I have not pissed myself in years. The only time I ever came close to pissing myself as an adult was not from a night of binge drinking, nor from a moment of shock or terror. No, it just happened on a really bad day at work.
I had been stuck in the same room all day where I was only granted one piss break at lunch. By this time my bladder had reached critical mass and I was also being bombarded with threats against my family and insinuations about my sexuality from all angles. The most quotable threat of the day was when a 6’1″ mountain of an 18 year old girl screamed, “It aint over until I drop a bomb on your whole family and your faggot ass.” Was it not for my sense of professionalism, I would have spat in the girl’s face, but teachers rarely get away with something like that. Plus a white teacher spitting on a black student is problematic on so many levels, not to mention just bad press for teachers.
Had the security guard not been present at the time I am not certain how the event would have transpired, although I do not think I was in any real danger. No, anyone who is really out to kill you won’t shout they are going to do it in front of a classroom full of witnesses. No, I believe there is a saying amongst soldiers, “You never hear the one with your name on it.” All this with a bladder ready to burst. This was not every day at my job, but it was a common thing to expect at my job. Rowdy dispositioned youth, armed guards, and minimal bathroom access are common motifs of charter schools. I endured and witnessed more than I had ever wanted to or planned to, and I did it all for $20 an hour.
What I did
Being a teacher is a hard job. Being a substitute teacher is a weird job. Being a substitute teacher for charter schools is a weird, hard, and very real job in in our era of capitalism, test scores, and Betsy Devos.
Let’s begin our dialogue with a few details and stories about how I got the job and what it actually required of me. Before I begin I would like to mention that some names have been changed. For example the name of the company I worked for, a sub pool for charters and private schools, for the sake of legality let us just call it “Sub Pool.”
A sub “pool” for those who do not know is a reference to the list of people a school has on call for when they need a substitute teacher. Most schools and districts are required to account for their own subs but Sub Pool saw an opening in the market and took advantage. Charters and private schools contract out their pools to Sub Pool and the company then acts as a sort of teacher agency, where dispatch agents get calls from schools and then call the teachers in order to assign us to schools. Some assignments could last 4 hours, others 4 weeks. Some assignments you would get three weeks in advance, others you would have twenty minutes after your call to be out the door.
I ended up with this job when I moved to LA in 2014. I was following the old California cliche of going to Hollywood and making it in the film industry. Needless to say I was going to need some supplemental income, so after some tips from friends and family I was granted an interview with the current owner of Sub Pool. After a 45 minute Skype interview where I wore a nice purple button up with no pants, unknown to my interviewer, I got the job. I was then subject to the hell we all endure in the on boarding process, the long winded monotone over advising training video.
In this video I was taught what my dress code expectancy was and got tips and tricks on how to handle a class. They also told me what was expected of me when I arrived at a school. Here is the short version of what I thought was expected of me by the end of “training” : 1) Although every school has a different dress code, I was always supposed to dress in business or business casual attire, 2) I needed to have ready transportation at all times and, 3) if I did not have an assignment scheduled the day before I was to be on call from 6-9 am, which was unpaid time I may add. The minute I got a call I was expected to get ready and be out the door asap, if i got no call that meant there was no work for me that day.
There were other little things, don’t be late, fill in your time cards, etc. The things they were most adamant about though were don’t be a creep and answer your damn phone or you’re fired. It all seemed simple enough. From the lack of personal warmth during this whole on boarding process one gets the feeling that all you need to do to be a qualified sub is breath from both nostrils. “Is your heart beating? Good then get in there our regular teacher has the flu and we are desperate.” This was my first job out of college. I had no interest in being a regular teacher, I was simply trying to eat and pay rent, like all other post college millennials, I just wanted to stay afloat.
After I was hired, “trained,” finger printed, and background checked, I was initiated into the world of charter schools. My first assignment was a two week stunt not as a teacher but rather as a test proctor, there is a lot of temp work in the educational industry these days. Make no mistake by the way, capitalism has made education an industry.
