On Subbing: The First Four Years

On Subbing: The First Four Years

by Dave Roche

Dave Roche's tales of woe from working as an substitute education assistant in Portland's school system. He helps kids who can't function in normal classrooms focus on their work and keeps kids from fighting while they tease him or adorably flirt with him. It's a real heartwarming ticket to putting a smile on your face or turning your day around. Illustrations from Clutch McBastard, Nicole Georges, Keith Rosson, Nate Beaty, Shawn Granton, and Aaron Renier. New third edition has corrected errors, updated content, a new epilogue, and it's blue! ISBN 0-9726967-5-X *** NEW *** Listen to a podcast of Dave reading his book from the Thinkin, Stinkin, Rarely Drinkin Tour!

 
 

Comments

410Media 10/8/2009

"This book is not new, it has been around since maybe 2004, but this is the first time I read it. It is the story by school and date of Dave Roche's four years subbing as a education assistant in special education classes. I believe it is a compilation of his zine.

As someone who has subbed, but not is special ed, I can tell you that Roche's days seem spot on compared to my own. they are full of little triumphs when you think you may have made a connection with a student, they are full of frustration when someone test you and you fail to live up to the challenge, they are full of bewilderment as students do the unthinkable, like throw dirty toilet tissue at each other.

Think about your time in school, how did you treat a substitute teacher? Exactly. This book is great because Dave Roche doesn't pretend he is the greatest teacher in the world, he more than points out his failings, but you also see his growth as a teacher and as a person.

By the way, I think he is right, you can still be a teacher and be punk rock."

The Oregonian 10/8/2009

"It isn't easy to write about day-to-day life in schools, but Roche has really nailed it in this zine collection. "On Subbing: The First Four Years" is odd and sweet and fascinating, mostly because there are so many kids who are just plain complicated. There are fights, inappropriate jokes, insults and groin shots. Still, Roche keeps trying, doing what he can to help kids along."

Hugh McElroy, Give Me Back #5 9/22/2009

This is a pretty remarkable book. Dave writes with sympathy and awareness and it's really impressive to see how he reflects on his own reactions to the difficulties of being a teacher. Roche also raises more serious philosophical problems, such as whether to discipline kids for doing something he himself had done as a child or still does now. Anyone interested in education or in the dilemmas that led Roche to subbing would do well to check it out.

avatar Hannah Armstrong 4/28/2009

Dave Roche is excellent! He read some parts of 'On Subbing' at Sticky, the zine distro in Melbourne's Flinders St subway, and was really captivating and interesting - as a writer, human being and cutie.
Thanks for visiting Melbourne, Dave.
If you haven't read any of his zines yet, do hop to it! They're really lovely and excellent and all the things that people before me have said.

avatar Sharonm 4/4/2009

One of my subs shared Dave's bootleg 'zine with me a few years ago...I still have a copy somewhere. I laughed, I cried, I nearly pooped my pants...his style is captivating, his imagery amazing...I felt like I was next to him eating ramen by the dumpster. And what a great subject - even as a sub coordinator, I had no clue what I was sending people into until reading this...it gave me even more reason to respect those who rise to the occasion and care for our most damaged population while working for peanuts. You Go Dave..

Cole 12/11/2008

Love this, both as a punk zineaholic and a person who works with people who have developmental disabilities. The author is sensitive, frank and funny about a subject that really doesn't get enough attention.

layne 12/5/2008

I shared this book with my Father-in-law who is a substitute teacher... he has not returned it back to me yet.

I wonder if my wife will be able to get it back for me?

A good read.

julie 11/14/2008

i loved this book! i read it commuting around minneapolis, laughing out loud often and wearing a big grin almost the whole way thru! i used to work with EBD kids in a high school and it really brought me back...

Yonah 11/7/2008

Not only is he hilarious and sweet, Dave Roche is also a secret hottie. I was lucky enough to share a town with him for a year or two. He is absolutely that clever and lovely in person. He also makes truly delicious food. I think there should be a review section for Dave Roche himself somewhere, can we do that please?

Girlafraid 8/10/2008

This zine/book was astoundingly good, read it in one sitting without any intention of doing so when I began.

