Thursday, May 21, 2009
I first noticed On Subbing: The First Four Years by Dave Roche back in November while browsing at a satellite Powell's store. I sort of put it in the back corner of my mind and didn't think much about it again until this past weekend. Some friends in town suggested we stop in at Microcosm, an independent publisher. Sitting outside the door waiting for me was the latest copy of On Subbing.
This book is crush inducing. Compiled from the zines that were compiled from journal entries, Dave shares with us his experiences as a sub in Portland public schools from 2000-2004. Having moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Dave decided to try out substitute teaching... except in Oregon he wasn't qualified to sub in general education classrooms. He could, however, sub as an Educational Assistant in special education rooms... so that is what he did. Through Dave's journal entries you witness his growth as an advocate for children with severe disablities and/or behavioral challenges. It's clear that Dave wants to connect with students and let them know he's an ally. Of course, Dave's punk so he does it in his own (often hilarious) way.
I loved picturing a vegan, punk, straightedge guy walking into elementary schools and sitting down to work with kindergarteners. I also loved his anecdotes about trying to convince students' he was the dad of various kids who look nothing like him, ie: African Americans. But my favorite parts were when Dave would describe how his jokes and little signs of respect really registered with the students.
Unfortunately, a lawyer for the district came across some of his zines and asserted that Dave didn't enjoy working with the students. Dave eventually moved on from Portland.
Recommendation: If you've ever subbed in any capacity, you'll love this little collection.