Professional drummer and drum instructor Ronnie Ciago is up on the
stage of the Little Theater at La Puente High School, in La Puente,
California, near Los Angeles. Without preamble, he sits down at his
drum set and runs through a crashing, rocking riff that stuns to
silence the twenty or so kids in the class.
When he stops, the kids whistle, whoop, and clap. As the noise dies
down, Ciago's colleague, Bob Barboza, begins his lesson on world
rhythms, with Ciago poised to demonstrate.
Not Your Average Substitutes
If this doesn't sound like a typical class, that's because it isn't.
These aren't your typical teachers; they are substitutes. And they
aren't your typical substitute teachers, either -- they're Super Subs.
The brainchild of Barboza, a retired teacher, the Super Subs program
is a way to bring arts and music to underserved students. Barboza
recruited a group of friends -- some of whom once played together in a
semiprofessional band -- to be the subs. At first, the idea was to give
back to schools in the community where they all grew up. But after
experiencing success at their local schools, they decided to take their
show on the road.
Here's how it works: Barboza and the twenty other musicians,
artists, writers, and designers he's recruited take over classes for
the day. They teach their own brand of music, art, writing, journalism,
and self-esteem. The visits don't cost schools a dime. The Personal News Network,
a social-media Web site run by one of the Super Subs, picks up the tab,
and most of the Super Subs volunteer their time. (Find out how to bring
the Super Subs to your school by visiting the Super Subs page at the Personal News Network.)
An Antidote to Teaching to the Test
The day the Super Subs visit La Puente starts like any other. All
the students attend their usual first-period classes. For the hundred
or so kids in the school's Multilingual Academy (for English-language
learners) and Folklorico programs, though, everything changes when the
second-period bell rings. Their teachers have arranged a Super Sub day
Students and teachers sing and dance as the Super Subs rock the crowd at a midday concert.
Credit: Lauren Elliott
They meet the day's ten visiting Super Subs in the auditorium for an
orientation and introductions, then head to classes held in the
theater, the library, and three classrooms. While Barboza is
investigating rhythms, a professional dancer and choreographer from Las
Vegas is teaching street moves in the auditorium. In a classroom
between the two, a guitar-playing sub talks about math and music while
another, a professional motivational speaker, winds up the class by
talking about dreams and aspirations.
English teacher Noel Martinez says the Super Subs' visit is a treat
for his English-language learners, who are liable to think of school as
something to endure rather than enjoy. "It brings in different voices,
showing them that other professions are available to them," he
explains. "It's not coming from their regular teachers, and it's not
from their parents, so maybe they'll listen."
"It takes a variety of media to reach everyone -- we just have to
find the right hook," comments Nancy Gibson, the teacher responsible
for the Super Subs's La Puente visit. "Our kids don't necessarily get
experiences like this. You know how when you think back to high school,
there were a few days when something happened that you really remember
as being great? I want this to be one of those days for these kids."
Students Find Their Voices
Two doors down from the motivational speaker, Super Sub Caren Singer
is instructing her students to write. She gives them blank journals and
tells them to write something every day. When this direction gets a
lukewarm response, she asks them, "Who here has experienced terror?"
Ernesto, a junior in a bright blue shirt, is the only one to raise his
When she asks what it was like, he speaks down to the table, but she
hears him and shouts, "Yes! It made you feel cold, and your throat
closed up, and you couldn't speak or move. Yes!" When she adds, "One
time, I was so scared I peed my pants," a ripple of amusement passes
through the room.
She hands around bottles of scent and asks the students to think of
words they associate with the smell. "Think of a season, think of a
color, think of a sound," she exhorts. As the kids call out words, she
writes them on the board.
A smart aleck at the back of the room says, "Underwear," making
everyone snicker, but Singer just responds with a serious tone, "That's
brilliant, very creative, good." Not getting a rise out of her, the
would-be joker gives up and gets back on task.
Once she has the lists of words for the various scents on the board,
Singer asks the students to put the words together into a poem.
Embarrassed grumbling results. "Trust yourself," she says. "There is no
right or wrong." When she reads out the poems the students have
written, the Super Sub exclaims over each unusual juxtaposition. By the
time the class is over, most of the kids are writing, writing, writing,
and they want to show her everything they've written.