Chris Freeman, Nashville 2/2/2007

My friend got this for me as a Christmas gift because I was a substitute teacher for a while in college and just after. It was amazing to read about experiences so similar to my own.

adam 1/13/2007

Simply wonderful. I read the whole thing in one sitting with out realizing I had read the whole thing...

sarah.lawrance 10/5/2006

Aaaahhhh! This was amazing! Dave came to DC with the Microcosm tour and I loved the reading. The book totally blew me away... I am fairly new to the zine thing, and this might just have converted me into a true believer!

It's like, once you pick it up, you really don't want to put it down. Every story is so unique! His documented experiences are at times very touching, and at times really painful to read. I feel like I can relate to all kinds of random bits of it. It's great that he can have such a sense of humour about some of the experiences, and I love the oh-so-punk commentaries that my more mainstream friends would never really 'get' on their own.

Overall, I found the book really inspiring-- both as a reason to consider subbing myself (!), and also as motivation to transform my blog (about being an exchange student) into a zine or book! On Subbing is a must-read! I might just put it in my bathroom for guests to browse ;)

esme 8/9/2006

This book was a birthday gift and it goes above and beyond the word gift!
I'm glad this book exists. I am in the same field as Dave and it feels good to be able to feel connected to similar experiences (good & bad). I can relate to so much of it; the tantrums, the frustrations, the tension, the depressing moments, the tender moments that make it worth it and just trying to just do your best. Love, love, love it. - Esme

tmunayy 7/19/2006

Best zine ever. My mom liked it.

Chimpanzee 5/5/2006

This book is required reading for a few groups of people. If you’re:
In any kind of early childhood/elementary/secondary education program at school
Involved in, or curious about, th4e way school districts deal with their special needs students, budgetary restrictions, or staffing.
A young punk wondering about how to become an old punk, and the way one might assimilate into society a bit.
Pick up this book and see if you can put it down before you finish it. I couldn’t.
Just like when you were in school “special needs” is an umbrella term referring to developmentally challenged kids, severely handicapped kids, kids with behavioral problems, etc. The makeup of these classes changes from school to school.
The bulk of Dave’s book is anecdotal, and it fluctuates between amusing and profoundly depressing. Having worked with severely retarded kids, it can be spiritually fulfilling yet heartbreaking work. Dave’s punk ethic stands him in good stead: he’s fair and compassionate, even when being struck in the testicles, and he treats the kids as well as he can under most circumstances.
I’ve got a weakness for diary prose. I like the feeling of stepping out of my shoes into someone else’s, particularly if their lifestyle is different than mine, and Dave qualifies. His writing is descriptive but not florid, broken down by date and school into brief, easy to follow vignettes. In his introduction, Dave suggests reading the book in intervals, a challenge which may prove difficult. I read the book in two sittings during a day’s travel, and airline delays never went by so fast. His writing is clean and candid and easily among the best zine writing I’ve ever encountered. The writing is not exclusionary at all, which seems like scant praise until you’ve read some jargon heavy or self-righteous punk prose which condemns any other lifestyle. And that’s one of the great selling points of this book: it conveys the lifestyle without preaching or scolding. For that reason alone it’s worth the measly $4. But as a description of what it’s like in the front lines of fiscally challenged schools trying to provide education and care for developmentally challenged students, On Subbing: The First Four Years is invaluable.

Jen 8/29/2005

I found this book in one of our only zine stores here in Melbourne. I absolutely loved it. Dave's stories are pretty bloody entertaining and it is interesting just to read his perspective on working with children with disabilties. Oh yeah and "shut bitch...shut up butthead" is a definite highlight.

ben 3/2/2005

I read this book. Honestly, I wasn't as enamored as the rest. I found the authors lack of personal voice throughout his trials with autistic kids kind of cold. I think everyone knows by now, objectivity is an illusion. I get the feeling that people are twisting the adjective "real" in writing as simply a way to celebrate what could be seen as shear laziness by others.

graham 1/8/2005

I like it, I like it alot.

