When you’re a sub, some students will assume you’re an idiot and will therefore try to test how far they could go with their antics before you realize they’re making a fool out of you.
Cerritos is known for housing the best of the best students: one of the high schools, Whitney High, is one that students can only test into. Nevertheless, some students have their moments.
One afternoon, I was covering an English teacher’s last period and the assignment was for the students to read an excerpt from a novel and then answer a series of comprehension questions. However, the vibe of the classroom was off, and I had the unsettling feeling that there was something the students knew about that I didn’t. I took roll, and when one student was called everyone burst into laughter after he said, “present.” I took one look at the student and had the strange suspicion that he was not who claimed to be. Further, the name he decided to take up didn’t match his appearance at all. Let’s rename our characters and say that said student was claiming his name was Adam Wang.
Now, it’s not uncommon for students to learn that there’s a sub in a class and try to ditch their own to hang out in the sub’s classroom with their friends. We’ve all done that, I’m sure. In fact, at Banning, students would go out of their way to sneak into my classroom and try to be as low-key as possible, hoods on and heads down or huddled between two students in the back of the classroom before I discovered them and kicked them out. But it’s a little different when you’ve only been subbing for a week and are swiftly realizing that the kids are trying to figure out how far they can go with you.
So, I took a stoic mental note of this situation and decided to let it unfold. And then, an idea came to me.
“All right, class, we are all going to read a paragraph of this story when your name is called.”
As each student took a turn reading, I crossed their name off of my roster. Once I finished with all the students on the roster, I noticed that there was only one student left, Mr. Adam Wang. I called on him and since he was having trouble staying in his seat and seemed to enjoy the attention of the entire class, I asked him to come to the front of the room. “Mr. Wang, how about you read the passage in front of the class?” Reluctantly, he stepped forward with the novel in his hands and began to read. I began slowly moving towards the classroom telephone, as he stood anxiously reading and occasionally looking over at me. I was in the middle of the call and in a hushed town, asked for security to come to the classroom immediately. He finished his paragraph and I jovially encouraged him, “Oh, go ahead, keep going!”
It was as he eloquently read that second paragraph that security came into the classroom, took one look at him, and exclaimed, “Juan! What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in class! Come on, let’s go!”
The entire classroom burst into laughter again as he put down the novel and sheepishly sulked over to the female security guard that surely must have reminded him of his mother.
I triumphantly smiled and waved at him as he left and then smugly turned to my class, asking, “Where were we?”
Students will also sometimes retaliate or “test the waters” when a sub comes in because they’re simply not what they’re accustomed to, especially autistic children.
I remember once, I was assigned to sub a special education class at Leal Elementary, the school that my daughter now attends. Having never really had experience with special ed students apart from what I learned while observing my brother Benji, I was a little nervous, and decided to focus on observing and providing assistance to the aides, who seemed to know exactly what to do and how the class was meant to be run.
Unfortunately, one of the students wasn’t happy about the regular teacher not being there. For those of who who aren’t aware, many special needs students, especially autistic ones, respond pretty negatively to changes in routine, where even one changed even can create a domino effect on the outcome of the overall day. In this case, the student was a female 3rd grade special ed child who was not only upset that the teacher wasn’t there, but also upset that another student had a Disney Princess book that personally belonged to her and that she was not interested in sharing with her. Let’s call the special ed student Lakshmi. The book was based on Beauty and the Beast, which I learned was Lakshmi’s favorite Disney movie, but the book belonged to another student named Jocelyn. So when the teacher’s aides and I gave the book back to Jocelyn, Lakshmi threw a HUGE tantrum. We had no idea that a 3rd grader had enough strength to knock down several desks, chairs and to even push certain teachers. We had to hold her down in order for her to be calm and not continue destroying the classroom. Then, I had an idea. I went up really close to her, crouched to her level and began singing Beauty and the Beast to her. At this, she began to calm down instead of continuing to fling her hands out in an attempt to hurt us. I repeated the song until I felt that she was calm enough to be released.
A lot of what subbing, and life in general is about is learning to do what you can with what you have, where you are. Creative resourcefulness is a must. But this isn’t just something that can be applied in the classroom. Many times, I have had to do this with my music career, too.
When I graduated from UCLA, I owned a desktop computer that I’d had since I was living at my house in Norwalk. I decided to take the desktop with me to UCLA and I was pretty much one of the only students that used a desktop instead of a laptop. By the time I had graduated, the desktop had become obsolete, but I never really used it because UCLA’s libraries were practically littered with computers for me to use any time I needed them. By the time I graduated and was interested in seriously working on music, I was borrowing my cousin Jen’s computer while she wasn’t using it to access all sorts of things on social media, which had recently become the newest way to market my talent.