The assignment seemed simple enough. I was to go to the school every day the next two weeks to be a proctor for what is know as the CELDT the California English Learner development test. It is a test where immigrant children or any child who is learning English as a second language have their English skills ranked by a professional, a professional like my stoned jaded self. This rank will be used later when it is decided which English class they are to be placed in. My assignment was to proctor with 3 other Sub Pool employees at a school in South Central. I arrived promptly for the job, dressed to impress as I thought was expected of me per the training videos. I figured slacks, a button up, and a nice Van Hausen tie would show everyone I was a professional, I may have just been trying to eat, but I was definitely a pro.
The school itself looked less like a school and more like a professional mall. One of those office suite buildings that just happened to be equipped with a tasteful central courtyard. It looked a bit a out of place amongst the rest of its neighboring buildings on MLK blvd. The decaying and aging two or single story bungalows bordering this four story, sleek steel and plane glass model of modernity were in stark contrast to one another. Were it not for all of the parents and children filing in and out of the main entryway there would be no sign at all that this was a school.
I had thought the assignment was simple enough, but it was a front row seat to many lessons I needed to learn about my new job, about the world, about life. It sounds like one of those cliches that The Kinks or Simon and Garfunkel should be playing over as Dustin Hoffman wanders the post grad world and Wes Anderson tracks him with high, isolating angles. Put in a backdrop of South Central Los Angeles and you would have my life at the time. In a way this sort of was my first lesson about the reality of capitalism. For here was a stoney white boy, 22, out of school, and entitled? If you mean to healthcare and a living wage? You are damn right. Yet again here you have an entitled, bearded, white (very important to mention) hipster dropped into the capital of Facebook poverty tragedy porn, and I was deemed responsible for using my listening skills to help file and rank these kids English careers.
First hand I saw the reality of all those pro immigrant Facebook posts I had been sharing, here in front of me were children, new to this country, new to this world filled with corporate Machiavellians, political denial, and blatant racism, and these kids can’t tell me which picture is an apple or a carrot.
Most of the kids I had in my group were teens, 13-17. There is nothing more sobering than talking to a perfectly capable and cognitive boy or girl, and yet they can’t use words you have used for what feels like forever, and you have to stay patient with them because it is no way shape or form their own fault for not speaking the language of a land you probably were not always planning on moving to. When I was three I made my objections to moving to a new house quite clear to my parents, yet in truth since I was so young I had very little to say and very little to argue with. Imagine being 14 and living in a country where you have very little to argue with, save for your own native language.
Nonetheless, the Spanish language seems to be a way to bond, a way to unite in solidarity in this white world for these kids, for when people at this school could not communicate with the likes of me or teachers, they definitely could communicate amongst each other. Where we were not providing solace, they were finding it in each other.
Another thing I learned from this assignment was that the dress code warnings in my training video were bullshit. Out of all my fellow proctors I was the only one in slacks, the only one in a tie, the only one who followed the company standard for what they defined as “business casual.” It was then that I learned from the more experienced fellow subs, all of whom loved reminding me I was the rookie, that no school reports you for dress code, unless you show up in “FUCK YOU” or “FRANKIE SAYs RELAX” t shirts. I’m paraphrasing but my point is clear. I did not have to wear a tie, but I would later learn ties actually made the job easier. Kids just listen to you more when you wear a tie, they make you look like you know what you are talking about.
That was all I learned just from the first two weeks. Once my tenure was done at this school I was ready and willing to go to the classroom. I waited by my phone from 6-9 on a Monday, not receiving word I was to work until 8 a.m. The call was for what was to be my first job in the classroom as an actual sub, and it required me to brave the LA traffic at its peak only to arrive at a gentrified as fuck charter just a few streets down from FOX studios in the northern regions of LA. This normally would be no problem, save for the fact I lived in Gardena and was looking at 40 minutes on or off the highway and was faced with the World of War that is LA traffic. When I arrived I was given bizarre and frustrating parking instructions, apparently this was one of those yuppie neighborhoods where they all got together and voted on requiring a pass to park. If only the left were as organized as homeowner associations. I digress.
Referring back to my 1st classroom assignment and second job for Sub Pool, I arrived late for a day of work as a 7th – 8th grade English sub in a yuppie as hell neighborhood. I was then subject to the perks and drawbacks of these charters that are exploding on the CA job market. This was a school that offered perks for their employees in the lounge, like free coffee and an espresso machine, donuts and free oatmeal breakfasts, but I would not be surprised if they were being tossed that over any kind of union benefits they could be getting. The campus was top of the line and my classroom was equipped with two smart boards, a projector, and a Blu-ray player. All the books the kids were using looked new or newish, and there was no shortage of school supplies. This is the truth of the suburban white collar white privilege capitalism class of charter. This school, which later would ban me I might add for smelling like beer on a later assignment, would prove to be a stark contrast to my following school.
My second teaching assignment, like my first, came the next day near the very end of my unpaid on call shift. I was told it would be a short 4 hour day of teaching PE. It sounded like the easiest goddamn day of work in the world. It turned out to be one of the most bizarre, painful, and revealing days of my life.
After I received the call, I was ecstatic when dispatch told me I could wear gym clothes to the job so long as I wore my company badge. I arrived for a job and was immediately confused. The address for my previous assignments had brought me to campuses that were clearly marked, and because of their size and the style of their neon storefront signs they were clearly charter schools. This time however I was brought to the campus of an immense public school. Those who have not seen LA public schools should know they look less like schools and more like compound fortresses equipped with huge fences and barbed wire, taking up at least a whole city block. I saw no signs indicating the school I was looking for which was Pathway Community School, but I figured the charter had been contracted out to run the school. I had read that was a commonplace thing and was prepared for it at the time. What I was not prepared for was two little old black church ladies to be sitting out in front of this school in the middle of Watts with a sign in sheet. When I told them I was hear to sub I heard what to this day I consider one of the weirdest, yet all too real, questions I ever heard.
“Which school,” the one in her purple Sunday best said. “We have three schools on this campus”
“What the fuck?” I thought, hopefully not showing it on my face. “One campus, one school.” That was how I understood the world at the time. But I was not about to let any ignorance show. Not any where on this stretch of San Pedro Street at least. So I faked it that I knew what they were talking about and said I was for “Pathway.” They then spattered something into a walkie talky and I was told to wait while someone from the school would come get me.
A quick digression, I would just like to quickly note that this was my introduction to a concept called “colocation.” Colocation is the term used for when a traditional public school shares a campus with a charter, usually because the charter is paying rent to the campus or school district. I spent a bit of time on Google looking up how two schools could exist on one campus as I waited by the front entrance, the act of staring at my phone was a great excuse for not making eye contact with any of the students, and sometimes even the faculty, gawking at me as they went by.
Something that happened to me frequently was being gawked at when I was in schools where white people were the minority. I became a sort of side show attraction at these schools. Here as students were filing in and out of the entrance where I waited, I was glared at and gawked at. I knew the predominant question was most likely, “Who is the white boy with the hipster beard?” At the proctor job I cannot tell you how many comments and questions I got about my eyes. I knew that the whispers I saw during the glares wear along the same lines. Blue eyes are hard to come by in places like Watts, I learned that first hand.