Nate 1/4/2005

I'm 1/4 into this and it's nothing short of genius. I don't read zines, i happened upon a microcosm catalog awhile back and On Subbing looked interesting. I picked it up. It's so great how REAL this writing is. It's basic at times, hilarious, quaint and thoughtful without trying to be. I just wish I wasn't at work so i could go home and read more of it. "Shut up bitch!........Shut up butthead!"

Erin 11/4/2004

The tour just came to Chapel Hill yesterday, and I had the pleasure of seeing Dave and the group. I picked this up from him afterwards and I can't wait until I'm finished writing this so I can get back to reading it!

Russ, CHapel Hill, NC 11/4/2004

Dave says to read the book in intervals but I couldn't put it down. What I like most about this book is that he keeps his intropection to a minimum and relays his experience in a journalistic style. Some of the most powerful scenes are a few sentences long.

Kat, SLC Librarian 9/28/2004

This is my favorite zine, bar none. (Except for my little sister's zine.) When the Microcosm crew passed through Salt Lake City, I actually got Dave to spray paint a stencil he did ("the internation sign for choking") on a pair of my pants. They're in a museum now.

Slug and Lettuce

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in punk as a culture rather than justa fashion or style of music.

Read Magazine

This pocket-sized book packs a big punch. It is nearly daily journals over four years of a young guy who finds himself subbing in schools for the physically and learning disabled, trying in his own way to reach out to everyone from high school kids with behavioral problems, to severely autistic children. This book is written from the perspective of an overgrown punk with little to no experience or training in working in such a difficult environment, and so it takes an honest and unflinching look at a school system that most of us aren’t aware of.
The author Dave is a bit of a clumsy writer, but he manages to be both matter-of-fact and interesting, and behind his almost repetitious daily observations is a simmering of emotion: frustration, exhaustion, pity, heartbreak, and the all-too-occasional sense of accomplishment. Dave succeeds at giving a good sense of the responsibilities and daily life of a special needs teacher, and as an outsider, Dave is horrified at how out of touch, cold, and ineffective most of these teachers could be. He uses these observations to better himself at a job he was woefully unqualified for, and he soon becomes a most helpful and caring figure for these children, some of whom can barely communicate or function. A very affecting read.

Clamor Magazine

This is a collection from the first four years of a zine called On Subbing. It's a day-by-day from Dave, a substitute Education Assistant. Being a substitute teacher is a funny life, and I've had a lot of fun sharing my own stories of subbing with friends - some of them completely unbelievable - and was pleased to read that Dave was running into similar situations. He is mostly in special education classes, which adds to the drama and there's an element of hilarity but also sadness as about these aspects of the education system and how these people are treated. I must also say that I have never been kicked in the crotch, or puked on, or told I look like Steve Urkel. He has it kind of rough, but it's really nice to go through the process and see him begin to really enjoy it.
Because he is assigned to all different age groups and schools, his experiences are never limited. He also goes to some of the same classrooms where the students know him already and a relationship starts. And Dave takes a great approach to his job, taking it seriously enough to please the administration, but knowing that school can suck for kids.
He recommends that this book be read in intervals, and I can see why. It can become a little redundant if read straight through. It is a journal of his job though, what do you expect? I'm still excited to pick it up when I'm coming back to it - I'm sorry, but a kick in the crotch never really gets old, or the excitement of reading about one.
I wish his students knew how cool Dave is. His writing is witty and sarcastic, but still kind of sensitive. A kind of a pathetic character at times, he's like the brilliant kid in school that couldn't impress people with sports or social skills, but had an amazing sense of the world, and a humor to deflect anything.

