Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Hope Not

“Oh when the trumpet sounds the call

Oh lord I want to be in that number

When the saints go marching in”

- Song “When the Saints Go Marching In”

This morning, I got a two-school Instrumental Music job. The first, where I’d subbed Spanish* a while ago, and the second, at a school a block away from my house that I’ve only subbed at for Special Start last spring.

The reason I’ve never subbed there is because it’s an eight-hour school. The reason it’s an eight-hour school is because it’s a failing school. The reason it’s a failing school is that it’s next to “The Projects”.

I arrived at the first school ten minutes before the first bell, and - believe me - I needed that time. Yes, I needed all twenty-five minutes to figure out what was going on. There was nobody in the office to ask, so I wandered over to the cafeteria and the family liaison’s office, but I couldn’t find anyone. Mailbox empty. Then I went to the music room and found a teacher, who thought I’d be showing a movie, but where the movie was located and what the schedule was, she didn’t know. At least she knew I’d be teaching in the auditorium.

The assistant principal arrived, checked for a sub folder, but couldn’t find one. Then he located another music teacher in the hallway. That music teacher brought me to the music room, rifled through a desk to find a sub folder. None there either, but he handed me three movies (Madagascar, Shrek 2, and Bee Movie). He was kind enough to help me wheel the TV/DVD player cart into the auditorium and set it up.

Added bonus – he had a British accent, so if was going to be told:

(twice) that the 2nd period sixth-grade class would be a horror,

that there was only one outlet in the hallway,

that the remote control didn’t work,

that there was no schedule available,

and that I wasn’t allowed to take the movies to the second school,

hearing it in a British accent made it more palatable.

Being without a schedule wouldn’t do, so I returned to the office and asked for one. I’d have three middle school groups, a break for traveling and lunch, and then three more middle school groups at the other school. Foreboding…

You’re probably thinking that showing movies all day (or at least, at the first school) is a piece of cake. If we lived in a world where every class loved their subs and saw movies as opportunity to relax instead of eating said subs alive, I would love movies too. And sometimes, it works that way, and I type away. But I don’t know what to expect at the start of each class, and having to worry about it SIX TIMES is not my favorite way to spend the day.

Second period began and one sixth-grader came in loudly, cracking bad jokes, and hurling insults. Some quaint examples:

“Going to get a facelift and a nose job?”

“You’re a faggot.”

“She needs liposuction.”

I told him that he wasn’t allowed on stage. He ignored the rule and tried to touch my laptop. NOBODY TOUCHES MY LAPTOP. I snapped it closed, surprising him, but, unfortunately, missing his fingers.

When it was time to play the movie, I told him he had to stop seeking attention.

He replied, “I’m not seeking attention. I’m providing comedic relief.”

“Oh, is that what you think it is,” I replied.

After the next insult, I sat next to him and whispered, “This isn’t a bad class. It’s you. Say another insult and you’re in the office for the rest of class.”

He was insult-free and stayed in his seat after that. I guess he didn’t want to miss “Shrek 2”.

Things were going well for a time, until the boys started trash talking about each other’s mothers. So I stayed in the audience to keep ‘em civil.

The problem boy heckled the screen a couple of times:

“He looks likes he’s on ecstasy.”

“He’s acting like he’s on crack.”

His mommy must be so proud.

At the second school, nothing had been left for me, so I retrieved a TV/DVD player from the library. The office told to report to room 314. It was the wrong room. When I located the right room, I had the students play their trumpets and trombones for fifteen minutes. The DVD a helpful music teacher found for me was about a very old guy who played the slowest jazz violin I’d ever heard. If these fifth-grade students weren’t nice, it would’ve been a nightmare.

There was some confusion about where my next room was located. When it was figured out, the door was locked so another teacher called a custodian. The custodian took ten minutes to arrive. (Why yes, I did stand with all of the students in the hallway). Finally, we filed into the room and the students played trumpets for fifteen minutes. We spent the rest of the time sitting around a table listening to and singing Michael Jackson. Well, I didn’t sing.

Not sure where to go next, I asked the Science teacher who had retuned to his room. He said I’d be there for the next class as well. (Whew.) The last group’s instrument was the xylophone. All three classes played “America the Beautiful” and “When the Saints Go Marching In”, but it sounded better on the xylophone than on the horns.

The day ended - I survived.

On the way out, the helpful music teacher asked, “He’s out tomorrow too. Are you subbing again?”

I replied, “I don’t know yet.”

But I wanted to say, “I hope not.”

* Spanish fun:


  1. This time of the year is brutal. The kids have decided they're done and it's all downhill from here. We have another seven weeks before finals, and I can't bear to think of what May is going to be like.

