Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blast from the Past - Teaching Edition

In my early to mid 20's I spent five years as a substitute teacher in the Pasadena Unified School District while simultaneously half-assing an "acting career," if this term can be applied to regularly waking up at ten and spending five hours sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe reading US Weekly, sipping tea made from a teabag I'd dredged from the bottom of my purse because I was too cheap/poor to buy one, while waiting for my phone to ring in hopes that it would be my agent with an elusive audition, the anticipation of which would then inevitably send me into a tailspin of crippling anxiety for several days until I'd showed up, grinned like a hyena, slated my name, done my business and the whole thing was mercifully over. To say that my temperment is unsuited for show business is an understatement - or perhaps I just didn't love "my craft" enough. Quotations are necessary because that is one of the most grating phrases that self-important aspiring superstars use when describing their careers...just ask the crew down at B&N cafe.

My mother was recently rooting through her old emails from that time, and came across the one I'd sent her below. Before forwarding to dear ol' mom for her amusement, it was originally written in a burst of creativity and sent to a writer friend in hopes of stimulating future creative pursuits and thereby relieving me from the miserable slow suffocation of artistic ability/self-esteem/faith in humanity that was my life at the time. Who knows if it worked, but I eventually started this blog, and hey, that's something.

Today my mother wrote "Thought this would amuse you - how different is your life now??"

You said it, mom.

Paige Thompson wrote:
Date: Sat, 5 Feb 2005 14:29:27 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Misadventures of a Substitute Teacher

I began thinking of the bizarre cast of characters with whom I work daily in my subbing assignments. I was in the shower at the time and it was a somewhat unsettling experience to be intensely pondering my students while sudsing up, but anyway...

Just had to jot some of this down (accountability bites!) before I completely lose concentration and go back to the Cheeto-eating, Law and Order rerun-watching, creatively void Paige.

Bizarre Security Lady---I have been working at Muir High School for almost four years and I have no idea what this woman's name is. Picture the most ancient, withered, hairless, sinewy little black woman you ever saw, with a voice that manages to be simultaneously shrill and gravelly as it crokes out over her ever-present radio (which I imagine she will be clutching until her dying breath). She for some reason adores me and I am always greeted with "Thar's mah beeYOOtifull substitoot! How you doin', hunny?" after which she clutches at me like a drowning child in a way that manages to invade my personal space while somehow remaining perfectly charming. She exists in a near-constant state of intense agitation as she hobbles around campus squawking at anything in her path. I adore her.

Tracy--Also at Muir (which, incidentally, is probably the only school in California that has been consistently written-up in various newspapers at both the state and national levels as an example of just how awful our educational system is--half the kids are from single-parent homes, one-third in foster care, and I would personally estimate about 80% crackbabies and a good 95% currently on drugs of their own choosing--though perhaps that's just horribly elitest and/or racist of me...apologies), this woman is like the Samuel L. Jackson of high school security. She is take-no-shit, all muscle, ass-kicking intense with badass braids and a perpetual look of dissatisfaction. In other words, the coolest bitch ever. She, fortunately, also has an unexplained fondness for me (or maybe just pities me--I'll take what I can get) and constantly comes to my little white-girl rescue, warning all kids in my classes that "This here's my baby--do NOT mess with my baby or else ...." She has two daughters at another school in the district and occasionally becomes strangely tender and tells me about their homework and such.

Marvin--Also security, but at Wilson Middle School. I was subbing here on my first day in this district, when students began chucking chairs across the room at each other. I called security and behold, Marvin! The most enormous, hulking black man you've ever seen, yet the words "puppy-dog" more aptly describe him than anyone I've ever known. Also teaches the afterschool music program and harbors a dream of becoming a music producer, which he has been telling me about for the past four years. He found out that I did musical theatre, I sang for him one day after class and henceforth he will speak to me of nothing else. Usually I just call him into my room to hang out and intimidate students while we secretly discuss music, movies and so forth. I suspect he secretely wants to date me and use this to my advantage for frightening children into submission.

Damn, these are just the security folks! There are far more characters I know (caucasians too, lest you think me racist..) but I just wanted to get something down. I really have no intention of actually writing a script about subbing, but I just wanted to get my creative juices a-flowin' and you are the unfortunate recipient. Enjoy.

No comments: