I could probably do a whole blog devoted entirely to subbing stories. This morning as I walked around the neighborhood with my daughter, I was reflecting on all my crazy teaching experience. I have now had my license for seven years, and I have more years of subbing than actual full-time teaching under my belt. And that’s okay; the system needs good reliable subs who can handle the crazy, the ridiculous, and the stupid.
As I pondered this, I was reminded of all the fabulous stories I’ve collected in classrooms over those years. And I decided they simply must be shared.
Generally speaking, I have a pretty good attitude about rolling with the way students often treat subs, and I’m not afraid to lay down the law. There was one time, however, that was so stereotypical and so rude that I afterwards I realized I had been officially initiated into this substitute club.
I was subbing ninth grade something at a public school in a small town, and after the class left the room, I settled into the teacher’s office chair to enjoy a class period off. I leaned back and ran my fingers through my hair and suddenly my fingers caught in…scotch tape!
Yes. I had Scotch tape in my hair.
Now of course, the substance could have been worse, but as I reflected on how it happened, because I suddenly knew exactly how it had happened, the whole thing was so devious, I really wanted to be mad about it.
Midway through the class period, a student had asked me for some help on the assignment. I knelt beside her desk and talked her through the trouble spot. It was all contrived. She had schemed with the kid behind her, who, while I was kneeling down, simply reached out and stuck the tape in my hair. My hair is so thick that I didn’t feel it. I sighed and had to give them props for ingenuity. If the students had still been in the room, the poop might have hit the fan, but since they had left, I just laughed it out and let it go. You have to, or you’d never make it in this business.
I skimmed through the lesson plans left on the 7th grade English teacher’s desk. Silent reading?! That’s it?! For 55 minutes?!
Was she crazy?
I opened my sub folder (which I never leave home without, after being left without plans one too many times), and threw together a quick fun lesson on similes or something like that. The students settled in their seats, and we began.
I’d hardly opened my mouth when the students protested. But today is silent reading day!
Wait, you want to silent read?
And they opened their books and read silently for nearly 50 minutes before getting squirrelly.
I was flabbergasted. And seriously wanted in on the teacher’s training techniques. How did she train her 7th graders to engage so deeply with books?
The best part as a book-loving wannabe English teacher myself, besides observing such devotion to books in such young, distractable readers, was that this was the only prep for the whole day. That meant I got to silent read all day long. Six whole class periods.
I picked up Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, a middle grade novel that I could easily digest while simultaneously supervising students, and downed the whole thing. I’d been given this book in my childhood and somehow never found the interest to read it. This time, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s a book with plenty of twists that I will never forget. I highly recommend it.
This was a gift day. Generally well-behaved students who not only could silent read for 55 minutes, but who actually wanted to. And a day of rest and reading for myself as well (while getting paid!). Subbing can be a pretty sweet gig, and I remind myself of these kinds of days when I’m experiencing the opposite.