Eventually after enough students had gotten their five cents worth of the ring side white guy, I was escorted to the school by a young Mexican American woman who was about my age and about as tall as Bilbo Baggins. She was dressed professionally but not so professionally you would think she was the principal. She wore fitted capris, tasteful makeup, and hair pulled back and clipped to a bun. It was the look of someone who has to move around too much to be a principal. This woman was taking me to meet the principal in her office, which was the same room as the counselor’s office, the tutoring room, the student lounge, and the computer lab of this quote, unquote school. Essentially the whole school was one floor in the back corner building of the campus, which I think was otherwise unused by the school. Five classrooms, and this one makeshift center of operations at the end of the hall way. The computer lab corner was using Mac computers I had not seen since 2006, and the lounge where students sat had what were clearly donated couches and bean bag chairs, cracked vinyl and all, with copies of books like Goosebumps that looked so worn it was as if they had survived a trip to rural Honduras. I was instructed to sit at one of the tables and wait, where I was again gawked at by the students coming in and out.
I was then given a walky talky and some instructions by the young woman. I was to take the kids out to the track, which was on the other side of the campus, and follow the lesson plan left for me. One thing that complicated the day was that there was no lesson plan, and the walky talky did not work, and no one told me that these kids were at Pathways because they could not handle being within the regular school system. In other words, these are the kids who are so damaged that districts just don’t know what to do with them, so they shove them into the back corner where this charter is, and they let potheads like me handle them.
I’ll give you the short version. I was stuck on a tarmac track & field in the middle of a 100 degree heat wave with no shade, in charge of a group of emotionally damaged teens with histories of behavioral issues. I was heckled, I was disrespected, I yelled, I had no backup since my walky talky did not work, and out of a moment of anger and poor judgement, I told two students as they were storming off to the office that, “You have no future!” So it is needless to say I am not proud of myself or my work on this day.
This was my whole job though. It was two and a half years of this. One day at gentrified as fuck Santa Monica schools, the next I’m in the heart of Watts, Compton, South Central, or even as far as East LA. I have subbed at small, liberal charters that were inclined to the arts and were pinnacles of educational efficiency and I have subbed at underfunded ghetto hovels where between the poor lighting, the armed security forces, and the two story fences, it feels less like a school and more like a prison day camp for black and brown kids. I have subbed at well known charters such as Aspire, which is one of the largest charter chains in California. I have subbed at Alliance schools, which were in the headlines in 2015 when one of their teachers was arrested for handing out pro union pamphlets in the parking lot. I subbed at Green Dot schools, one largest networks of schools that is happily endorsed by Netflix founder Reed Hastings, an avid charter advocate and notoriously anti- board of education patron of pro charter causes. The founder of Green Dot by the way is Steve Barr, a man who is ran for Mayor of LA and wants to expand his charter more into LA unified district, already one of the largest charter school districts in the country.
I subbed at private catholic schools and private yuppie schools. Yet more than anything I have been to charters all across the LA area. From Downtown Los Angeles where the campuses tend to be compact and usually rented out spots that previously were thriving catholic schools. That is another group cashing in on charter school’s needs for campuses, the Vatican. Since charters are essentially independent schools they are responsible for using their own funds for maintenance and operation of their grounds, meaning they are a very popular prey to land developers, landlords, and property owners such as the Catholic church. The corporations are not the only ones cashing in on our kids.
The schools in places like Mar Vista or Culver City where much more avant garde. Sleek with modern architecture, which makes most buildings look like a Panera’s or Chipotle in my opinion but again I digress, and they are almost always well equipped with the latest technologies in the classrooms. The schools downtown would be lucky if they had things like fields for the students to play on. The schools in the yuppie neighborhoods would be lucky if they had any contact with a world outside of money, which they really don’t. The schools in the hood would be lucky to have just a taste of what those yuppie schools get.
Another thing I have yet to mention is the personal chaos that comes from dealing with a different school on different days. Some schools treated me as if I was a gift, a much needed and appreciated cog in the wheel to keep things efficient. Others treated me as if I was just a warm body there to send attendance sheets, they spat at my orders, then rushed me out of the office, because they had more important things to deal with than the subs.
