Finding the good and the humor in “the process” is probably the best thing you could possibly do to get through. Some moments may be harder than other moments but I can reassure you that it’s totally worth it.
I graduated from THE ILLUSTRIOUS HOWARD UNIVERSITY in May of 2017 and Columbia University with my Master’s in May of 2018. In August of 2018, I had fully completed the HBCU Fellowship at Columbia. That sounds great but I had no job. After my year of getting it out the mud, not only with school but also my break into the real fashion industry, I did NOT want to come home. Afraid of the unknown and the appearance of failure, I chose to couch hop for a good week and a half until finally, all I could do was go home. That was at the end of August. I didn’t want to lose the momentum of the big city to fall back to the reality of Tampa, FL. Coming back was slowing down the process of making it for myself and my family. So my mama’s words were “Evan, give yourself a year. You’ve been going hard for five years straight. You’ve got 2 degrees. You’ve done good. Now see what it is that you want to do, be it, creatively or overall career wise. But in the mean time, substitute because it’s easy money and gives you the freedom you need right now for your schedule.”
My first thought was “Karma is a motherfucking bitch. I should’ve been nicer to all the subs back in the day. Now I’m being reincarnated as a sub for the transgressions of me and my peers!” But I said fuck it. I humbled myself and was hired by Kelly Services. I must say this job has been the longest job I’ve ever had and also rewarding at times. And no, I’m not going to be Ms. L the sub or Ms. L Smiley face, as some of my elementary students call me, forever. But in the meantime, here are some of my funny and memorable moments that make it worth it.
For my first day of subbing, I chose to go to the school right across the street from my house –which was my first wrong decision. I live in the hood so YAKWTFGO. I got there at 6:50am because school started at 7:10am. New wig on my head, badge on my chest and a nicely beat face, little did I know.
I checked in to cover a 3rd grade class. I’m in the office waiting for the ladies to tell me where I go. Finally, they tell me the location and I start walking there with this semi-hesitant glide. As soon as I approach the classroom door, I am accosted by the neighboring teacher. There was the look of fear in his eyes, not for himself but for me. These are his words, “ARE YOU THE SUB?!” With slight confusion I say “Yes, I am…” He says, “I AM MR. (whatever his name was.) DON’T LET THEM SEE YOU SMILE. THEY WILL TAKE THAT AS A WEAKNESS AND EAT YOU ALIVE. MOST SUBS NEVER COME BACK.” I’m thinking in my head, “Sir, I will pack my sh*t right now. You say the word and I’m gone…. Actually, No Evan. You ain’t no b*tch.” So I say to him, “Ok it’s all good. I won’t smile. I live near here, so I know what’s up. I got this.” We went over what I needed to do, the order of schedule and curriculum. He bids me farewell and I prepare for war.
The first student comes in with the meanest mug I’ve ever seen from a child that age.
Then I hear these final words, “MAN WE GOT A SUBSTITUTE.” So I’m standing strong, mugging back with a smile but still a mug.
So finally we get settled in and sit on the carpet. I hear “So Miss, that’s your real hair???” I’m like “Why?” The response is “Because black people can’t have hair like that.” I was wearing a curly afro…So I immediately go into super black “Black people can have all types of beautiful hair.” Knowing damn well, I bought that wig from the hair store I would later see one of the students from that class at. But my next fear was, it being snatched. I am a bald baddie under my wigs, so all it would’ve taken was a slight tug for it to come off. I held my composure and redirected the conversation. We make up hand shakes and it seems like everything is going good.
Suddenly, one person hits another and then the next and now I have 3 small children throwing actual hands. One of the main things we are told is not to intervene. But I’m not about to let these babies fight each other. To this day, I’m not sure how I broke it up, held two kids, called the office, and kept my wig on. By the end, one of the children handed me back one of my shoes. For the rest of the day, I spent counting the ticks on the clock. In relation to where I live, I could see my house a couple of yards from the gate. For the cherry on top, THE POWER WENT OUT IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL FROM LUNCH UNTIL SCHOOL WAS OVER. I wanted to escape so bad.
That was my last day at that school. #YALLWON.
I was subbing a Kindergarten class at another “urban” school. I was still struggling and my iPhone had broken before I came home. This was a couple of weeks before Metro PCS had an iPhone upgrade plan. Since college, I had bought all of my iPhones out of pocket. In the meantime, my mom got me a BLU phone, which I was super grateful for. But at the same time, that phone was so big I couldn’t fit it into my satchel. It also had a ringtone that sounded like a house phone and I had trouble working it. But anyways, I was using it at the end of the day in the classroom. There were students waiting to be taken to after school care and this lil girl says to me “Oh you got one of them Hello Moto phones.” I wanted to come at her woman to woman but she was only five. Let’s just say because of a five year old and my need to have an iPhone before Homecoming, I transferred to T-Mobile for an iPhone shortly after that.
A kindergartener who, in the same breath cried when he had to say his name for the class, stood up on a chair at the end of the day to square up with me. To this day, I still have no idea why he did that.
I had a kid in this 6th grade class who told me the names of students who were showing out. It’s funny because looking back on it he looked Johnny Test with his sister’s square glasses on. “Oh that’s ______, he usually acts up when the teacher is here too. Do you need their last names? I know those too. You just let me know, ok? I can also write a list. Also, I must say your hair is awesome.” I know he’s going to grow up to be a private investigator because lil dude had skills.