Randie Farmelant, Altar Magazine

When the Invincible Summer tour came to Cambridge this past fall, my boyfriend and I went, planning to skip the opening band, but catch all the zine readings and the film. Unfortunately, the band must have played for around five minute because we got there just as the first reading, Dave Roche from his book On Subbing, was ending. I only heard about half a story, and I can’t remember for the life of me what it was about, but it was funny and made me want to read more. Regardless to say, I jumped on the chance to check out the whole book, and I was definitely not disappointed. This book is a collection of stories from four years of Dave’s journals and his zine On Subbing, which documents his life as a substitute teacher in special education classrooms. And while the anecdotes were hilarious, Dave’s choice of career in order to facilitate his punk lifestyle was what was really inspiring to me. He didn’t have to feel like a sell-out. He could influence the musical tastes and meat-eating habits of young America. He could feel like he was doing something worthwhile, and he had his nights, weekends, and vacations free. I also loved the way that Dave was able to truly concentrate on telling his teaching experiences. Only once in a while does something from his “real life” creep in, like when he organized for a group of punks to shoplift school supplies like colored pencils, measuring tapes, and dictionaries for an under-funded elementary school in the poorer part of town or when he got picked up hitchhiking by an education assistant at one of the schools he frequently subbed at. I don’t want to ruin this book by giving out examples of some of the stories, but, trust me, if you have any desire to read about an anarchist teacher trying to humorously change the world, you’ll love this book as much as I did. I should also add that there are about a half dozen illustrations of Dave’s stories done by other talented zinesters scattered throughout.

Lunar Circuitry

The tone here is casual, yet clear and concise. Often, this is like listening to a good conversation, where the storytelling takes its twists and turns before reaching hilarious or ironic conclusions. But there's more than punchline to these stories. As hilarious as Dave is as a writer, he's also honest and compassionate. One gets the sense of someone doing the job as best he can, while hoping to make even a small difference in these kids' lives. He also makes no bones about his own mistrust for authority and sometimes radical political beliefs. This collection is a great introduction to a funny and insightful zine–highly recommended!

Newpages

What happens to him in these classes is funny enough on its own, but Dave has a gift for making it even funnier. It’s obvious that he really likes his job, and his observations and interactions with the kids are often poignant and thought-provoking. Already a zine classic, On Subbing is surely destined to get even more popular with the publication of this collection.

Hanging Like A Hex

Here is a collected book of excerpts from the zine of the same name that I guess is a pretty big deal up in the Pacific Northwest. This is my first introduction to it and I was very impressed. He gets everyone from the ADHD kids, to the wheelchair-bound spoon-fed teenagers, to the autistic middle-schoolers, and it changes almost daily. He documents his experiences with these individuals, working one on one, or in groups, and sharing the emotional ups’ and downs, the humor, and the awkwardness. This book definitely spoke to me loudly as I have been through most of what Dave describes in my own vocational setting. The difference being, I have always worked with adults with disabilities in different settings, while Dave works with kids and teens. But he describes events that happened to him that nearly echo my own experiences. It’s a very insightful read into how working with the disabled can make you feel, or affect you in your day-to-day dealings. And it’s good to know that someone else out there is feeling the same way about a sector of the population that is generally overlooked, shunned, or viewed much differently. This is easily one of my favorite reads from 2004 because I could relate. And that can be hard to do these days. Good work.

Mitch Adams, Broken Pencil #28

"Awesome! Really funny, cute and often touching stories by a substitute teaching assistant. Short little entries on a day-to-day basis about subbing in on Special Ed classes. Some of the classes Dave, our friendly author, subs for include children with extreme behaviour problems or kids in wheelchairs/kids with severe handicaps. The writing is honest, earnest, and frickin funny. If you're a punk rock/indie rock geek/nerd/misfit (and I know you are) you'll love this.
"As a (sometimes) substitute teacher for the Toronto Board, I have taught Special Ed classes. My experiences are nothing like Dave's and you certainly don't have to be a teacher to enjoy this.
"You get cute little drawings by the author's friends and lots of entertainment (I'm partial to how the kids make fun of him and how often Dave gets kicked in the balls).
"I think it's a perfect bathroom book, best read in snippets. Dave himself says in the intro 'I think it's best if you read this in intervals, preferably at school or at work, but reading it all at once is ok too, if that's what you want to do.' That's the kind of guy Dave is."

