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.