work.
So many times I have been here, I know the pattern and routine,
so why is today so different?
What is the change in the air?
“It is no different,” I say, or rather lie to myself,
I go on.
Give them the work
and I sit down.
In a matter of hours,
A fat check, our everyday cash prize,
Awaits for you at the end of the day.
Yet something happens,
And it happens today,
And carries on everyday after that.
Students want to hang out with me at lunch.
I do not understand why.
“Why can’t you be our regular teacher?” one asked.
I don’t have the heart to tell them the real reason,
“Because I don’t want to be.”
I can’t look them in the eyes and say that.
Well I could, but I’m not a prick.
But why? Why did that question sting so much?
Confuse me so much?
I’m just trying to eat,
My chest feels weird all of a sudden,
Not in pain, but heavy.
Something in my heart?
Could this be?
No, just do the job,
Go home, be professional,
I’m in it for a check.
I’m not here to save these kids,
I’m here to eat and pay rent,
Still I feel something in my chest.
I think it’s my heart, but I ignore it.
Any doctor will tell you ignoring your heart is dangerous.
Another day, another job,
So I take attendance.
Later that day a student slips me a note,
“You are the best teacher.”
A boy with ALS, and I’m his favorite teacher,
What’s that damn feeling again?
a thank you
and a pat on the head.
and I move on.
I have 32 other students after all.
The feeling doesn’t go away, no matter
how high I get.
This feeling never goes away.
Next job, new school, new students, new lesson plan,
new character for Mr. Boxer.
Do they get chill Mr. Boxer,
or mean Mr Boxer?
A student wants to talk to me about his Any Rand book,
He cant understand why I’m no fan.
I sit in a desk, talk with him
As others read and work,
He is not humoring me,
He is interested in my words
and is oh so polite.
He counters my points,
He states his thoughts eloquently, respectfully.
and I find I am not humoring him either,
I listen to his words and feelings,
Not just waiting for my turn to speak,
As we are so obligated to do,
And that damn feeling in my chest,
What is it?
Ten days later, a student calls me a faggot piece of shit
and a white bitch.
Yet I am not hurt,
I am unfazed.
What hurts is that I can’t help them,
but who am I to help them,
I am one man,
And I am just here to eat and pay rent.
The feeling turns to sinking
As if a weight moves from my heart to my gut.
It never goes away, no matter how much I ignore it,
No matter how high I get,
The weight and the sinking,
They have never gone away.
Another day passes,
Another dollar is collected,
Another job approaches,
“These kids are just a paycheck” I tell myself
And then numb myself.
No. On the drive today,
I realize something,
I don’t believe those words.
I never actually believed them.
They are more to me than a job.
They are more than work,
They are more than a number
Or a grade
Or a score.
They are not just my paycheck.
They are children of guidance,
And a canvas asking you to paint them,
And for a day at a time,
I get to help paint.
That feeling is hope for their future,
and worrying about them all at the same time.
That feeling is a joy in working on building a person,
And the fear you are their first bad memories.
I see the boy again,
the one with ALS
he struggles to smile at me,
but I remember,
That I am his favorite sub.
That feeling in my chest comes back.
A rough day at work,
Students are loud,
My patience has grown thin.
I collapse into an old rickety desk chair.
The kids, still loud,
Many still throwing things.
I rub my temple with one hand,
I reach into my pocket with the other.
I find a crumpled piece of paper, maybe some forgotten receipt?
It was the note, from a little boy named Jose.
“You are the best teacher.”
The day was still rough,
but I went home smiling,
and I showed up for work the next day.
The note gets framed,
to remind myself I hate what I do
but I love who I do it for.
That weight in your chest and gut,
It is concern,
It is care.
This is not just about a pay check anymore,
It never was no matter what I told myself.
Goddamn it Heart,
And no amount of pot smoke or inebriation
Can change the fact underneath those dead brain cells
There is a path to your heart.
A young black girl, 8 or 9,
Breaks down in tears.
“I can’t do it mister!”
She can’t read,
We sound it out together,
She stopped crying as I walked away,
Damn this heart of mine,
No jaded disposition,
No millennial scoffing of
Old cliché sentimentalism.
Emotions are real,
And so are the struggles of my students.
Yes I call them my students now,
And they are of every race
In all corners of LA.
What paths do they walk on
and what direction have I turned them when I crossed them on their paths.
One day at a time I am in there lives
And memories still build.
I lay one brick on their path,
More than most ever give them.
That moment when they became,
Not just students.
That moment when it became more than just a job.
That moment when it became about more than rent or bills.
That moment when I realized,
All to well,
I actually do care.
That sweet stinging moment,
It made it all so true and so real.
From the mouth of babes I learned where my heart truly lies.
A boys simple gesture of good will,
And I learn something too true to ignore.