Follow by Email

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hello, my name is Ms. Rios. Please, take your seats...

Yo! I apologize that I have been so MIA in the updates. I do promise to try and be better from here on.

BUT let me fill you in on why I have been so tired and distracted...

I am a substitute.

My little sister calls me a temp. I have subbed for everything from 6th grade science to high school speech. 

First of all, I owe an apology to all the subs that I had when I was a kid. I don't really remember what kind of student I was, but if I was half as annoying as these kids--- I apologize.

Regardless of the stress and anxiety that they cause me, I really enjoy my time. They shine a light in my life, in ways I didn't expect.

Most of you may know, I have accepted a position with City Year Cleveland for this next school year. I will be placed in an inner-city school to help turn around high-need schools and get students back on track to graduation.

Why would someone with a BA in International Relations do something like that, you ask? 

Up until a few weeks ago I didn't know the answer to this. Well let me tell you a story…

I have this student and for the sake of confidentiality we'll call him Alex.

Alex was one of THOSE kids. He was the kid that gives the sub a hard time, always talking, interrupting, obnoxious AND of course spittin' rhymes.

At first it was just funny, but after awhile it was just frustrating. I was doing that thing you're not supposed to do---taking it personally.

Well, one lunch period Alex just happened to stroll into my class. A few of the boys and I were in the middle of a serious debate, talking stats and seeds (NBA). 20 minutes later it was almost time for Alex to move on to his class.

When it's just he and I left, I said "Alex, why do you make my life so difficult". With a laugh, he says "Ms. Rios, I make YOUR life easy. I make my teachers' lives difficult".

"Oh, no. Honey, you make my job difficult. And on top of everything else, you're keeping other students from learning. That's not OK with me. So I need you to tell me why."

"I don't know why. I just do. I don't need school anyway. I just want to play football."

"Do you think you will get to play college ball with an attitude like this and grades like these?"

"But school's hard. Those words and stuff…I don't get it sometimes, and I get mad."

"Do you know that you are smart? Those jokes and rhymes, only people who know how to think can do that. Let me be real with you, no one is going to want you to play ball for them. Not with an attitude like that and grades like these. You're messing this up. This, right now that you are young, is your chance. All this you have going on is not cute at 27. If lessons are too hard then go get help. I will help you. I'll even buy you a dictionary. I care about you. I want you to learn. I want you to leave this place and show people "I am something". And you can. You really can. But you need to take this seriously."

"You think I can go to college?"

"I know you can. Without a doubt. I believe in you."



"I don't think so. My own mama don't think so."

"You don't know that."

"I do, baby. And if you stick around long enough I can tell you all about it."

"OK, Ms. Rios. I like that you talk to me like this. I don't mean to be so rude. I'll work. I will. I'm gonna find you to help me, Cool?"

"Sounds like a plan to me."

Shaking his head in agreement, Alex grabbed his comic book back pack and headed to the door. He paused for a moment and then turned around and asked me in the sincerest voice 

"Ms. Rios… Why do you care?"

And there it was. It was a sign that I didn’t know I had been waiting for. I have felt lost and confused,  as if City Year was something that I wasn't supposed to pursue. Nevertheless, this hit me like a splash of water to the face--- sharp and real.

I do a lot of things that don't make sense. My parents and friends have all expressed a deep belief that I should just be in law school, if not right now, soon.

But that's just not me right now. I have things that I want to do first.  All I want in life is to end up in a job or a place in life that I am happy with.

For the first time in a long time I felt it, that thing that I had been missing---passion. I won't always do things that make sense, but I pray that I do them because it is the right thing to do.

In doing so, this will lead me to where I am supposed to be.

Without hesitation, I looked at Alex and simply said "Because I do."

And that was sufficient. "Bet. We friends now Ms. Rios"

By the time his hour rolled around, Alex was starting the class for me. He was handing out the worksheets and telling everyone to be quiet so that I could take roll. The coolest thing was that he sat at my desk and did every single assignment that he had missed for the week. He said "I can't believe I understand this sh*t. Now that's crazy!"

