Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Substitute Teacher

Is there anything more wonderful -- anything that can fill a child's heart with more joy -- than the words,

"Class, your teacher is sick today and you will be having a substitute."

It's like a mini-vacation, almost as good as a snow day.

"Miss Jones is sick? We have a sub? Yay...!"

There must be a special place in Heaven for all those poor folks who have volunteered enlisted as substitute teachers. They go forth bravely into H*ll unknown territory knowing that, whatever ensues, they will be the losers. There's nothing like a substitute teacher to bring out the heathen in perfectly normal, well-behaved children.

One of my favorite substitute teachers was Mr. Smith* who took over for our regular grade ten French teacher -- for one whole, glorious month. Poor Mr. Smith was a happless, grey little man. He wore the same grey suit every day, and he had matching grey hair and moustache. The very air around him was grey. As substitute teachers go, he was an easy target. By the second week with our class, he was excusing himself every few minutes and disappearing into the washroom with a silver hip flask. I had never seen one before, and I didn't know what it was. By the third week, Mr. Smith was taking swigs from the flask without leaving the classroom. At the end of week four, he left with the cheery parting, "Adios, you little b*ggers..." I don't know what came over us during Mr. Smith's sojourn with us. We were known throughout the school as the "good kids" -- the straight "A" students. Maybe it was some sort of a "Lord of the Flies" thing, I don't know.

A little friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, informed me yesterday that his class had a substitute teacher for a few days. I could hear the wicked glee creeping into his voice

"Oh?" I asked, "And how did that go?"

"Well", he said, "She yelled at us a lot, so you know what we did? When her back was turned, the whole class changed seats."

Oh, goodness, it's wonderful to know that some things never change.


Cloudia said...


I'm so glad I found this little oasis of sanity called "A Majority of Two."

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Jennifer D said...

Oh... I just love kids, subs and Snow days!

Carol said...

You made me laugh!! You brought to mind a sub we had that used to get so upset he threw his eraser and chalk at us!! LOL!! Ah, Mr. Drysdale, poor soul. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face!
Caol D in Tn

Linda S. Socha said...

Love this one! I have a much loved nephew learning about being a substitute from the teacher's point of view!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I was put in charge of a class once. I had them under my tight control for the first ten minutes. Then one of the b****rs puts up his hand and asked to be excused to the toilet. I say yes and the next thing I know two thirds of the class puts up there hands, ask to be excused to the toilet and without waiting for an answer from me, they stampede out of the class and down the hall with shrieks of laughter. I was left facing a handful of students who were openly giggling at my expense. That was the one time they put me in charge of a class.

Firefly said...

Changing seats? Man, that must really put a substitute teacher into a whirl.

Pauline said...

this made me laugh out loud. the trick is to go in like Mary Poppins, deal with the kids themselves and let the curriculum fall where it may...

Nicole said...

The simple joy that is having a sub!

The Bug said...

In elementary school we were TERRIFIED of our substitute teacher. She was a retired teacher who had taught there when my FATHER was a child - at least 400 years old. No one would have dared make a peep on her watch. Plus she told us a story at Halloween (something about a creepy hand & it's missing thumb) that kept me awake for years...

When I was just finished with college & waiting to go to Zambia I substitute taught a couple of times. Boy that was terrifying! The first day the teacher had a dentist appointment so she was there when I arrived. She was bellowing at the students (3rd graders) & I thought "how terrible!" By the end of the day I was bellowing too. Good times.

Charles Gramlich said...

You know, I've never been a substitute teacher. I've been a guest lecturer. Maybe that is about the same thing.

Inty swetha said...

Ha ha ha :) !!!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I was a sub for awhile and I found it easier to join in the fun at the beginning and then enlist their help to get all the work out of the way to give us more free time. There were always a couple of wicked ones, though.

Katy said...

Awesome story. Subing is a thankless job.

When I was in high school one of our regular substatues was an old lady who lived on our street and knew my parents pretty well. Everyone walked all over her. Said underhanded things. Changed their names. Left for the "bathroom" and never returned. But she always told my dad how much she loved teaching and being with kids.

Nancy said...

Oh yes, I remember those days. It was really nice if you hadn't finished something that was due that day to hear those words - Substitute! Yay! (Whew)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Yes, some things never change. I still remember with guilty pleasure the childhood thrill of learning that there would be a substitute. Later, I worked as a high school substitute teacher and it was one of the roughest gigs I ever had. The kids were absolutely vicious and most of them were bigger than I. They barred no holds and it was an accomplishment if I just managed to keep the noise level down.

I wonder if somewhere there is a special graveyard for all the Mr. Smiths of the academic world.

Alicia said...

Do you bring back memories with this post! I remember been none to nice to a few subs in my time. And I was one of the good kids, one of the "A" kids as well.

You just can't judge a book by the grades on it's report card can you?

robert said...

Yes, indeed it brings much change for lessons. That's why I try to provide once in a while a total change to the subject, talking about the fact that German people have to pay tax for their dogs, their church and even for their rain, talking about rainbows or why the sky is blue and cheese has holes, brings both for them and me a welcomed 'vacation' of the usual.
A wonderful Thursday for you.

Country Girl said...

Cloudia, you just found out about Jo's blog? Well, it's about time.

And Jo, I know exactly what you mean!

susie said...

Working as a sub nowadays is an eyeopener on what is going on with the youth of today....Actually you get good classes and they ones where they switch seats!

I just go along, they'll slip up. Then I tell them that if the one in their seat gets in trouble, it's their name that goes on the teachers report....!!

all that i am said...

thanks for your always original writtings! how do you do it...as often as you do?!? I'm always so impressed...
loved the sensitive man!?!?

and thanks for pursuing me and fixing my 'comments'

PhilipH said...

Strange. I knew a man called Mr. Smith once. Yes, I really did. I don't suppose it was the same Mr. Smith as yours Jo. In fact, I think your Mr. Smith was really Mr. Gray, or Grey.

Nice little story. Changing Places, maybe that film was made by an ex-pupil?

Meggie said...

This had me laughing along. This sure is the same as we were!

KathyB. said...

Substitute teachers...they have a special place in the memory of all students, and hopefully they were not scarred too badly by their experiences. It does help a little to know they too at one time probably tortured a substitute teacher!

ivan said...

Poor Mr. Smith.
Reminds of of my days at Ryerson U, but it was more comic than tragic.

Our prof, relishing a day or two without having to lecture, would introduce some old umemployed friend from Brown University, or somewhere to sub while himself not feeling up to par.
The substitute also carried a flask, and his lectures had a bawdy tone.

After discussing the very naughty Miller's tale, he soon warmed up to some medieval tales of his own about the Dirty Vicar.

Example from the Dirty Vicar:

"Into the bushes."
"But I'm only thirteen."
"Im not superstitious. Get into the bushes."
"But I'll scream."
"How loud can your scream?"
Into the bushes."
"But I'm in the family way."
"You're in everybody's way. Get into the bushes."
"But I'll tell the vicar."
I am the vicar. Into the bushes!"

We would break up, almost thanking the lush for not forcing us to cite examples of irony out of Jane Austen. the guy was an entertainer.

When the regular prof came back we insistted that he'd bring the lush again.
"Hell of a teacher." Ha.

Jo said...

Hello, everyone, and thank you for your wonderful comments. I managed to hurt my shoulder, and have not been able to use my computer, so I have been missing in action. I will be over to visit you all today.

Cheers, my bloggy friends!