Showing Interest and Showing Up

Recently, I stood in front of a class of 6th graders at a public middle school where I was substitute teaching in Ventura. Their usual teacher was out sick. I introduced myself as a longtime sub, new author, and local mom.

Math and science were the subjects under assignment. I started building a rapport by asking if students like to read.

“I love to read,” a boy up front announced. “Authors like John Steinbeck and Mark Twain.”

Wow, I thought. “American classics,” I said aloud, softening my surprise. “The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite books.”

“What’s your book about?” a girl eyed me curiously.

“It’s about technology’s influence upon language, learning, relationships, and safety. The story is set in a fictional high school.”

The Twain fan wanted to know the title.

“Thanks for your interest. My novel is called Despite the Buzz, but the main character is a teacher, so it’s adult fiction, recommended for readers over fourteen,” I informed the young bibliophile.

“Why does the teacher get to be the main character?” the girl wondered.

“That’s a great question,” I answered. “Student characters contribute to the tale, but I wanted to present the content from a teacher’s point of view.” I estimated our age difference: 29 years.

Moving On

We transitioned into math and the students worked on Chromebooks. As I circulated the room, I noticed that the book-lover was wearing a suit coat. He looked very professional. Especially for a sixth grader. “I like your outfit,” I complimented.

“Thanks,” he smiled. “I wear a suit because I’m a magician.”

Hold the show. He’s a magician? And here I thought I had celeb cred!

“That’s marvelous! Where, when, how, what kind of magic?” Intrigued, I invited him to write the website and information on the board.

Time Passes

Six weeks passed. The pandemic put plans on pause. And so the story goes with substitutes, sometimes never to be seen by the same students again. “Hi. Do you remember me? I was your substitute teacher.” I pulled down my mask and re-introduced myself at The House of Magic.

The Steinbeck reader recognized me.

Yes, he still wore a suit.

It was a Friday night in Santa Paula. My family and I sat in the second row. And when the Spellbound show started, the headliner joked, “Are you here for the disappearing act?”

“She’s my substitute teacher!” The boy beamed. “I told her about the website!”

He got credit as commission on our tickets. We all watched the tricks with amazement. The illusions and presentations were quite impressive.

Eventually, the main entertainer exited, and, after a grand introduction, the sixth-grader took center stage. He stood tall, flipped coins, and sorted cards, aweing the audience. I was astonished, and my son felt inspired. He wanted to visit the escape room, shop in the White Rabbit store, and find his own magic kit! To think, they are the same age.

Showing Up

After the performances, I congratulated the young professional. “You were terrific up there!”

“Thank you,” he said. “Thanks for showing up.”

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Tamara Miller Davis is an author, mother of two kidz with Z names, pet owner, fire captain's wife, substitute teacher, parent club volunteer, dance enthusiast, and U.S. Coast Guard veteran from Michigan. Tamara published her debut book "Despite the Buzz" in 2021. The colorful novel is a cautionary tale about tech's influence. She is a member of three other local writing groups: the Writers and Publishers Network, Ojai Poetry Series, and Ventura County Writers Club. Tamara enjoys reading, rollerblading, downhill skiing, boogie boarding, tubing, kayaking, walking her dog, listening to podcasts, traveling, going to concerts, supporting causes, and finding common ground with a variety of people. She also likes making lists. Tamara appreciates this quote from Stephen King's memoir "On Writing": "You must not come lightly to the blank page."

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