When the bell rings, Singer returns to her stated objective for the
class: "I would like you to walk out of here today with a vision of
yourself as a writer." As they each clutch a journal and file out to
the next Super Sub class, it's possible that's exactly what the
students are thinking.
Later, after a lunchtime concert by the Super Subs that leaves the
impressed students asking for autographs, Ernesto -- the student who
spoke up during Singer's writing class -- reflects on the experience.
"My dad is a janitor at UCLA," he says, "but I want to do something
better, do well in school and go to college."
The message of the day, that you can achieve what you aspire to
achieve, is not news to him, but he says the way it was presented was
entirely different. "They did it with music and it was . . . wow," he
states. "This is the first time in three years here I've seen anything
like this." Then he smiles widely and adds, as though he invented the
idea, "You learn better when you're having fun."
Elizabeth Crane is a freelance writer in San Francisco who writes about many things, including education, parenting, technology, and food.
This article originally published on 7/23/2008
Doug Stoup has just joined Bob Barboza's Super Subs and he is visiting classrooms in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Doug carried the Olympic Tourch to the North Pole.
Super School K-12 International University Visual and Performing Arts STEAM++ Team
The best and most exciting substitute teachers in the world. We are the one and only Super Subs.
Super Subs take over classrooms for one day. We work as a team and make it possible for principals to plan with their staff members.
The Super Subs have two dance instructors. Kimberly and Del are making it possible for kids to have professional dance instruction.
Math and music a winning combination. Bob Wolin is a UCLA math major was the guiter teacher to Slash and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The Occupy Mars Band
BARBOZA AND HIS ROCK STAR SUPER SUBS TAKE OVER LA HIGH SCHOOL FOR ONE DAY
known movie directors, musicians, composers, computer programmers,
storytellers, dance choreographers, entertainers and journalists came
to teach and perform for a day, ended up engaging the whole community.
Los Angeles , Tuesday March 11, 2008
Tuesday, well known movie directors, musicians, composers, internet
developers, storytellers, dance choreographers, entertainers and
journalists took over the Animo Locke Tech Charter High School in Los
Angeles California, one of the Green Dot Charter schools. For one day
they took the places of the regular classroom teachers.
program was the brainstorm of Bob Barboza, educator and producer of
Kids Talk Radio, working with Lauren Elliott, creator of Where in the
World is Carmen Sandiego? Computer game series, and founder of the
PNN.com social media network.
The school's regular principal,
Dinah Consuegra and her staff, were to spend the day planning in one
room of the school doing what is known as 'in service' training, while
the "super subs," took over six classrooms giving the students a chance
to explore the world of the arts, journalism, and technology.
after the day began, however, the teachers all wanted to join in on the
activities. By the end of the day, they had danced with the students,
participated in song writing, and enjoyed interacting with each other
and the students, in a whole new way.
At the end of the day,
Barboza's Super Subs gathered on stage and, with the help of the
students and teachers, performed a live music concert. The event was
filmed by the students and will be published to the web on the PNN
This was our way of
partnering with the local schools to link the arts to subjects being
taught in the school, and to provide a creative solution to the
perennial challenge of making time for teachers to work together.
At least that's the way it started." said Bob. "By the end of the day,
we had teachers dancing, kids doing interviews and creating songs, and
administrators up on the stage playing with the band. "
need to support schools any way we can, ", says Lauren Elliott. "And,
I take real pleasure in having PNN be the platform for sharing the
stories that came out of the day", says Lauren Elliott. "With all the
current dire economic news schools are facing, success stories like
this need to be shared and built upon. " Jaimie Martinez, from
PNN, assembled a journalist team of three students who spent the day
interviewing and photographing the performers. "I thought these kids
were great journalists", says Jaimie. "Stacy, Jose, and DeAngelo were
bright, attentive, and fun. They could become PNN reporters anytime."
Luther, programmer, and Donna Hyatt, educator for PNN, worked with the
students in the computer lab producing self-portraits and six word
memoirs. " It was a great experience to get out of the office and work
hands on with these kids'' says Richard. "I wish all of our
politicians would take the time to spend a day in the classroom, and
see the changes schools like this are trying to make."