There were other things about the job that made it difficult. One was the faceless interaction with Sub Pool, getting all my jobs over the phone and never coming face to face with dispatch or management save for my one Skype interview made everything feel so impersonal. I learned that subbing is actually a very impersonal job. They didn’t seem to care how far you were from any assignment, just so long as it got filled before 9. One day I would be sent to work just around the corner from my house, the next I could expect 40 minutes and three highway changes to get to and from my assignment. Despite being a California company, they seemed to know or care very little about the realities of driving through LA traffic.
I subbed for 2.5 years, and everyday on the road did I had a road rage incident. I have punched and stabbed the inside of my front door so many times there is a gaping hole next to my door handle. I cannot tell you how many times I was cut off, how many people I had to cut off to get to my exits, how many near misses I endured, how much wear I had on my brakes, how many flats I had, and how many self entitled Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes owners seem to be religiously opposed to using turn signals.
Combine this with the fact not a day went by when I was not high. After every call, once I was dressed and ready, it was time for at least five or six sativa bong hits then I was out the door. The coffee I was drinking probably added a little tension but any teacher will vouch that Coffee is life. Coffee is the gasoline that keeps teachers going. If you think you can handle 30-120 kids a day without either caffeine to start the day or alcohol to end it, you are either an idiot or a Mormon. Not only do I digress but now I repeat myself…
Between the coffee, the THC, and the lingering tension left from daily road rage, I was always in a, shall we say, interesting headspace every time I arrived for work, no mater what kind of school it was. Yet what I remember most, and this is true of any school, and I’m sure any teacher can vouch for this to, was how much I always had to pee.
Word of advice Dear Reader, if you have ever had issues with continence, don’t teach. Some schools provide ample breaks and bathroom access to their teachers, others expect you to stay in a classroom 5-6 hours at a time before you even think about resting. It was just another one of those things that made the day to day of this job so chaotic. Yet even when the access was ample, between the water I was drinking to clear my throat and the coffee I was drinking to stay at a pace with the students, I feel like I was always keeping an eye on my bladder.
This was what being a sub entailed, at least as far as what was required of me on the job. Being a sub, or teacher of any kind, also entails a front row seat into the reality of our youth of today.
What I Saw
When I was an 18 year old high school senior I had a foul mouth. Every other sentence off of my tongue was about weed, and sex was also a common topic for me. I used to think my teen years were the universal experience, but this job taught me otherwise. There is no universal experience except for birth and death, but there are commonalities between teens as there always seems to be commonalities between us all in this umbrella term overgeneralizing culture of ours.
One thing I saw at every school was a blatant addiction to screens. Anyone born post 1998 seems to be glued to either a phone, a computer, or both. May god help them if their parents have a TV at home too, which let’s face it they all probably do, those of them that had homes I mean. I often think about how each generation since the birth of cinema has been addicted to staring at screens. The silver screen of the early 1900s, the tv screen after the 60s, then came the computer in the 90s, and then the iPhones of today. We are a world glued to our screens, and at the rate I see our boys and girls leaping to Instagram and Snapchat it is almost a wonder those apps don’t crash 24/7.
I will also be honest, it seems to be the ones the most addicted to Snapchat filters are young girls. I never confiscated phones, yet if I ever say the words “Please put your phone away,” again I will develop callouses on those muscles in my tongue. I admire the level of self love in these girls, for while some scoff at the selfie obsession, I applaud those who can love themselves enough to share genuine pictures of themselves for the sake of sharing pictures. That is not a vindication of the Instagram narcissist who puts 5 hours into one photo, but I digress. What I can also say is that this sense of self love does drive a greater sense of tolerance in these girls. I do not know how to explain it, but it seems to me that because these girls are so ready to accept themselves as they are, they in turn are ready to accept others. I wish I could say the same of our boys.
