Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Friday, February 10, 2006



A couple weeks back, I had a particularly okay day at work. My worst seventh-grade class was missing one of the students who makes it my worst and my other classes were all for the most part doing what I'd asked them to do. There was another teacher, however, who was having a particularly bad day.

The guy is a substitute. Now, I'll say right here and now that you could not give me enough Dutch apple pies to be a substitute. You could not find a team of wild horses powerful enough to drag me to work each day as a substitute. If you found a zombie to break open my skull and eat a portion of my brain, infecting me with his zombiosity and leaving me a mindless, shambling husk of myself, said mindless, shambling husk would not be willing to shamble into classrooms to teach the prepubescent zombies.

I say all this to illustrate the fact that I empathize with substitute teachers and admire the ones who have found a way to really make it work. This guy has not. On the day in question, this substitute had apparently been eating ten flavors of shit from various classes for most of the day. I work with pretty much all of the kids he was trying to teach that day and I can say, in his defense, some of them can be fairly bitchly.

I was one floor up from my usual place of work, teaching the one class I teach on the fifth floor. I came down to get my stuff for the end of the day and I noticed a ruckus in the room next door to the room in which I've borrowed a closet.

(I'll digress for a moment here to explain that I am a cluster/specialty/what-have-you teacher and I do not have my own classroom, which has its pros and cons. Chief among pros would be that I don't have to have a homeroom and I don't have to worry about "classroom environment", as I'm always squatting in someone else's place. The downside is that I have had to beg a co-worker for a closet in her room in which I can store my supplies and keep my coat during the day. There's another downside which I'll address momentarily.)

I saw the middle school dean speaking rather severely with a couple of students, while this sub harangued her about what a menace this class was and about how they had taken his coat. I later saw him with his coat on, so I'm assuming this theft was temporary.

Anyway, intrigued by what I'd witnessed of the aftermath, I sought out the full story from another teacher on the hall, who informed me that there had been a fight in the class the sub was working with. The sub panicked. Instead of breaking the fight up himself or asking a student how to call security, he ran into the hallway, screaming, "Fight! Fight! Help me! Help me!" This, of course, had the effect of emptying the surrounding classrooms, as junior high students always want to see a good fight. Not good. The ensuing melee is when the sub lost track of his coat.

I was, I will say, less than surprised when the guy failed to show up for work the next day, causing a bit of a train wreck, as administration was unaware of his absence until none of the seventh grade teachers could go to our next class because we were all waiting for each other (and the not-present sub) to relieve us.

I was more than surprised when the guy showed up again today. I figured maybe he'd had a scheduling conflict or something and made a mental note to the effect that he must have strong character to return to a place where he'd had such problems. He was, in short, someone to be admired.

Turns out, no. Later in the day, I was in the recently established teachers' lounge. (Up until last year, it had been the book room and teachers without a classroom had to perch in the library or fashion an office out of a cardboard box and some duct tape.) This is the downside of cluster teaching to which I referred earlier. On my preparatory periods, I don't have a classroom in which I can sit and work. So the teachers' lounge is one of very few options for me. So I was sitting in there today, trying to read a paper, when the sub comes in and starts talking to me.

I have a thing about trying to be polite. So I did the "look up to answer questions and then look right back down at the paper" thing, trying to make it obvious that I wasn't interested in a conversation. But the sub did not take the hint. He kept on talking about schedules and the day next week when he wouldn't be able to stay all day and the contract that was approved in the fall and his mother's anal warts. (He may not actually have mentioned his mother's anal warts, but I was trying my best to listen as little as possible.)

Finally, the period was basically over and I'd read precisely none of my paper. I gave up and put it away. Then the guy says, "Hey, you missed something" and gestures to my face. The fact that I hadn't eaten anything or picked any boogs while sitting there made me wonder what the hell he was talking about. He said, "Yeah, you've got a...a, uh, tuft." I gave him the blankest stare humanly possible. He told me to turn my head so he could get a better look. I have absolutely no fucking idea why, but I did it. This second view confirmed for him that I had a problem. He did his best to elaborate. "You've got a tuft over there that sticks out farther than on the other side. Turn your head the other way." And I fucking did it, again. "Yeah. See, on that side, it's like a full mutton-chop, but on the other side, it's a regular Abe Lincoln." The man has knowledge of some arcane beard terminology that left me clueless. But what he was trying to get at, I in the end surmised, was that my beard was not perfectly trimmed.

Not being the kind of man who normally critiques the facial hair of complete strangers, I was at a loss as to how to respond. So I just got the hell out of there at the earliest convenience. Then, later in the day, on my lunch break, when he came back in the room, I made an excuse and hid in the darkest bowels of the library.

So here's another reason not to substitute teach. It apparently turns you into a beard-criticizing assmunch.


After having subbed for 9 years in junior and senior high I can relate on so many levels.

That Girl
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