What do children
want to be when they grow up? No one ever says they want to be a
substitute teacher, but I have made a career out of being a sub.
been working as a stand-in for teachers for nearly 30 years. Here are
some whimsical signs it may be time to call it quits.
know you’ve been a substitute teacher too long when
….. after a
full day of teaching, you write a review of the day, entitle it I
Was Lucky to Get Out Alive, and sign it My
Sympathies to the
….. you want
to trade jobs with the guy who comes to pump out your septic tank.
….. you have
a “black list” of classrooms that you vow never to
answer the phone at home in the morning and you’re glad
a wrong number.
consider a veteran teacher’s aid to be your trusted copilot
a turbulent flight.
….. you come
to school carrying a “Substitute Teachers’ Survival
that includes fast acting headache medicine, treats for bribery,
phone numbers of your next of kin, a list of last resort activities,
and a supply of Depends.
….. you hang
a sign on the door that says, “Substitute Teacher Domain;
at Your Own Risk”.
the classroom teacher’s plans your Operations Manual,
and you experience a growing panic when you misplace it.
….. you have
an identity crisis when you stand at the teachers’ mailboxes
and wonder which mail to take, “Who am I
fantasize that you have the power of Judge Judy.
would want to win your favor because decisions are final. With a
flick of your wrist, you would direct students to sit or stand. You
would pound on your desk and get everyone’s attention. You
would threaten to dismiss students from the classroom if they spoke
out of turn. You would have a deputy by your side to keep order in
the classroom. You would have the uncanny ability to discern who is
telling the truth, and then make judgments without hesitation.
Finally, you would reward money to the best students; a far more
sought after reward than stickers, candy, or extra recess.
….. you lose
a heated debate with a kindergartener over who is supposed to be
“line leader” that day.
identify yourself as a classroom teacher once removed.
who were in a kindergarten class during your career are now in
prefer a call from a telemarketer more than a call for a subbing job.
….. you know
how to “wing-it” when there are no
….. you remember when a
worksheet was called a “ditto”.
out a large number of worksheets and leave them uncorrected on the
….. you give
yourself a crash course in the use of classroom computers, even
though you are an aging baby boomer and the students know far more
about computers than you do.
….. you can
take attendance in May based on a seating chart that may or may not
be updated since last September.
….. you learn
magic tricks to entertain a class when all else fails.
singlehandedly fixed a flushing problem with the classroom toilet.
One day a second grader informed me there was a large piece of poop
in the toilet, and it would not flush down the hole. Sure enough, the
poop was long and thick and laying perpendicular to the hole. I
calmly reassured the class they could keep on working because I knew
how to solve the problem. I gave the toilet several good flushes, but
that sucker would not budge. In the interest of expediency, I decided
to take matters into my own hands. I put on a glove from the first
aid bag. I reached in and turned the poop so that it flushed down
easily. Problem solved!
….. you don’t
trust statements that begin with, “She always lets us
imagine the teacher’s desk is a hideout from which you emerge
to take the class by surprise before they can plot against you.
….. you know
which teachers have a stash of candy and you accept jobs based on the
….. you know
teachers’ schedules and you accept jobs based on which
has an extra planning period that day.
….. you can
fill out a Referral to the Principal form in under
while never taking your eyes off the class.
even think twice about bribing a class with candy.
….. you look
forward to an appointment for a root canal.
….. you start
to think there are rewards to the job of substitute teacher, such as:
don’t need to go to faculty meetings and committee meetings.
don’t need to fill out report cards and conduct parent
like observing students as they learn and mature from year to year.
enjoy being familiar with most of the children and knowing them by
get a smile and a wave, and even a good-bye hug from children who
were wary of you in the beginning of the day. And then you think you
haven’t been a substitute teacher long enough, and you come
back in September for more smiles, waves, and hugs.
the time of this writing, I’m finishing my 28th
year of working as a substitute. My goal is to work for 2 more years
and retire after an even 30 years. I was a full time teacher for 13
years before becoming a sub. So, my grand total of working as a
teacher will be 43 years.
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