I have always considered myself a feminist, but I did not realize how alive and well sexism and patriarchy is in this horse-hell society of ours until I was forced to sit in classrooms for eight hours at a time. The old enabling cliche of “boys will be boys” is alive and well. I remember one school where the boys were like a New York City construction crew, hooting and hollering at what was on there phones for an entire class period. I was at another school acting as a teachers aid in Compton, and apparently my way of being an aide was to sit there as an extra adult to keep the kids on task. Literally just sit in a desk all day by the teacher and look like a professional, that was the job, and on this job I was able to hear Mrs. Clearly goes Clubbing too Much on the Weekends say to almost everyone of her non gender conforming students, “act like a lady.” A 14 year old stands up for themselves against a room of boys, and what did I keep hearing from the responsible adult in charge? “Act like a lady.” Please excuse me while I vomit.
If the blatant sexism was not enough to drive me mad, the blatant classism was going to be what pushed me over the edge. I have mentioned before how the gap between rich and poor showed itself from school to school, and no where would the differences be more noticeable than in the schools grounds. Something you may not know is that school districts are funded via property taxes from the surrounding area, the more expensive the houses the more money for the nearby schools, so you can imagine how well funded schools in Watts or Compton are compared to that of Westchester or Santa Monica. I have subbed at schools that were just fixed up abandoned churches, schools that were in office suites next door to insurance agencies, pristine monuments to classic academia, and behemoths of LAUSD public schools now taken over by charters. Another school was your standard CA public school campus equipped with a central community garden, it was run so efficiently by the students it was better than any co-op I have ever seen. Yet still the nicer campuses were always reserved for the nicer neighborhoods, and for the whiter neighborhoods to.
Combine all that with daily being a witness to the modern drama’s of teen life, which in case you are wondering have not seemed to change much or ever if they do actually change. Your daughter is still struggling with her break up, your son is still under the pressure of proving himself to his comrades, everyone is curious about who likes who, who is dating who, did they go all the way, will they go all the way? Yet what has changed is that trans men and women are thrown into the mix, and so many young men and women have a more dominant sense of who they are than I ever did at that age. I have met several bi or even poly teens, when I was a kid I did not even know the word “polyamorous” existed. So if anything has changed since my time, it is that we are actually talking about the gender confusion of our classmates now, which is a very good thing. Not to reiterate an earlier point, but I also notice the most tolerant of the trans population are our girls and young women. This is not to to knock boys down, it is just a statement of something I observed when I was sitting behind the teacher’s desk tapping my thumbs on my phone and making sure teens were not texting too much or over sharing memes they made. That is something else I learned, the meme is supreme.
Yes I saw much from this job, and from what I saw and heard I learned more than when I was a student myself.
What I Learned
The list of things I learned as a substitute teacher is almost endless, but I will try to list the important things here;
C.R.E.A.M. – For those of you reading not familiar with the way of WU, that stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, and no one knows how true that is until they are forced into the front-lines of post college adulthood, but it is an even worse experience when you work in the classroom. I have seen it in all dimensions of the job. From the corporatization of education to the wealth gap between schools in South Central versus schools in Westchester. Within the difference between the classes and schools you see the differences among race and schools as well I have seen the predominant effects of capitalism. My need to get paid out weighing my need to pee is another verification that wealth comes before health in modern America. The list of public services at the hands of capitalist mercy when a school goes charter are endless. The contracts for providing the schools lunches are in a competitive market. Property owners ranging from venture capitalist privateers to the Los Angeles School District to the goddamned catholic church are all cashing in on the charter school explosion. I even cashed in myself when I was working for Sub Pool. Like I said before, I needed to eat and pay rent.
