You Know You've Been A Substitute Teacher Too Long When...

Patricia M. Snell

© Copyright 2015 by Patricia M. Snell

Photo of a notice on the substitute teacher's lounge.

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. I’ve 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.

You 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 Classroom Teacher.

….. 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 return to.

….. you answer the phone at home in the morning and you’re glad it’s a wrong number.

….. you consider a veteran teacher’s aid to be your trusted copilot on a turbulent flight.

….. you come to school carrying a “Substitute Teachers’ Survival Kit” 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; Enter at Your Own Risk”.

….. you call 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 today?”

….. you fantasize that you have the power of Judge Judy. Students 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.

….. you identify yourself as a classroom teacher once removed.

….. children who were in a kindergarten class during your career are now in graduate school.

….. you prefer a call from a telemarketer more than a call for a subbing job.

….. you know how to “wing-it” when there are no teachers’ plans to follow.

….. you remember when a worksheet was called a “ditto”.

….. you pass out a large number of worksheets and leave them uncorrected on the teacher’s desk.

….. 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.

….. you 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 …”

….. you 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 candy supply.

….. you know teachers’ schedules and you accept jobs based on which teacher has an extra planning period that day.

….. you can fill out a Referral to the Principal form in under two minutes while never taking your eyes off the class.

….. you don’t 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:

You don’t need to go to faculty meetings and committee meetings.

You don’t need to fill out report cards and conduct parent conferences.

You like observing students as they learn and mature from year to year.

You enjoy being familiar with most of the children and knowing them by name.

You 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.

At 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.

Contact Patricia
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Patricia story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher