Why did I ever go back to high school?!?! : The lamentations of a substitute teacher.

Circa Every Day of Junior Year

I graduated high school in May of 2006 and immediately began my undergraduate degree, which I finished in May of 2010, only to immediately begin my master’s degree. I’m graduating in a couple of weeks and a PhD can suck my furry dick. For the last four years of this, I’ve been making ends meet with substitute teaching (primarily high school) and a steadier evening job, which is now at the library. The beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I’m sorry. Let me rephrase. The only beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I work when I want to work, which is pretty much all the fucking time so that I can get through the summer without taking on another job. For the most part, it doesn’t require a lot of actual teaching and is really quite dull. The kids do their work and I write this blog on my laptop. If they’re not going to do the work, that substitute who gets mistaken for a high school student is not going to be the one to change their entire outlook on education. As long as they don’t distract other students, I leave it be. Now that my substituting days are coming to a close, due to summer and having finally finished graduate school, though, I can admit to a fact that I’ve been trying to ignore: substitute teaching kind of sucks balls.

cute puppy thing
I don’t know why this showed up when I Google Imaged “sucks balls”, but it’s calmed my rage. Also… SAFE SEARCH.

I love teenagers. I really do. Everyone else has washed their hands of them, but I adore them. They’re hilarious and obsessive and so excited about life that it just catches. They’re on the cusp of their own futures and someone needs to help them make the important decisions. I want to be that person. That person, though, is not a substitute teacher, regardless of age or life experience. They don’t like their substitute teachers and they aren’t very nice to them. Therefore, I am getting completely burned out on subbing and it’s pretty damned obvious, because:

I don’t see a future in this.

outlook not so good I used to keep this notebook full of detailed information on each teacher for whom I subbed, for future reference. I wouldn’t only include what lunch the teacher had, but also what I thought of their classroom management skills, how rowdy individual classes were, and if the lesson plan included word searches or a real assignment that kept the kiddos occupied. It was a great resource when accepting jobs. I’m not sure when it happened, but the notes got shorter and shorter. Gradually, the full single-spaced page went to a few sentences with comments on how cold the room was, when my planning period was, and whether or not I should accept another job with this teacher. Now? When I bother to take notes:

Mrs. White – Middle school
Hell no

Mr. Smith – High school
Only if you’re going to be evicted

Ms. Smart – High school
Hell fucking no. Just get evicted.

I no longer talk to my kids like a teacher.

cool teacher

Four years ago, I took the utmost care to speak to my kiddos as an authority figure. Now?

I have a favorite student who hangs out with his friends in my apartment complex. He’s a good kid and regularly calls me “girl” and shows me his manicures when I get my mail and I think he’s a total dear. The following conversation took place in front of a classroom of tenth graders.
Student: “Hey girl! I might see you later tonight!”
Me: “Um… that sounds SUPER creepy without any kind of clarification, just so you know.”

I looked up to see a teenaged boy casually massaging the shoulder of the girl in front of him.
Me: “Um… that’s really odd. Could you stop?”

“Okay. Your assignment is on the board. I don’t mind if you talk quietly as long as you do the work. I don’t want to hear your music and if you guys could just not be mean and suck, that would be awesome. Teachers have feelings too, you know.”

“Alright, y’all have a great spring break. I don’t wanna see any of you on the news.”

I let shit slide.

cell phones in class                                                           

I used to be quite strict. Now? Well, it’s not total anarchy, by any means. Just today I lost it when a student told me that making him move seats was “bullshit” and snapped “Then get out. You don’t talk to me that way and you don’t talk to people that way. Go.” However, if it doesn’t hurt or offend or distract anyone, I don’t really care.

Student: “Can we listen to music?”
Me: “As long as I can’t hear it, I don’t care.”

”I’ll be right back. Don’t set anything on fire, please.”

“You guys, stop throwing stuff. I’m not asking for a whole lot here and not throwing stuff is not that hard. See. I’m NOT THROWING STUFF right now. It’s easy.”
They were surprisingly receptive to this.

“Could you please put your pants back on? Thank you.”
He did have on basketball shorts underneath… I think.