Do not come to work hungover, especially without tenure! – I learned this lesson the hard way. I remember at one school, who shall remain nameless to cover my legal ass, I arrived twenty minutes late, for the third time. The same one outside of FOX studios as I mentioned earlier. The night before was one of debauchery with friends and family. I was out like a tequila filled oil lamp by 3am and had become a hungover, drudging monster by the next morning smelling of night sweat and beer. The whole day consisted of me leaning my body against the white board in order to give my instructions at the start of each class, followed by uncomfortable eye contact with students as I tried to keep my slinking tequila heavy headaches from making me pass out, and just sitting behind the teacher’s desk fighting the nausea. I was asked to leave early by the front office. A week letter I got a letter from Sub Pool that said the school found me unprofessional, that multiple students had complained, about what I do not know, and I was never to sub there again. I was not fired but that gentrified school on the white side of LA will never see me again. In a way I should be grateful. There would be other schools were I would be banned for trivial disputes with administration, however this is the one school where I will cop to wrongdoing. If you are responsible for more than a hundred kids a day, it is okay to have a few at the end of the work day, just make sure you know your limits. Also for the love of god, fight for tenure! Fight for yours and the tenure of others! Without it a school can decide just how expendable you are.
I’m Racist – Don’t worry, so are you to. I have seen the racism that is rampant in all of our society. I have seen the self perpetuated racism of those living within racist structures, I have seen the legitimized structures of classism intellectualized. I have seen first hand the difference in treatment between white, black, and latino immigrant heavy schools. There is not a single school with a high white population I have taught at lacking any true resources. Latino and immigrant schools can either be state of the art or a pure shit stained dog house, it depends on how good the school’s organizers are at fighting for funds. You don’t want to know what the black schools are like. But more to the point, I noticed my own behavior was different at these schools. Yes there was a more positive attitude from students in white or rich schools and as such I had less issues dealing or managing classroom behavior than I did at black schools. For the longest time I chalked this up to the attitudes black students had about their education. Then I realized I could not blame anyone for the attitude they had. I realized one day that there was a difference in how I treated my poor black students versus my rich ones of any race, though most were white needless to say. I do not know what made me realize it but I soon did realize that I was quicker to send a black girl to the office at schools in the hood with heavy security than I was a kid of any other race at schools with more equitable resources. Was it the school, my own veiled racism, the subtle prejudice that is ingrained in us all whether we are conscious of it or not? Who knows? The point is this job made me realize I was both doing racist shit, and that it was making me do that racist shit. All those FB posts and tweets that I had used to validate my leftist ego for years were now faced with the reality of their content. It is one thing to post something about racism and classism, it is a whole other thing to face it for the first time. It makes you realize just how much white skin and a white penis can get you without asking.
Sexism is rampant to!- The worst part is that it’s everywhere. Whether it is at a school in Compton where the teacher is telling her non gender conforming students to “act like a lady’ or if it is a group of rich white trust fund bros telling someone to “be a man.” Or if it is Mexican teens still using “that’s gay!” as a derogative, the wounds and realities of our fragile masculinity and sexist infrastructures run so deep that even teachers, the agents of change and new thoughts in youth, are perpetuating it. Whether they realize it or not, they are sexist, and they are keeping our sexist structures alive.
Stop Ignoring Charters – I know we are living in the age of “alternative facts” but why do we still pretend that all our kids are going to schools like we did. Some of these charter kids are grown up and in college now, but we still act like all our children are just off to another day at a quaint brick house with a multipurpose gymnasium and cafeteria. In reality they are going to office buildings, old churches, and any place else they can get squeezed in. I do not know what it will take, leftist articles and a John Oliver video have elaborated on charters to the point where almost no new info can be shared about them. Yet the public, especially establishment liberals and conservatives, act as if we are still running on the model of education espoused from President Johnson, something that is no longer true with the explosion of the charter market. These charter schools have been around long enough that they are now turning out graduates into the ranks of college students. Very soon a large body of the population of college students will have had a primary education mostly from charter schools. If we are going to keep sending our kids to charters, it is time to start talking about unions and regulations.
Warm Bodies Are All Some Schools Want – Hell maybe if I had been a careless corpse some of my days would have gone much easier. This ties into what I was saying before about regulations, in actuality I feel I was very under-qualified to work with kids when I got this job, but as I said I thought it would be like babysitting and I needed the money. I have lost count of all the schools where the kids were on the verge of a lifetime of criminalization, no teacher wanted to deal with such wounds and scars, not even one day at a time, so they bring in me. They bring in a pot smoking pro sex socialist punk rock fan with no previous experience working with children to attend to your kids.