All of Alex's teacher have noticed such a change in him, and I can't seem to get rid of him. As soon as he is done with his work in his regular class, I can usually expect a call asking if he is allowed to come and hang out in my class.

I love it.

A few weeks ago Alex was arrested. It was for a gang related offense that happened earlier in the year. The day he got back, he came looking for me "Ms. Rios, I promise that what they talkin bout happened a long time ago. That's not me, not now. I wouldn't do that to you"

"It's not about me, sir. It's about you. And I know. It's OK. I trust you"

"Good, cause I'm in this now. I gots goals!"

He went right back to working. Didn't even miss a beat.

Substituting has taught me so much more than I could have expected. Most of which is that we do owe our teachers, a hug and a hand. They work long hard hours and deal with so much. Thank you for all you do.

What else has subbing taught me?

Well, I had forgotten how much I love using the phrase "a minute" (which is slang for a very long time) and that it's so great ending every agreement with "bet". Truly, it should be a must.

In the eyes of my students I am either really old or really young. Quoted questions: "Dang, you Josh's momma?" (my little brother is 13), "Are you 40?" "Why do high school students get to sub" "I'm 17 so how you gon' tell me what to do when you is only 2 years older?"

You get a lot of compliments when you're new. "Oh my gawwwd, she's so pretty". "We got a substitute, and she look good! Not like those old ladies. Das what I'm talkin 'bout!"

You know that you are growing up and not cool when you have to ask what slang actually means.

Crispy derived from the crispiness of friend chicken (the crispier the better), is used to refer to something cool or good. As in "that song was too crispy"

Heat 'em used in South Centrals song "Servin 'Em Heat". Can be used to say you're going to either shoot someone or beat someone up "Man dey too lucky we didn't heat 'em" OR "DUDE, you gon' get heat".

I thank my dad for influencing me with the love of NBA basketball. Knowing stats, players and essentials gets you double cool points and mad respect. However, mentioning that you're in love with Blake Griffin does not (I learned that the hard way).

Being a substitute means that you have approximately 45 minutes to learn the lessons for the day and to become an expert. I pray that they never ask me questions any deeper than the assignment, because really all I know about symbiosis and ecological transitions is from the answer key.

Candy wins them over only MOST of the time.

My newspaper kids asked me to further explain personification to them. Even though I told them that this didn't mean that the door would actually speak that didn't stop them from coming up with what it would say. For example "OMG. I hope you washed those hands" "Boy! Pick up those pants, before you walk in this class" "Have you ever heard of lotion, dust bunny?"

It seems to me that finding a perfect job is like finding a soul mate. You know it's out there, waiting. You just have to date around first to find it. So as I go through all these little experiences, I secretly create a list of careers I could potentially like. (You can erase 6th grade science teacher and middle school PE coach off the list. Def not cut out for that.)

So the big question is probably about if I have lost any weight or not.

I set a goal to run the Cleveland OROC (Out Run Ovarian Cancer) 5K in August. I don't just want to do it. I want to RUN it (and in good time).

Well, I had a minor setback. I have a soccer injury from years ago in which I was told I would never be able to run. I do not believe that. 

I let that fear stop me so many times before, not this time. 

I have a pain in my knee, and it hurts to lift my leg straight. So I have laid off of the running, and it has kept me from exercising, for the most part. If it doesn't get better I will go see the doctor, but for now I am resting it up. I don't want to push too hard. I have kept with the fast and will see how this helps.

So all in all, I can't attack this plateau like I would like.

But give me two weeks and you WILL see me out there again.

Current weight: 206 lbs
Workout song: Adele, Rumor Has It


  1. Beautiful post! I think the biggest misconception about graduating college is that you have to have it all figured out by age 22. Not true. Take your time - life is long!

  2. Yes. Great post. Glad to know what you are doing these days. Also, best pick ever for workout song. Adore Adele.

  3. Thanks, Katie! I did start to overwhelm myself at first, but you're so right!!!

    Jessie, I LOVE Adele! :)