Following are sketches of the visiting super subs:
Wolin will be teaching guitar. Among his former students are the
guitarists of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns and Roses. Robert is a
graduate of UCLA with a degree in mathematics and will be integrating
math into his guitar classes. He is currently playing in several bands,
teaching guitar, math, and test preparation in the Los Angeles area.
Elliott is the founder and CEO of the Personal News Network.
Considered one of the top educational software designers in the world,
he is the creator of 26 award-winning software programs for the
Broderbund Software Corporation. He is a graduate of the University of
Colorado with a masters in Engineering and Architecture. On March 13 he
will take over the school's Apple lab and teach students how to publish
a website and post to a digital yearbook on PNN.
Bob Barboza is
the founder and CEO of Kid's Talk Radio. Bob taught in the public
schools for 30 years and is an educational consultant for the FileMaker
Corporation. Bob is currently on tour presenting at local and national
educational technology conferences. Bob created the Super Subs and has
a MS. in special education.
David Storrs is an electrical
engineer, music producer, Los Angeles commercial realtor, and
guitarist. David produced the rap artist Ice-T and has published
numerous musical compositions for television and the radio.
Ciago is the recording drummer with Bill Ward from the group Black
Sabbath. He has been a featured drummer on the Sam Ash Musical Tour
and is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Spiro is a movie editor and trumpet player with his own group, Little
Big Band. He graduated from UCLA as a film major and has worked for
some of the major television studies in Hollywood.
Morera is a jazz saxophonist and financial consultant who has designed
a radio show to educate people about investing. Michael will be
flying in from his new home in New Hampshire. Michael McCarty is
a professional storyteller who has travelled the world sharing his
enthusiasm for the power of stories to connect. He will teach the
students how to tell stories effectively. Caren Singer, a Phi
Betta Kappa, summa cum laud graduate from UCLA, is currently teaching
language arts, writing, and test preparation in the Los Angeles area.
She has worked as a production manager and assistant director for movie
studios in Hollywood. She especially enjoyed working on Rock 'n' Roll
High School. SarahTuttle-Singer, a graduate of UC Berkeley, has
been in the field of education for over ten years. She is currently a
children's photographer in the Los Angeles area. Boaz Hachlili,
recently relocated from the San Francisco Bay area, is currently
working as a freelance photographer and bass player in the Los Angles
area. Michael Vlatkovich is a professional composer and
trombonist. He is featured in the March 2008 issue of Downbeat
magazine. He will speak not only about the role of wind players in a
band, but also about the art of improvisation.
Richard Rohner is
a sales manager for the FileMaker Corporation. He worked for Apple
Computer and is considered an expert in the field of computer
technology. Richard will demonstrate the importance of relational
Donna Hyatt is the director of education for the PNN
Personal News Network. She is a credentialed teacher and will
coordinate the language arts programs for the Kids Talk Radio Super
Ron Knight is a professional Las Vegas entertainer. He
will teach a class on how to be a DJ, how to write a song, and how to
sing with a band.
Del Leon is a professional dancer and
choreographer trained at California State University, Long Beach. Del
has worked with student dancers in the Paramount Unified School
District after-school program.
Kimberley Sanders is a professional dancer and choreographer, specializing in hip-hop and street dance.
Richard Luther is the senior programmer for PNN.com, and is an expert on current web 2.0 technology. Jaimie Martinez is the senior editorial journalist at PNN, and will take charge of a student team for the day.
Pickford Foundation Technology Bus will be on site. It is equipped
with additional instructors and recording equipment, which will be used
to demonstrate how computers are used to make and edit video recordings.
About Kids Talk Radio
Talk Radio is a journalism program designed to motivate and help
students do a better job of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and
computing. It is a project based learning program working with general
education students, gifted and talented students, English language
learners, at risk, and special needs students. Kid's Talk Radio is
designed for students in grades 3 through 8 and grades 9 thorough 12.
Most programs recorded on Kids Talk Radio are available on the PNN
Bob Barboza Kid's Talk Radio/PNN News 1857 Josie Ave. Long Beach, CA 90815 (562) 221-1780 Cell E-Mail:Robert@pnn.com http://KidsTalkRadio.PNN.com