  2. Sarahjayne, I agree! Once the weather gets nice, the students are done. But I think this teacher decided that he was done more than the students.

  3. Wow, what a hectic day. I hope you don't have to sub there tomorrow. Subbing in different schools on the same day must be a headache. You do it so often; I have no idea how!

    At least tomorrow is Friday. Even if it is as horrid as today, you will be welcomed by a weekend when you get to leave!

  4. Oh my, slow jazz violin could put a grown man under the table, let alone a group of wiggly adolescents. I salute you, teacher-extraordinaire.

  5. Tiffany, I hope you've had a good week off, even though you're doing a research paper.

    Until recently, I rarely had two-school jobs. I hate them!

    This weekend, I'm visiting my sister, so even if I have to work tomorrow and I'm wiped out, I can rest on the bus.

    Roxy, so true! After putting the DVD in once, I knew not to bother again.

  6. I hope you don't sub there tomorrow, too! That sounds like an exhausting day. But you survived, and you should sleep well tonight! :)

  7. Oh boy, what a day! I like you comment about the British accent -- I probably would have pretended I couldn't hear him so he'd repeat his instructions, and I'd get a second dose of his accent.

    Hope you don't get those guys again. Sounds like a rough one.

  8. *your comment


    It was a long day of energetic second-graders, so I'm tired... ;)

  9. You amaze me again, Theresa.
    'The day ended - I survived' Now that would be a good title for a newspaper / magazine column for you and your educational experiences.

  10. Hi Theresa

    A British teacher teaching in "the projects" - makes a good basis for a story!!! I'd be nosey and ask him his story..!!

    But oh that boy! That silly boy! I'm all in awe with teachers able to deal with such a boy - I really don't have patience at all and would be sure to not have missed his fingers if it was my laptop he touched!


    And well done you for coping with no instructions etc from the school. Good grief!

    You deserve a big mocha latte triple cappuccino from Starbucks!

    Big hugs!

    Take care

  11. Susan, right now I'm sitting here, waiting/dreading the phone to ring.

    Shelley, why did America create the American accent? Seems like a silly thing we changed in retrospect.

    Tough second graders? Sorry!

    Brigid, the title for this one was going to be "I Survived" until I wrote the last line. I get your hint!

    Old Kitty, I should ask him. We have a British ballroom dancing teacher in the schools too. Perhaps I should interview them all.

    If I get a 2nd-day teaching for this man, I'll... cry? Right now, I'm willing the phone to not ring!

  12. Wow, I could never discipline those kids. Kudos to you making it through the day!

    Were schools always this bad? Because I don't remember my schools ever having kids like that.

  13. This is why I'm not a teacher - I'd have made darn sure his fingers were in the laptop. Urgh.

    Why don't parents teach their children respect these days? It's beyond disheartening, and truly infuriating.

  14. Aubrie, I'm amazed about what kids say and know at such a young age. The boy was probably 12.

    Tara, it is disheartening to meet kids like that. Who knows what he's like at home. He's overcompensating for something.

  15. I'm a sub, too, and I totally get it. I'd have said 'no' if they called me the next day:)

  16. Deni, thanks for the comment and thanks for becoming a follower.

    I was going to tell the gatekeeper what happened if she called me to sub for the same person today, but she didn't call. I'm off today!

  17. Oh my goodness. That sounds brutal. Kudos to you for making it through and having the mental energy to write about it!

  18. Oh my god, how depressing! Firstly, to have the school so disorganized and secondly, to have kids at that age behave that inappropriately AND to know things they shouldn't know about at that age. I don't know how you do it. I commend you for getting through the day:)

  19. Talli, by last night I was plum out of energy!

    Kathleen, I think it was the biggest sub job mess I'd ever been handed.

    I compared that boy, who is a year older to my son. They're light years away from each other.

  20. I subbed for a short time many years ago, and you basically described every aspect of my substitute teaching nightmare. Days like that sure make a great story, however (at least as you tell it.)

  21. Another day, another dollar. Sounds like a a cocktail was needed at the end of this day or calamities and horrors. You definately have the makings of book with all these experiences. " The Perils of the Substitute Teacher"

  22. Paul, it is a nightmare a lot of times. My mother-in-law said she thought I'd taken to subbing because my posts were funny. I had to explain that often the funnier they are, the worse the job.

    Ann, I may have had a very large glass of red wine that evening. Don't forget, my blog is called "Substitute Teacher's Saga". I'd like to write a memoir - I'm just waiting for that ENDING.

  23. Wow! I'm proud you survived a day like that.

  24. Thanks, Lani. I'm happy that it's spring break this week!