Poopsheet

Dave Roche is a substitute teacher in Portland who began writing about his job for family and friends, which led to the creation of the On Subbing zine, which led to this book, a collection of sorts. It's actually a rewritten assortment of what the author considered the best stories from the first four issues of the zine, plus stories from his fourth year of subbing. Roche writes about the ins and outs of his particular job where he "helps kids who can't fuction in normal classrooms focus on their work and keeps kids from fighting while they tease him or adorably flirt with him." And if that doesn't sound appealing enough, you might consider that the book also contains illustrations by Aaron Renier, Shawn Granton, Nate Beaty, Clutch McBastard, Nicole Georges and Keith Rosson.

New Scheme

I don't know much, or anything really, about Dave Roche. From what I can deduce he is a punk rocker in his early 30s, who publishes zines and plays in bands. From the Los Angeles area he migrated north to Portland, OR. After a brief career in the thrift store clerk industry, he jumped into the field of substitute teaching. Unlike the Golden State, Oregon requires credentials for normal substitute teaching. Lacking those credentials, Roche took the only avenue availed him at the time and became an "education assistant". Essentially a substitute teacher for special ed. classes.
This book is a collection of zine pieces chronicling his adventures in the public special education system. Using an accessible and concise writing style, Roche describes being thrust into the volatile and demanding world of teaching/supervising challenged students that range widely in age and ability. A daunting task in any event, it's compounded by him not having any background or training in any sort of teaching.
He makes some progress throughout the book, but the diverse nature of his job keeps him facing new challenges and situations to which he must adapt. If you are one of those people inclined to do things for others and persue a rewarding career you will most likely appreciate this book very much. If that is not necessarily your thing you will still like this memoir. It's easy to read, fun, and entertaining. One thing that I really enjoyed about the book (and for which Dave deserve a lot of credit), is the way he sets up the humorous episodes. He carefully crafts each joke so that the humor is either a product of the absurdity of a situation, or he is the butt of the joke, thereby sparing the reader the creepy and corrosive guilt of laughing at the expense of disabled children.
There are some references to his activities outside of school such as publishing the zine that eventually became this book, playing drums in a punk rock band and varied political activist endeavors. I thought it was a little peculiar that he stressed the point of keeping his punk rock identity obscured from his co-workers. At one point he is looking for a ride back from Salem and nervously accepts an offer from a woman he has worked with.
I always like slightly off the beaten path things like this. It's great that Roche constantly produced this zine over four years and was then successful in culling a book from it. I highly recommend this book, and considering that you can buy it direct from Microcosm for $4 there is no excuse not to support this dude.

Wonkavision #29

This book rocks. Period. I have it dog eared, underlined, starred, and I've told everyone I know it is amazing and they must read it. It's about being young, idealistic, and attempting to work through all that. I found myself wincing, nodding in agreement, and nearly crying at the unfortunate conditions too many kids face. If the closest you ever got to special education was walking past the class on your way to homeroom, this could be an even more crucial read. I cannot recommend On Subbing strongly enough. Not only is it a smart, swift, insightful read, but it deals with serious issues in health and education that more people need to get involved with, and an eye-opening read like this might be just the thing to spark that action.

Riot77 #10

Dave Roche is a man in his late 20s who works as a Substitute Special Needs Educational Assistant in Portland, Oregon. This book is a window into his life, a collection of journal entries that document his day-to-day living over the course of four years. The first thing that will strike you about the book if you don’t live in the United States is just how low down the career ladder this country views the job. The guy can’t afford to buy lunch some days on the wages he’s being paid. There is no holiday pay, sick pay and most concerning of all, you do not need any experience, background or qualifications in the field to get the job. It comes across as the equivalent of agency work on an assembly line (yes, they use agencies to recruit staff for this post!) Clearly the American government don’t rank this kind of profession very highly, which should come as a scare to those of us living in a country that follows American policy as closely as we do!
Dave comes across as an intelligent and strong-minded individual and throughout the four-year timeframe battles with finding a balance between his anti-establishment Punk Rock ideologies and those of being a teacher for the State. On one hand he finds solace in the fact that he’s giving something back to the community and providing a much-needed service at the end of the day. On the other hand, he barely makes enough money to live off, is treated poorly by his superiors and works under conditions that most would walk out on five minutes into their first day. Despite all this he struggles to keep things going, one day at a time, happy in the knowledge he’s not just working another pointless nine-to-five. He takes every given opportunity to incorporate his love of punk rock and an alternative lifestyle into what he does. He tries to introduce his students to music, explain to them what veganism is and attempts to pass on various radical approaches to life he picked up through his interest in punk rock. More often than not his efforts fall flat on their face, but he always takes something with him from each experience and views it all as a learning curve.
Budgets continue to get slashed by the government as the book enters post 9/11 and Dave tells of the carious different acts of “patriotism” the schools instruct their pupils to unknowingly partake in. As the book progresses we see the author at the receiving end of every form of abuse imaginable from his students, verbal and physical, but he always finds that glimmer of hope or humor at the end of each working day.
When I first gawked at this book I couldn’t fully grasp the concept of it all as I’ve never read anything quite like it in the past, but about a quarter way into it I began to warm to the author and the light in which he showed his students in. It’s very much a heart-warming account of a life that often goes unrecognized and under-appreciated. Certainly anyone who’s ever worked in the profession will want to read this book, but so too will those of you who’ve little previous knowledge of this life.