Kids are commodities (school to prison) – We criminalize our kids to promise a consistent work force that we cash in on throughout their whole life. I know because I caught myself doing it. I cashed in on the charter explosion to pocket my $20 an hour, all at the price of your child’s humanity. There is little room for humanity in a capitalistic education system. Cash is king, and if a kid’s test scores are low he won’t yield much cash. Charters have leeway in who they let in and who they kick out, and test scores are one of the ways they keep their profit margins up. California is also one of the states that allows EMOs to operate charter schools. EMO stands for Educational Management Organization, and while charters are required to be nonprofits, EMOs which can be contracted to operate charters do not have to be. EMOS see their stockholders as the first priority, the quality of a child’s education is second only to the fact that it says they get one on the paper work. If the paperwork says they pass the tests and graduate, then business is good so who cares about anything else. Our self perpetuating prejudice, or the declining quality of education, or the exploitation of teachers, the EMO will still see a healthy margin despite any of that. And when the kid is no longer profitable after graduation it is either because they were lucky enough to make it to college or because they have finally been initiated into a life of criminalization thanks to all the armed guards they went to school with.
Teachers Need To Pee – I’m honestly amazed I never got kidney stones or an infection. My temper would often become short as I had to clench my inner groin muscles more and more with hour upon hour on some days. Between being in some classrooms 3 hours or 5 hours at a time with no breaks until lunch, I was often only given a single 20 minute window to pee on 8 hour days. This was not at every school, but it was at every school that only had one bathroom for all the teachers and did not provide subs with keys. Yes, some of these schools actually refuse to give us keys to restrooms and require you to ask the other teachers, who are also short on their allotted time to go pee. There options are usually during lunch or their prep period. May god help any teacher that does not have a prep period. Something I also learned is the less you pee the more you sweat. I remember in my youth always wondering why, especially my male teachers, always had sweaty pits. Then I became a sub. So if you ever wonder why your teacher is irritable, sweaty, or on edge for seemingly no reason, odds are they just really need to pee. So be nice to your teachers, they really need to piss.
Some listen to you, some learn from you, some laugh at you – It’s the worst when it’s a fellow adult who did it. Several students took me seriously, and most adults were professionals and grateful I was there to help keep the lesson plans moving and the peace in the classroom. But there were some who treated me as that “just a sub they thought I was. Either with passive aggression or rude enabling of dangerous students. In any case however I survived at times, dare I say it, I made a difference in a student’s life.
They Privatized Our Kids -There is no realm of education that has not been reworked to enable profiting of some kind. The standardized tests? They contract for the supplies and scoring goes to private companies. The need for campuses? Property owners and developers. The need to operate charters? EMOs step in. Teacher’s want benefits? Boom, how about a private insurance mandate instead? Oh the kids are hungry? How much is the contract for breakfast and lunch with your charter chain? There is virtually nothing that has not been left for capitalists to cash in on in the world of education, and our kids are the driving force in this market. They do not see them as citizens to be molded, but as agents of profit. They are commodities in their operation for gain. They have indeed privatized our children.
So there you have it, the short version anyway. I’m currently working on a novel about this, which will go way more in detail, be way funnier, and way more honest about my experience. Yet everything in here is the truth of my experience. From the armed security guards to my own racist bullshit, every word about what you just read is 100% true and every single off hand remark about charters cashing in on kids whether it be property owners or EMOS can all be verified by simple google searches. I opened this article with a brief yet true story that I think personifies the worst of what I both witnessed and enabled. I confessed that I acted as a cog in this capitalist wheel because I needed to eat and survive and that $20 an hour was to kushy for any millennial to pass up, especially post college. So in summary, charters are exploding, for better or worse it is happening, and I now live life knowing that I was a front row witness to the first death throes of American education.