Student: “Can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “No. You can go the bathroom.”
Student: “But can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “You can go to the bathroom and I won’t pay attention to whether or not you come back with chips.”

I tell teachers when they suck.

Out of control classroom

My bachelor’s degree is in education. I’ve been substituting for four years. I know what poor classroom management looks like both on paper and in actuality. When I started this gig, I’d still hoped to eventually teach, so I walked on eggshells and was careful to leave any bad notes blaming the students for their behavior, not the teachers. Now? I just don’t give a fuck. I’m not going to sub for the teachers with poor classroom management (therefore demonic students) ever again anyway. Still, subbing remains a substantial portion of my income and teachers talk, so I’m not exactly burning bridges, so much as throwing lit cigarettes onto them.

“There wasn’t an assignment to give them, so I told them to work on something from another class quietly. Most classes were terrible.”

“This was one of the most disrespectful classes I’ve had. They ignored me when I asked them to quiet down and wouldn’t quit throwing things.”
This teacher actually punished the class severely for this behavior, becauseof my bluntness. They’re a joy to sub for now.

“They were horrible. I’ve never substituted for such rowdy students or had them be so disrespectful to me. Multiple teachers had to come into the room to tell them to quiet down, along with a principal. I have never had to have a principal come into a room to get the students under control in four years.”
I went to high school with this guy. His wife made a Facebook post a couple of weeks later about stopping by his classroom to find his students playing soccer in the room and how he was the best teacher ever. No. A teacherteaches.

Today, I covered a class with the note on the board saying “Choose a partner and…” I don’t even know what it said after that, because it doesn’t fucking matter. It’s a FRIDAY IN APRIL. The worst thing a teacher can do to a sub is tell the students ahead of time that they can work in groups if they don’t have to do so. The teacher isn’t the one who has to deal with the total fucking anarchy that is a high school class working in groups a few weeks from the end of the school year. So, when I saw this guideline, I immediately erased it. The kids worked quietly for half the hour and when one student asked what it had said, I told them that they could work in groups for the rest of the class.

Student: “So we could have been working in groups this whole time?”
Me: “No, because I decided you couldn’t.”
Student: “But she’s our teacher.”
Me: “And she’s not here right now. She’s not the one who has to deal with it and shouldn’t have put it on the board in the first place.”

Yeah… there’s kind of this unspoken rule that you don’t call a teacher a fucktwat to her students. Oops. Fortunately, I wasn’t her official substitute, didn’t introduce myself and just filled in for the hour, so I was able to anonymously leave the following note.

They were good, but it would be easier to handle if they didn’t already expect to work in groups. It’s a lot easier and more effective to offer that as a reward than as a punishment, particularly this close to the end of the school year. I erased it from the board and told them they could work together after deciding if they could handle it.

This was perfectly polite, but when I went back to cover for the last hour, another sub wrote that I must’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed… because so many female teachers are so fucking catty. I was trying to let her know, nicely, that it’s difficult for a sub when she does this.  I wasn’t rude, but even substitutes apparently have to fall into this Mean Girls teacher stereotype. So, thank you, anonymous substitute for giving me another reason to hate this industry. After four years of substitute teaching, I’ve completely lost faith in public education as a whole. I don’t even know if I want my own children after enough kids have called me a bitch and or announced that I need to get laid. I end most days by ranting to my Gramma or Gail about how I’m going to cut out my own uterus and set it on fire or how my tubes have just tied themselves. I had the following text conversation with my dear little sister, Bea, (who’s a senior in a neighboring town) this afternoon.

Me: You guys are all little bitches. High school students suck. Fuck off all of you.
Me: Love you. 😀

I can’t fucking do this anymore because high school kids are mean, public education sucks, and so many teachers only teach because they never wanted to leave high school in the first place. Maybe I did wake up on the wrong side of the bed, because I work two jobs and I just finished the most stressful semester of my life. Maybe I do want to dramatically look at the sky and yell “WHY?!?!?!” every time my alarm goes off and I have to be at the high school in thirty minutes. So, just in case, I threw away the entire note, including what the other subs had to say, just to be a pain in the ass and channel my own inner fifteen-year-old. I’m not going to be the unpopular girl in this teen flick while the mean girls snicker. I had enough of that in my overalls, turtleneck, black-framed glasses, ponytail, and ribbon-laced combat boots during the first four years of high school. Why did I ever go back?!?!

mean girls

13 thoughts on “Why did I ever go back to high school?!?! : The lamentations of a substitute teacher.

  1. Um… yeah…. You do sound pretty stressed, and you have major-huge reasons to feel that way. So, uh, maybe you could schedule a massage…? (Or, if that’s too expensive, maybe that kid who likes to give massages is available?) 😉 At the very least you deserve a good cocktail-night.

    Hugs, honey. You’re almost there. The end is in sight. (Soooo proud of you!)

    • Thank you so much. I’m just really burned out on subbing and the kids are all crazier and the teacher’s are more lax (not a good combination) so late in the year. I’ll be able to relax more in a month.

      • That will be wonderful…. 🙂 (*imagining you w/ a mojito on the beach…* No, screw that. If you’re going to the beach, I’m going with you… 😉 )

    • I’m actually a big fan of Catholic school or a much smaller public school than the one where I work and went to k-12. I’m sure this all seems worse because it’s so late in the year, too.

      • My daughter’s elementary school was not overly large, but teachers kept being shuffled around and retirees weren’t replaced so class sizes increased.

        Also, I’m not a fan of whole language, center based teaching. I graduated from public school and loved it. It did well by me. I love teachers and the idea and resources of public schools, but things have changed (at least in our area). And they didn’t have a librarian (just a paraprofessional)! My elementary school librarian was so influential on who I became.

      • Yes, being a librarian, my plan was to work in schools, but after spending so much time in public schools, I’d rather cater to the adults who were failed by that system. I love the public resource too, but I don’t think it’s for me. My degree in education really taught me a lot about the lack of power teachers have.

  2. This post reminded me of some of my subs from high school – My school had 5 or 6 subs that were always around and you knew, walking in, if the lesson was going to be fun or silent depending on who the sub was. Actually, there were three in particular that we all loved: one was a middle aged woman who was like everyone’s mom and the sweetest lady on earth, another was a HUGE abominable-snowman looking man covered in tattoos who used to be a biker, and another was this old old old senile man who never remembered anyone’s name, spoke with a heavy old-man accent, and called me “Tom” for 2 years because once he read the seating chart in a Spanish class upside down. None of them were our “teachers” per say, but we loved them and appreciated them. But, they all had their odd quirks and knew they were the sub. I’m sure you fall into the ‘beloved sub” category for most of your students and they just don’t know how to express it because teens f*cking suck sometimes. 🙂

    • Haha. I actually have kids tell me I’m their favorite a lot. Yesterday’s frustration was primarily with the teacher who left that message, rather than leaving the classroom management to me. The kids are USUALLY good and I adore them, but I’m definitely over this subbing gig. I’m hoping I get a full time librarian job soon and call it a day on my subbing years.

  3. You should submit your resume with carneysandoe.com. It is an agency in Boston that finds faculty for independent schools. It is free for searches and charges the schools. That is how I found two of my employers. You won’t find the problems you just addressed in independent schools, and you still get to work with kids.

    • Thank you, but I’m graduating with my Masters in Library and Information studies in a couple of weeks. I want to be a public librarian and hope one day that’ll allow me to work as a young adult librarian.

  4. Loved it. You said everything I’ve pretty much figured out in the last two years of subbing. (I loved your truth, candor, and sense of humor). I’m not working today because I sub in a fairly affluent district where (most) teachers actually like their job (unlike a neighboring district where, they don’t, the kids are rampant, and 50 jobs can be had district-wide on any given day—unless it’s Monday or Friday, and then they’re using subs to cover subs…) I don’t go to those schools anymore. If I’m not good enough to HIRE, I’m not good enough to SUB. 😉

    • I no longer want to be a teacher. I’m a half time librarian and just sub to pay the bills, but I think that’s a good policy. Lol. STAY STRONG!

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