-Anna, Reading in a Parking Lot

On Subbing by Dave Roche

What does a myopic, vegan, straight-edge, punk rock guy do when he gets tired of the lack of respect and low pay that go along with his job at a local second hand store? If that guy is Dave Roche, he becomes a substitute teacher.

Dave Roche’s book On Subbing, collects favourite pieces from four years worth of his zine of the same name. Peppered with illustrations and a few longer, personal essay-type pieces, it is a compelling read from start to finish.

Dave Roche deserves a lot of respect. Sure, he deserves respect for the difficult situations he faces as a substitute educational assistant in special ed. classrooms. But let’s not overlook one major thing that Dave did. He willingly put himself back in the educational system. I can’t be sure, but I’m willing to bet that when Dave was in school himself he probably didn’t have the best time. Unless he somehow attended schools where bespectacled straightedges were happily welcomed into the social fold, which seems unlikely.

Of course Dave isn’t a student himself anymore, but his time within the school system is still riddled with one challenge after another. At one point he echos the way I felt during one of my own short-lived jobs in the public school system: "My job would be so much better if I didn't have to deal with all these adults." In many cases, it is the burnt-out or just plain rude teachers and administrative staff who make it tough to be an effective sub. But even when writing about the most harrowing days, like the one when he spent a frustrating quarter of an hour trying to change the diaper of one uncooperative student, Roche writes with empathy and humour:

In my mind I saw a clock with the hands spinning at an exaggerated speed; leaves of a page-a-day calendar were falling off and blowing away; babies were born, became adults, and grew grizzled and grey in the time it took me change that diaper. When I went back to class I wasn’t the fun sub anymore. There was no more basketball, no playing with the kids during free time. Sorry class, Teacher Dave is a broken man.

The best thing about reading this book, is that Dave excels when it comes to telling the truth. There are no To Sir With Love/Dangerous Minds moments when he realizes that he can truly make a difference in the lives of these needy children. Sometimes Dave makes a difference. Sometimes he gets kicked in the balls. With each new class, it could go either way.

Which is not to say that the book isn’t inspiring. I fully admit to tearing up when I read Dave’s account of asking all his friends to shoplift supplies for a severely underfunded school. When his lightfingered crowd comes through and provides the school with necessities like markers, paper, and Spanish/English dictionaries, Dave leaves the goods in the staff room with a note saying only, “Here are some gifts from the punks.”

On Subbing is certainly a book that all people working with children should read. The book will especially appeal to anyone who has ever tried to reconcile their unconventional lifestyle with a job in an environment that doesn't always get it. But even for readers who haven't had experiences similar to Dave's, the book is a worthwhile read. Anyone can appreciate this portrait of an enthusiastic, thoughtful teacher with a indefatigable sense of humour and a highly developed understanding of social justice. The kids who get taught by Dave Roche are lucky, whether they know it or not, and anyone who picks up this book will feel pretty lucky as well.

Profane Existence, #47

[Dave's] writing style is akin to David Sedaris, and he masterfully balances his story so that it is not only heartbreaking and bittersweet but quite often hilarious.

