A substitute teacher brings joy and relatability in a tumultuous time : NPR

Cisco Fernandez, of Phoenix, Ariz., shares what it has been like for him to work instead trainer in the course of the omicron wave for our collection “Outbreak Voices.”


Cisco Fernandez is aware of tips on how to assist grade college college students perk up on the finish of a faculty day.


CAROLINA GAITAN: (As Pepa, singing) He floods my mind.

MAURO CASTILLO: (As Felix, singing) Abuela, get the umbrellas.

GAITAN: (As Pepa, singing) Married in a hurricane.

CISCO FERNANDEZ: All of them love “Encanto.” Like, they love that music, “We Do not Discuss About Bruno.”


CAROLINA GAITAN AND MAURO CASTILLO: (As Pepa and Felix, singing) We do not discuss Bruno, no, no, no. We do not discuss Bruno.

SIMON: Properly, we’re not speaking about Bruno, however about Cisco Fernandez, a first-time substitute trainer in school rooms round Phoenix, Ariz.

FERNANDEZ: I’ve at all times like to provide again in some way, and I really feel like instructing is me giving again proper now.

SIMON: Cisco Fernandez desires to be an actor. He was on the lookout for versatile work choices when a pal mentioned faculties wanted substitute lecturers. He started to fill in in the course of the delta wave, proper earlier than the omicron surge.

FERNANDEZ: I might undoubtedly see why lecturers who had been older have reservations about getting into. I used to be within the classroom as soon as the place one pupil obtained COVID and half the category needed to go quarantine, so I used to be solely left with, like, six college students and it was a category of twenty-two. And I bear in mind the directors had been – they had been freaked out about, you realize, the outbreak. However then additionally they requested me, would you be OK with coming again? And I did not even hesitate to say, like, yeah, after all I am coming again as a result of I used to be like, properly, if I do not come again, who’s going to be with the youngsters?


FERNANDEZ: Though lecturers are calling out, they’re undoubtedly placing of their half. Nearly all of them have a lesson plan, and I believe that is wonderful. You understand, I simply go primarily based on the checklist that they offer me. However what I do is after I discover – like, for instance, for second grade or third grade – if we have now a math worksheet, after which I discover that there is greater than three or 5 college students combating an issue, I’ll simply make up simple math issues, and we’ll go over it one after the other. You understand, we’ll rely on our fingers as a category simply because I really feel like youngsters want that human interplay.

I’ve seen vice principals, principals work the entrance desk, after which I’ve additionally seen them go in lessons and act as lecturers, totally different employees members simply carrying totally different hats daily to guarantee that the scholars are getting an grownup within the room. And I’ve additionally heard folks say, properly, at this level, we’re simply on survival mode. Youngsters deserve greater than that.


FERNANDEZ: There’s been a few occasions the place I first began, I might get a bit of pissed off on the mother and father and I assumed to myself, properly, why aren’t the mother and father tremendous concerned? However then I’ve to step again and notice these are low-income neighborhoods. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood. My mother and pop did not know English, so after all they weren’t going to learn with me or do math with me. And on prime of that, my mother and father at all times did labor jobs. So I noticed that lots of these youngsters come from the background that I got here from. And I do not suppose that their mother and father aren’t serving to them, not as a result of they do not need to, however it’s as a result of they’ve to offer for the family.

Each time I’m going to the colleges that I grew up in, I at all times inform them, hey, I really went to this college. The faculties look loads nicer now than they did earlier than, and I simply allow them to know like, hey, I used to be in a position to – I used to be in a position to work right here. And if I might do it, you are able to do it, too. I additionally converse Spanish, after which I allow them to know, you realize, my mother cleans homes. My dad works at a restaurant. After which youngsters often say, oh, my mother does one thing like that, too, or my dad does one thing like that, too.

I believe as a result of they see me and the way I look Mexican American, lots of them are like, hey, you might be my cousin or my uncle, you realize? So it is far more approachable.


FERNANDEZ: I’d undoubtedly suggest substitute instructing, however I’d solely suggest it should you’re in it for the precise causes. As a trainer, it’s important to take care of youngsters’ mood tantrums. And there was one time the place a child threw the hugest mood tantrum, and I actually did not know tips on how to de-escalate it. So I needed to get two lecturers to assist me, and I felt so embarrassed? And I used to be pondering, like, what am I doing? Possibly I ought to go some other place, get a company job. However then, you realize, when all these ideas go away, you get these notes from the youngsters saying the way you’re the perfect trainer ever or they’d the perfect day ever. I am like, I am the place I am presupposed to be proper now.


SIMON: Cisco Fernandez of Phoenix sharing his story for our collection Outbreak Voices.

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