I’ve been subbing for a few months and decided it was time to write about it.
I thought about offering my perspective on education, my detailed explanation of all that’s wrong in our school system, or a sage listing of the things I’ve learned from my students. (I could write for days on end about what I’ve learned.) But today I have no wise words. I’m here to share my top five sub moments, ranging from groan-worthy to hilarious. I’ll write a serious sub-related post another time.
5. My very first day as a substitute teacher was in a 4th grade classroom. I stood at the door to greet my shiny new students as I had been told good subs should. As they filed in, most offered a mumbled “Good morning” while others evaluated me silently. My day was off to a happy start when one girl responded to my greeting with, “You’re pretty!”
4. One morning I walked into a middle school classroom and noticed right away that the one tissue box was empty. I looked around for a replacement but there was none. I didn’t think too much of it and went on with my morning, teaching three or four uneventful periods. Then the inevitable happened.
“Miss Sub, can I go to the bathroom?”
“Ew, his nose is bleeding!”
“Dude, there’s blood all over the desk!”
Fortunately my next period was a prep and I borrowed wet wipes from the neighboring classroom to clean up. I will never again underestimate the importance of a box of tissues!
3. I was subbing for a well-behaved 4th grade classroom when a girl spilled her entire water bottle (about 24oz!) over a cluster of 5 desks. As is typical for that age group, most of the boys laughed and a few girls cried. Some kids helped clean up in an effort to earn behavior points. After a few minutes of internal panic and outward efficiency, I thanked the kids for helping and announced that we were going to drop everything and read silently for a bit.
One student nodded knowingly. “It’s to help us calm down,” he explained to his classmates.
2. Young kids don’t mind asking awkward questions, so I’ve been asked by more than one kindergartener, “Is there a baby in your tummy?” I always smile and respond with a “Nope!” or “No, thanks for asking so nicely!” One girl, however, was very persistent. “Are you sure?”
“I think I can see it in there,” she insisted. I don’t think I ever convinced her that my tummy did not hold a baby.
1. Although my favorite days are spent with kids from K-2, I’ve also subbed for an amazingly fun class of 8th graders. One of our lesson activities required students to read different parts of a dramatic play. The boys delighted in trying to read with a voice that would make their sub laugh. They definitely succeeded!
I said I wasn’t going to share anything serious but I changed my mind. If there’s just one piece of advice I could give to other substitute teachers, it would be don’t be afraid to smile. I think many subs are afraid of being too nice, as it is so common for students to take advantage of any perceived weakness. But here’s my take.
You may be the one bright spot in a student’s day. You might even be the one bright spot in their life at the time. Why waste that chance because of fear?
There’s certainly a time to pull out your dead-serious, one-false-move-and-you’re-going-to-the-office face. It’s also wise not to encourage class clowns unless you’re really, really comfortable with getting control back. But smile — as much as humanly possible. Laugh! Greet students when they come in. Notice the great things about your students and let them know it.
I may be “just a sub” but I know that I have made students smile, laugh, and feel just a bit better about how they fit into the great big world. Teachers always have the power to make a difference — even if they’re only there for one day!