Just a quick reminder: The Internet was invented when I was a kid. Before Tumblr, I used to write blogs on Xanga. Before Facebook, I used to update my status on Myspace. And back when I was in college, I was privileged to use Facebook since back then it was only available to college students. In fact, I was one of many people who learned how to share their music with social media using a Myspace Music account. So it was a big thing for me to suddenly go from not needing a computer except to complete academic assignments to suddenly having a computer or a smart phone be THE RESOURCE for helping myself get ahead professionally.
This is where my subbing job comes in. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t really posting my music up because when I was in high school, the only real way to market yourself was by getting signed and having a higher power like a label market you. But then, on my senior year of college, I met a girl named Vida Jafari in one of my women’s studies classes. The moment I laid eyes on her, I was instantly attracted. She had an undeniably magnetic vibe and I knew that I needed to make contact with her because she was going to change my life forever. Sure enough, after lecture was over I decided to come up to her an interact in the only way I knew how: paying a compliment.
I complimented her on her Japanese tattoo on her arm and that’s when she told me that she was half Japanese, half Persian. Then, she told me she was a singer. That’s when I told her that I sang, too.
At this time, what me being a “singer” meant was singing for fun since I was a little girl, doing the ocassional talent show at school, taking voice lessons from my high school choir teacher, trying out for UCLA’s music program and getting rejected so deciding to turn to pop and r&b music instead, recording some music for the first time with a couple of guys who worked with my dad and were in the music industry before deciding to ditch them for a guy who I decided to mix business and pleasure with and then ditching him, getting pregnant, almost giving up on music due to depression and the decision to break up with my daughter’s father/music producer, and then taking a year to finally go to Guitar Center and invest in a small studio setup in my living room that I experimented with and even posted a couple of items from on Myspace Music.
She asked me, “Do you have a Soundcloud?”
I looked at her with deer-in-headlight eyes.
“Umm, what’s a Soundcloud?”
She explained that Soundcloud was a website where independent artists posted their music and shared it with people all over the world. She advised me to post my music up there, and that’s what I did.
My first Soundcloud entry was posted 8 years ago. It’s not even a public entry anymore, and it’s a song about my baby daddy that I co-produced with one of his former friends whom, with his team of co-producers and artists, decided to help me with my musical career out of respect for my decision to leave him (they sided with me on this and no longer associated with him for their own reasons) and out of a true faith in me and my talents, especially with my desires to sing even after becoming a young mother.
Flash forward to me getting signed with Metta World Peace, recording a few songs with him and his team, failing to step up to the plate as an artist and suffering a family tragedy that shut me down professionally and personally. I had to become extra resourceful at this point. I realized that nothing was going to be handed to me…that I had to think and think fast if I wanted to get ahead in anything and truly succeed.
So, as soon as I had enough good standing as a substitute teacher, and made enough positive contacts who truly wanted to help me, a colleage told me about SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and suggested I open an account with them because they awarded teachers extremely low interest computer loans.
And in a heartbeat, I went to the credit union, and the laptop that I am currently using is a Macbook Pro that I bought with TEACHER MONEY to help myself make MUSIC money.
With that laptop, I was able to market my music, keep up with my duties as a sub, and so many more things to get ahead as an artist and help myself move forward with my dreams.
Because the objective was never to become a teacher…Being a teacher was a means to an end. The objective is still the same: make music full time.
So, if there’s anything that I can tell my students about fulfilling their dreams at this point, it’s this: Don’t give up, do what you can with what you have, where you are, and don’t be afraid to change things up when you need to, but also don’t forget about helping the people that help you.
One of my biggest flaws on my journey has been my inconsistency and my lack of loyalty. I promise, students…there will always be someone out there rooting for you and wishing to assist you with serving your purpose, but you also have to be inclined to serve them and to serve others as a way of paying it forward. I guess that’s why I stay committed to working in the classroom. I know that I am blessed, and I want to continue being a blessing to others, especially to make up for the ways that I was too ignorant to see that I was sabotaging all of the ways that I was being assisted by the universe in the form of real people truly wishing to help me get ahead. To all of those who tried to help me while I had my head stuck far up my ass with emotional issues and bad habits…I’m sorry, I love you, I acknowledge you, and I am doing everything I can now to make it right so I can be a blessing to you and others like you in the now.
Until next time <3