So, you must be wondering about my first day ever as a substitute teacher.
Well, my first assignment was on March 8th, 2013, over 5 years ago, subbing for a Spanish class at Cerritos High School.
I remember back then that I was really into dresses, and so I wore one of my many “teacher dresses,” as my ex Jeremy liked to call them, along with a cardigan and some flats. This particular “teacher dress” was a black polkadot that I bought at Target on Valentine’s Day earlier that year, and I wore black panty hose with it.
The classroom was decorated with several Mexican elements included colorful paper cutouts and posters showing different forms of Spanish dialogue.
I arrived early, and put this on the board:
(PS I’m fluent in Spanish)
1) You will need your workbooks today!
2) We are on assembly schedule
Then, I introduced myself. I told them all that it was my first day subbing, that I was from Norwalk, had graduated from UCLA and was a singer. At this last detail, the kids were really excited. They asked if I would be willing to sing for them. I told them that I would be happy to do that, on the condition that they ALL finished their work before I did. At this, all of the students got to work and lo and behold, they all finished their assignment long before the bell rang and I was able to share my voice with them.
At the end of the period, I realized, “hmm…I’m onto something. I can use my singing as an incentive for the kids to do their work, and not only would they stay on track and make me look great with the teachers and the school, but I would also be sharing my gift with them…”
And that was the beginning of the Singing Sub.
“The Singing Sub” was not my invention at all. This is what the students at Cerritos High began to call me, and as I branched out to other schools and more kids heard me singing, my reputation grew, and the name stuck.
If I introduced myself into a new classroom, and wrote my name down, they would immediately ask, “are you the Singing Sub?” and grow delighted as soon as I confirmed their suspicions. I would go out of my way to learn popular songs that they enjoyed and sing them at the end of class, closing the doors before beginning so that I wouldn’t interrupt others classes.
It didn’t hurt that I truly knew what I was doing in the classroom. The teachers appreciated this about me even more, particularly the Spanish teachers who learned I was fluent and felt relieved that they could count on a sub to give their regular lesson plans to instead of a boring old movie assignment.
You see, it is a Universally Known stereotype that substitute teachers are morons, or are lazy.
I don’t blame teachers for feeling this way about us. I’ve had my share of subs with less-than-average intellect in my life.
Exhibit A: Kindergarten. The sub was an old Asian lady who couldn’t tell between right and left, and I volunteered to run the class routine, from the alphabet song and carpet time to different stations until an administrator came and noticed that a 5-year-old was making up for a grown woman’s incompetence.
5th grade. The sub was a young Asian lady who basically let the class go nuts. We turned on the boombox, had a dance party, and there was even a student who volunteered to rub her shoulders AND SHE LET HIM. It was wild. No one did anything productive that day except talk to the sub.
However, before I began subbing, I took my job very seriously. I wanted to know everything that I needed to do to make myself the best. I asked former teachers for advice and a followed the lesson plans provided to the t. I made sure to greet my students at the door instead of waiting inside. I wrote plans on the board if they weren’t written down already. I walked around and ensured that the kids were working, and if they were I would bring a book to read or my diary to write in while monitoring their progress. I engaged with them as much as possible and no matter what the assignment was, I learned as quickly as I could so I could more efficiently teach the subject to the kids.
Before long, my kids were saying, “Ms., why don’t you have a YouTube channel? You need to be famous. We’re gonna make you famous!”
At this point in time, I had barely moved out of my Aunt Jenny’s house and rented a room out in Norwalk. It took me 5 months to finally sleep in a bed instead of the inflatable mattress I had been in during October and the dingy old mattress Cam and I shared on the floor of my cousin Jen’s bedroom from November to February. I was still establishing myself.
I didn’t even have a computer or Internet at my house. I was so poor that my first video on my official YouTube channel was done inside of a classroom, after school with my students cheering me on. It was my STUDENTS who helped me create my first YouTube channel, and my students who encouraged me to create Rain Bisou.
On October 29th, after school while serving my first long-term assignment subbing for a Spanish teacher on maternity leave, I uploaded an acapella cover of Royals by Lorde. I was wearing an old silk shirt I bought at Target, a tamhat I had bought in Venice beach on a date with Jeremy once, an old green cardigan I found at the Lost and Found and filched from Macaroni Grill ( I was still there working as a singer and host, my hair was down and wild, my bangs were too long and I wore no makeup.
The video is still up on YouTube, the first of 18 on my official channel, and of hundreds thereafter uploaded by my fans, different venues that I have worked with and clients that I have collaborated with. It all started with a cover in a classroom with my students as my audience.
Rain Bisou was actually an idea I conceived while being signed AMG, a media group founded by Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest. Yes, the NBA player currently signed to the Lakers. I met him while hanging out with one of my friends at a Lady Gaga concert after party at the Conga Room next to Staples Center. It was weird how it all happened, actually…all the events that led up to meeting him and ending up at his studio/loft on Cahuenga Blvd.
I was still attending UCLA, completing my senior year. My daughter was nearly two years old. I had set up a home studio recently at my house but was mainly focused on completing my education.
So it was a strange coincidence that my friend would invite me to a concert, and then we would get additional concert tickets, and then those tickets would lead us to this party with Ron Artest sitting in the VIP and his producer, Quoc Truong, looking down at me and Marci from the floor of the venue.
He would eventually become my producer, and Ron would become my consultant, and that studio would become my studio, and then I would eventually sing the National Anthem at Staples Center for a Laker game, and then it would all come crashing down due to my own irresponsibility, lack of focus, motivation, planning and dovetailing with my brother’s murder.
Essentially, my getting inspired by my students to rebrand myself as Rain Bisou, create a YouTube channel, a Twitter handle, and create a new Instagram were all the first moves for me to officially decide to go on a path as a creator, with my own decision-making power and my own divine inspiration.
No longer was I relying on someone to rescue me and make all of my career decisions for me. I was going to do it myself and find a way, using the resources that I had at the time, to make it happen.
I remember my first vision as Rain Bisou was to make a bunch of EDM and for Rain to be a highly sensual, goddess figure. So I created Rain as an alter ego for the real me, Rina Cervantes.
Some people didn’t like it. One guy even told me that my name sounded like some stripper or porn star nickname. But I stuck to it. I decided on it, and it’s been my stage name ever since.
I used the social media marketing skills that I had acquired as an intern at Ms. Magazine (this is where I was working before I got signed) to create my new brand and started monitoring it daily for followers. Little by little my audience grew.
Today, my Instagram audience is 15k, I have almost 400 subscribers on YouTube and I have over 5 thousand followers on Facebook and Twitter. All from one idea that I decided to stick to.
And honestly, I haven’t even been going as hard as I really should be.
It’s not easy working as a sub during the day and trying to focus on being a good mom as well as a consistent artist.
This is something that I discovered shortly after acquiring the long-term assignment.
I discovered that if I was to really be amazing at subbing, singing AND being a good mommy to my daughter, I really needed to focus, plan and develop strong daily habits.
I was NOT, I repeat NOT good at setting up positive daily habits at this time, and unfortunately I burned a bridge with the teacher that offered me this long-term assignment in the long run.
How do you balance?
You MUST make a plan. You must create lists. You must stick to the plan. You can’t let anything deviate you. It can’t just be a desire, a wish, a pipe dream. You gotta find a way to visualize it, set up a plan and execute it to the smallest detail.
Of course, I didn’t do that. I couldn’t! I did not have the tools I have now.
And when it came time to put grades in is when I realized how royally I’d screwed up.