Letters and Sodas

"I was reading this on the train, and a man came over to me and asked something about the title. Internally, I rolled my eyes: no, it’s not that kind of subbing. In this slim volume, Dave tells of his experiences over the course of four years as a substitute educational assistant (EA) in special ed. classes. The things he writes are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always eye-opening: these are stories of people and places and situations that the average person probably doesn’t think much about. It’s also interesting to read about how Dave tries to do his job well without feeling like he’s compromising his punk ethics or identity: how to be capable and professional without necessarily buying into the current educational system’s hierarchies."

Across the Great Divide

"Roche was a punk rocker who, as one reviewer put it, spent a brief time in the "thrift store clerk industry" before signing on as a classroom aide in the Portland, Oregon, schools. He worked as a sub, which meant he had brief assignments in a wide variety of schools. What makes his stories so compelling is that he worked with the kids who are on the absolute fringes of the system — the behavior problem kids, kids with retardation or severe physical disabilities, homeless kids, very few of whom would fit the definition of students. It's a harrowing and heartbreaking picture, as Roche describes the barriers some of his charges face. Two boys are abandoned by their mother in a homeless shelter. When some of his medically fragile kids go home, it's to a hospital. Changing a diaper or keeping a boy calm might be all he gets accomplished in a day. Mostly, he retains his empathy and his humor. After one frustrating day he reminds himself, "I'm getting paid to play with Duplos." Though not paid very much. He's inspired by a one-on-one assignment with an "awesome and super cheerful" boy who's paralyzed from the neck down, and considers the school's offer to take the open position to be his regular aide. But it's only for half days, and though he tries to work it out, the school can't give him hours for the rest of the day. He leaves feeling guilty, but heeding the holes in his shoes and his empty stomach. He can't live on the part-time work. Unlike the kind of poignant Hallmark snapshots political candidates haul out for Message: We Care, 'zines like Belz's and Roche's preserve raw emotions and offer gritty realities. "

Zine Thug

"In the introduction Roche suggests not reading the whole thing at once, but I admit once I got started I didn't really want to stop. It has such a good pace to it, with so many surprising moments. What else could you expect though, from a book that is about Roche's job as a substitute Education Assistant for special needs kids ... Of course, for almost any job, isn't interest and heart all you really need? Anyway, Roche sometimes helps kids one-on-one with reading or math comprehension, supervises a recess, escorts kids for walks around school, and then other times, he changes diapers...of 17 year-old kids. It seems that he never really knows what he's in for when he shows up for the day. The book is charming because Roche takes everything that happens to him and everything he sees in such stride. Kids often say exactly what they think, and Roche is often being called out on his big ears and nerd glasses, this is a running joke throughout the book. But it's likely the softer moments you will remember, when Roche is really appreciated by a kid, or Roche leaves for the day feeling inspired himself. I love that this punk guy with sideburns is working in the school system, just like I like all the cute girls who are now librarians. Don't be afraid to have careers, people! Roche exposes the conservatism in the schools he works with, and how it comes in the way of why they are there – education. Recommended!"

Schopenhauer

"The journal of a Portland-based substitute educational assistant with a great sense of humor, this was a wonderful Christmas present and a good book to read on the job. I’d recommend it to other substitutes, especially."

Cascadia Weekly

You don’t have to be an anarchist to appreciate the chaotic, wildly
unpredictable, ever-rotating phantasmagoria of underfunded, understaffed special needs classrooms that Roche dared navigate during his first four years as a substitute paraeducator in the Portland School District. But it certainly won’t hurt.
Microcosm Publishing says their focus is showing that zine writers and artists are “a credible contribution to society and should be respected as such.” After reading On Subbing, I couldn’t agree more.

Todd Taylor, Razorcake

What is refreshing is Dave's restraint. The book focuses, first and foremost, on his experiences directly related to teaching in the schools and never strays too far from the topic at hand. Zines can fall into the dumpster of DIY narcissism and caffeinated self-pity. Dave deftly bunny hops right over that hole. He's both vegan and straight edge, but these details, along with his away-from-school personal life, come up in a natural evolution of the book, providing both backdrop and context.