Tales from the (Barnard) Bookdrop: Truckface #13
For those of you considering entering the honorable/terrifying field of high school education, whether as a teacher or administrator or policy maker, you might find a zine called Truckface an educational, if cringy, read. There are a number of possible reasons for why you’ve never heard of Truckface, or would never know that Truckface documents its author’s first forays into high school education: it’s a zine (and what’s a zine?), and its title is Truckface (so it’s a zine about trucks? No?), and its author goes mainly unidentified throughout (identified only as LB on the final page), and, well, zines don’t come prepackaged with blurbs and editor’s notes along the inner jacket providing initiating clues to its contents. I encountered Truckface entirely by accident, in the same manner I’ve found every zine I’ve read from Barnard’s collection: on my way to work I grabbed it haphazardly off the shelf because I found its hand-painted cover arresting. And so here is my reader’s advisory report to students of Teachers College who would otherwise never encounter it: this zine is FASCINATING.
LB documents her first year of teaching high school in the Chicago school system, starting with her interview (which she claims she bombed) and on to her first days as teacher through her final day of class that year. The school hires her not as a FT teacher but as a 9-month substitute for a teacher on maternity leave, and so part of her shaky start resides in the fact that she is not the “real teacher” and her students know this. Throughout the zine, LB acknowledges how out of her depth she feels. “I’ve been using the word bonkers a lot to describe what I am going through. I cannot determine if it sounds cool or if it makes me sound like a seventy-year-old grandma who is discussing her cats.” And yet, her descriptions of her daily battles over trying to control her classroom (and teach her students) are beautifully if painfully poignant. “It is pretty much the worst feeling when the most timid of timid students raises her hand and when you call on her she points down to her desk without saying a word and you walk over to see that ‘D– Sucker’ has been written in permanent marker across the top and an arrow is pointing towards the very timid student who is staring at the ground and all you can say is, ‘Oh dear!’ before cleaning it off in the middle of class, hoping that none of the other students have glanced at the incendiary letters.”
LB documents so much in this zine: Chicago district policy, health insurance issues, troubles with discipline, helping a macho male student struggle with his sexuality, helping a female student with an unruly period, gang pressure, attempting phone calls home to parents, a suicidal student, students dealing with parental jail sentences or deaths… This zine is not long, but its pages are packed with LB’s reflective first-person account. Her zine contains hope, too. Her students seem to respect her by the end. She leaves the year on a positive note. She goes back for a second year, the ultimate endorsement. “With doubts bubbling up in my stomach and anxiety at every passing day, I know that it will get better. As every teacher said over and over again, it will get better.”