One day I wore my Howard Crew Neck, cargos and sneakers to this elementary school I was working at. I thought I looked comfy, cozy. The students thought otherwise. I heard this little girl tell her friend “So why does she look like the coach?” She said this fully knowing that I was in the place of one of the reading/math specialists. I quickly swished past them in my swishy coach pants. Shame.
These seventh grade students were huddled in a circle whispering about my hair being real. (the Afro gave me more problems than I asked for) They sent a representative over to ask me, my response was “Don’t y’all need math help? Shouldn’t you be focusing on that?” One boy says “I bet I’ll go snatch it off and run around like Wild N Out.” I told him “You’ll be right down there in that office.” Let’s just say I walked through the hallways holding the side of my wig for the rest of the day.
An adorable, chubby 3rd grade girl came up to me and told me what her mom packed her for lunch. She also proceeded to have a full blown lecture about how much she liked hot pockets. Soon after, she got into it with one of her classmates. (I’m not sure why) But she held her own and then told me, “Ms. L! He called me a LUNCHBOX!” She shrugged it off and skipped away. About five minutes later, she came back asking when lunch was. I pray to have her level of confidence.
The high school that I was at had a lockdown drill but they did not give me a key. They tell you to lock the class, close the blinds and be quiet. So I turn off the lights, close the blinds and stand at the door to hold it because they usually just jiggle it. I feel the jiggle but I also feel a YANK. So we yank back and forth for a good 5 seconds. Why did one of the Assistant Principles bust in the class looking exactly like the Big Show?
I mean, it seemed like he pulled the door so hard that I almost flew out of the classroom. He was a 6’5ft, bald, scary white man. He completely ignored me, walked in like he was reenacting a school shooter scene. Counted the kids like “We got about 25 students in here” and leaves. I’m looking at him like this:
The whole time in disgust. Not once, did he acknowledge me. The kids were like “Yeah, He’s weird.” One girl was like “Miss, honestly I thought y’all were about to fight.” Um girl hell naw, not if I didn’t want to be carried out in a full body cast FYM. But honestly, I think he did that because he thought there was no teacher in the room. Sigh.
*Wears eyelashes for the first time to school* “Ms. L, why are your eyebrows so long????”
I have pretty much been turned away from teachers’ lounges and directed to the student microwaves at high schools because the administration thought that I was a student. I’ve been told to wait outside because the teacher was not there. One time this guidance counselor had a full conversation with a student who she thought was the teacher. This is only until I said for the second time that I was the sub. Then she told me about a time where she was at an asylum and they thought she was a patient and locked her in until convinced otherwise. Super weird. And now that I think about it, I’ve seen a movie like that before. But this happens at every high school that I go to. Black don’t crack, I guess?
One of the most precious times was when I tutoring this little girl in math. She was in second grade and also white. She asked me confidently “Do you have kids? You seem like you’re a good mom.” I chuckled, “No I don’t have kids.” Then she asks if I have a boyfriend. I’m like “Girl if only you knew. Winters are real cold without a man. It’s been so damn long.” Just kidding, I didn’t say that. I just said no. Then she says “Well I want to be your daughter. I enjoyed this and look forward to our next math session.” I cried after that. Kids can be so precious at times.
High School can either be super chill or super annoying. I had a young man walk up to me and say “OH WE GOT A SUB, SUB?” I ask him “What do you mean?” All he said was “Oh nah, nothing….can I get a pass to the office?” I gave it to him. I never saw that young man again. Maybe I am a “Sub Sub”…
One time I had one of my cousins from my grandma’s side in my class. It was awkward and I could tell he was uncomfortable. Another day, I saw him booed up with his girlfriend in a cut with a wifebeater tank on. I kept walking. Also my cousin’s little sister was in my class the other day. Again, it was awkward. My feelings were hurt. Am I a grown uncool, big cousin? Is it the wig? I need answers.
I had a math session with these two little boys who had given me hell on my first day at that school but ended up being my math buddies. This particular day, they were working on dividing fractions and drawing diagrams. And let me just put this disclaimer out, I have been finessing my way through math since 6th grade in Mr. Sutton’s class. I made a conscious decision to make it by any means necessary. Long story short, I made them figure it out and teach each other. When their teacher came over she told them all the problems were wrong and I blamed them. 💀
I subbed for a Veterinary assistant class. For the very first time in my life, I held a bearded dragon, two snakes, a gecko, a rabbit, birds and pet a chinchilla. Honestly, call me Mother Nature because sweetheart animals love me. Except for the Chinchilla and the rabbit, they had anxiety.
Student barber: “I don’t know who you think you cussing at but I will put a bald spot in your head.”
Boy who’s hair is being cut: “And I will put a bald spot in yo ass!”
The boys hairline ended up looking like it was cut with a dull blade. I left that period crying my eyes out from laughter. They also told me that my bob wig was a mushroom…
All in all, working with kids has taught me a lot. They teach you that life is too short to hold on to grudges. No matter how much you fall, you get up and keep running. We are not innately born to hate each other but these are things engrained in us as children. Also, work in a place where the people are excited to see you and interact with you everyday. Lastly, smile, laugh and love like it’s going out of style.
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