Adventures in Substitute Teaching

Today, instead of my typical advice-imparting, life-lesson-giving posts, I’ve decided to share some of my tales from my days substitute teaching.  The stories I chose for this post come from my early years of subbing, so my personal friends may already know them.  To everyone else, just enjoy the humor and insanity of what happens when a regular teacher leaves the room.

The Anatomy Lesson:

This particular story took place in a small study skills class with only four 7th grade boys. I quickly noticed that these boys had a hard time focusing on their work, so I kept a close eye on them. I had to cut off a few inappropriate conversations as well. They had individual laptops that were kept in the classroom for the kids to use, and I was occasionally circling the room to make sure they were actually working and not just playing games. During one of these rounds, I discovered one of the boys looking up a scientific diagram of female anatomy. He was so engrossed in his “studies” that he didn’t notice me walking past behind him.  Since he was supposed to be working on his math, this was clearly not anything academic related, so without saying anything I simply closed the laptop and took it away. As I did so, the young man sitting at the table behind us yelled out in an agonized voice, “Wait! How will I know which hole to go in?!”
I don’t get paid enough to handle such situations.

The Walk-Out:

The only explanation I can come up with for this story is that it took place at a private school with a very laid back environment. Students called the teachers by their first names, and even the best of kids sometimes left the room to go to the restroom, etc., without checking first. That being said, on this particular day, the casualness of the students reached a new level. For the majority of the classes, the teacher had left projects for the kids to work on, and I was just there to supervise. Not much teaching going on. The students generally found a good balance between working and socializing that allowed most of them to complete the assignments before the end of the period, so even with their casual environment, things were going well. Then came F Block –Senior English. The students came in and listened as I read through the attendance list and the project assignments. As soon as I was done, most of them got up and headed for the door. I’d grown accustomed to the occasional student leaving, but the mass exodus struck me as very weird.  They ignored me when I asked where they were going. None of them stopped. Within a few seconds all but four students had left the room; the four that remained settled in and quietly started working. When questioned, they said that everyone leaving was actually pretty common in that class and that in theory, the students who left were going to work on their projects. It’s possible that was true, but since none of the people leaving said anything like that to me, it’s also possible that they were just covering for their friends. Either way, there wasn’t much I could do at that point but take down the names of the students who stayed and leave a detailed report about what happened for the teacher.

Last Minute:

Sometimes the most *ahem* interesting days are the last-minute jobs, teachers that don’t plan on being gone and have to whip up lesson plans for the sub on the fly, possibly while sick. Sometimes these lesson plans leave something to be desired, but I can be forgiving of that.
I subbed one such job for a Latin teacher. As the Latin teacher, he had all grades, from 5th through 12th, throughout the day. Some of his lesson plans were fine and class went perfectly well. However, not all were so neat. For instance, he told the 5th graders to finish a particular assignment, and then use “any remaining time” as a study hall. Turns out, most students had already completed the assignment and were ready to hand it in. Those who weren’t done yet had only about 5 minutes of work to do. So “any remaining time” turned into the entire class period. You can’t just give 5th graders a 50 minute study hall, especially when the classroom is a portable building a good five-minute walk (in the rain) from the main campus. It was impossible for the kids to retrieve work from their lockers in order to make good use of the study hall time. For several minutes, the youngsters entertained me with what they called their “Breakfast Raps” –aptly named musical raps they made up about breakfast. Apparently this was something they did quite often, and they turned them into quite the theatrical production. However, it didn’t take long for the kids to get restless. That was the first time I ever broke up a physical fight. Albeit, it was fifth graders fighting over a llama puppet, and not very traumatic at all, but I still say it counts.

Later in the day, I met with the Latin V class. This class consisted entirely of junior and senior guys, and I think they enjoyed the young, female substitute (though they know from previous occasions that I am not a pushover and won’t let them get away with much). They were a good group of guys, and pretty entertaining. The lesson plan for this class was even less complete than for the 5th graders. All it said was for them to continue their translation of a certain book. The guys looked genuinely confused, and indicated that they knew which book he meant, but the fact that he hadn’t told them how far to translate was odd. I insisted they work on it for a time, and they dutifully did, but it was clear that this again would not hold their attention for the entire class period. Eventually, one young man started telling a story about something that had happened to a bunch of them back in middle school. It involved silly string, running around neighborhoods, diving into ditches, angry neighbors and drivers, and avoiding being beat up by older guys. It was fairly long and complex, so as he told the story, he got more and more animated, and decided to go up to the marker board and draw out a diagram. Soon the whole class was completely caught up in his visual story telling, with other boys filling in details that he forgot or left out. It was in no way productive, but seeing as they had spent the first 25 minutes of class being productive, the lesson plan was so ridiculously vague, and this kept them engaged so they weren’t being destructive or behaving inappropriately, I allowed it to go on. And in all honesty, I was utterly entertained by it. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard while in a teaching capacity. And once the story-teller was done, he proceeded to draw an image of their teacher carrying a sword and slaying a tiger, with a command that the picture not be erased before the teacher returned.

And thus ends this episode of “Adventures in Substitute Teaching.”  I hope you enjoyed it.  There may be more to come later.  🙂

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Substitute Teaching

  1. Considering that there is absolutely nothing I could possibly teach you in the English language, which you master and which I am still learning, I couldn’t hold myself from reporting this little mistake of yours which I spotted.

    “And in all honestly” I am pretty sure the “L” is superfluous.

    Very funny stories, I had fun reading them.

    So, you didn’t feel like teaching them some anatomy lesson? Or you figured it was better that these boys never learn how to reproduce? 🙂

    Like

    • I’ll admit to not proofreading this post as closely as I could have. Nice catch, and I’ll go fix that now. 🙂

      I feel that those conversations are better left to the boys’ parents or biology teachers – not the sub. 😛

      Like

      • Not proofread? Your “unproofread” text is a 100x better than any of my texts, when they went through 100 proofreading.

        The second part was obviously some kidding on my part. I agree a hundred percent with your comment.

        Like

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