Remember Those Days
As a part-time substitute teacher, each working day should be hell for me. At least, that's how I remember how we used to treat subs. We'd take complete advantage in every way possible, disrespect their authority without reason, and generally do things that would drive just about any teacher fucking nuts. Or maybe that was just me and a handful of other hooligans. When our regular teachers returned, any negative notes the sub wrote down, as a group we'd try to convince our teacher the sub was nuts, or had it out for us. We were full of it though. You remember those days?
As a part-time substitute teacher who plays football professionally in Canada, working days are usually relatively easy and uneventful. I'm not teaching in LA - I'm in rural Washington. Kids are generally respectful, I've never had to break up a fight, I've never been cussed out, and kids enjoy the fact that I play football. As a 26 year old, I'm still somewhat close to the high schoolers in age, so I can relate to them a little more, even if I hate their taste in music and their OBSESSION with social media. I know that I have a bit more of a platform than your average teacher, let alone your average substitute, so when the opportunity arose to be a sub in one high school science class for more than a week, I wanted to do more than babysit these kids, hand out worksheets, and make sure they stayed relatively alive and breathing. I wanted to connect with them, stir something in them, even if it was just one student. Because I can still remember what it's like to be a teenager. You remember those days?
The day I decided to stop going through the motions and strictly following the guidelines left for me, I decided on a question to pose to these classes: What is something you are absolutely passionate about and what lead you to it? I understand that as most of my classes were 14-15 year olds, many of them don't understand yet what passion is, but I wanted to get them thinking about it. I shared my story - I'm pretty confident in my speaking skills - about how getting released from the NFL and subsequently visiting my friend in Asia to travel had awakened my passion for jetsetting and exploration. This was my third day with these classes, and they'd never been more silent and attentive as I conveyed the disappointment of my failures in St. Lous and San Francisco, as well as the euphoria that my trip to Asia had awoken within me. That intial brush with true passion. You remember those days?
At the conclusion of my story, I opened the floor for their own respective answers and/or questions. After a few answers, J. Roe (can't give out her actual name) raised her hand. She had never spoken up before, so I had no idea who she was. When she told the class that her passion was poetry, however, that struck a chord with me. I have been writing poetry/hip-hop since I was 14 - right around her age. So when told me she had written poetry and wanted to try to get published, but when she had asked for help before, no one helped her, of course this resonated with me, because I've been there. A teenager in a place where you feel no one can relate and when you summon the courage to ask for help, it feels like no one will answer that call. You remember those days?
I told JR I would help her get published if she brought me her work, which she did the very next day, hand-written. I hope she continues to hone her writing skills and fine-tune her passion, as my wish for her is that it continues to make her feel alive. The following piece, entitled 1 AM, is by J. Roe:
The things in my head
Worse than city traffic
So loud, there's nowhere to go
I just want a hand to help me cross the street
Or a shining exit sign to guide me home
The things in my heart
Remind me of stones in my pockets
Feet edging toward the shore
Weighing me down but screaming
That I won't sink if I can just
- J. Roe
Yeah. I remember those days.