Laura Moss White has been an educator for over twenty-five years with fifteen of those years being spent as a substitute teacher. Subs, Laura explains, are often overworked, unsupported and underappreciated. Laura decided to use cartoon characters to tell her stories, giving her book a fun, easy-to-read and relatable quality. Anyone who tortured a substitute when they were in school, which means just about everyone, will relate to Laura’s book.
Her day-to-day real-life experiences create captivating and humorous snapshots or 'snips' into the world in which all who sub, used to sub, or want to sub can relate. As Laura says:” Hooray for substitute teachers everywhere who keep the classrooms running when the regular teachers are absent. Subs are brave and creative!”
Tell me a little about your background and what inspired you to write this book.
I am a teacher with five teaching credentials. For five years, I have been teaching Adapted Physical Education, in which I work with students with disabilities. I started out subbing while raising my children and subbed during the hard-hit times during the recession, when teachers were pink slipped every year for about 5 years. I worked as a sub for a total of fifteen years over all and had written down 60 experiences that really stood out to me. I felt the need to share them with others.
Your book is about substitute teachers, what are some myths or misconceptions you think people have about the field?
Some of the myths or misconceptions that I think people have about the field include the unfortunate second-rate citizen stigma that subs are struggling financially. For example, when I was subbing, after a long day’s work, I was walking to my car and a male teacher from the school saw me and asked how, as a sub, I could afford such a car? Another time, I was at a show with my husband wearing a very nice coat, and a male teacher with his wife saw me and asked me how I could afford the coat I was wearing? Another misconception is that most subs are the walking wounded and can’t teach full time. An example of this is when I overheard an elementary school principal tell her secretary that “… most subs are the walking wounded”. Another example is when a principal told me that “I was just a sub, and that I must be a sub for a reason, and that I must have a problem in getting a full-time job”.
Why did you decide to tell your stories using cartoon characters?
I decided to tell my stories using cartoon characters, because I wanted to express them in a fun way and make people laugh. To make lemons into lemonade.
What is something surprising you discovered about yourself while writing your book?
Something surprising I discovered about myself while writing my book is how much I love cartoons and respect cartoonists for their intelligence in the humor they create.
What challenges were there in writing this book?
The challenge that I had in writing this book was finding an illustrator to bring my experiences to life. For many years, I tried to figure out how I was going to get the cartoons drawn up. I asked both of my daughters, who are good drawers, but they were not interested. I took a cartoon drawing class at Los Angeles City College and even asked the instructor if he was interested, but he was not. Over a period of ten years, I asked many different people and tried different avenues, but nothing prevailed until last summer when I decided to try Upwork and hired a professional freelance cartoon illustrator, Caitlin Skaalrud, to do the cartoons. She was excellent.
What is a main message you hope readers take away from the book?
The main message I hope readers take away from my book is that substitute teachers are brave and underappreciated, unsupported, and are not second-rate citizens. For example, one time I had been called in late to sub at a middle school and I was walking down the hallway to get to my classroom, when I saw and heard a young sub sobbing her eyes out running toward the main office. As I passed an open-doored classroom, I saw and heard the students laughing out hysterically and one of the students said, “We got that one…” This is what subs face every day. Another situation is when I was called in to cover a high school teacher and the students were acting out by pulling the phone out of the wall, drawing phallic symbols on the walls, standing on their desks, and throwing things across the room. I called school security, who asked me, “Is this a life or death situation?” I responded, “It could be'' and that I needed him. He didn’t want to come, and it took him twenty minutes to get there and finally escorted some of the students to the office. Again, subs are brave. Probably, a worse experience that I had was when I had been called into sub at a year-round school during the hot summer for a second-grade class. I was wearing a white skirt. In the morning, the lesson plans’ instructions were to have the class paint watercolor color-wheels all day long. During the day, paint got everywhere: on their clothes, the floor, the walls, their desks, and all over the bathrooms. At the end of the day, with one of the students waiting for her mother, we were cleaning up the floor. The principal came in on a rage and demanded that I clean all the paint up and just laid into me that I was a terrible sub. Later, I found out that I had been written up and had to go downtown to the Human Resources director to defend myself. She later admitted that it was not a proper lesson to leave a sub, but I was blackballed from the school and told never to come back. This story is a good example of how subs are unsupported and deserve respect. Substitute teachers are not sub-human!
What can we expect from you next?
It is completely different. I am working on a manuscript of poetic truths titled, “Spiritually in Origin.”
For further information visit: https://lauramosswhite.wixsite.com/mysite
A Shout-Out For the Subs