Beginning in the third grade kids love having a substitute teacher. By “having” I mean “biting off parts of the teacher, chewing and swallowing the teacher, partially digesting the teacher, and then regurgitating the teacher back onto his own shoes before his feet are devoured, all while texting friends on banned smartphones.” During this process the substitute’s job is to act like all is normal and that he has full control over the class and his 56 year old bladder, (which was already full 5 hours ago when the first bell rang), all while teaching fractions.
The most important thing a substitute teacher can do is to get control of the class when the bell rings. I attempt this impossible task with rules:
“CLASS! SIT DOWN! QUIET! EYES ON ME! I will tell you my rules, call roll, then give you today’s assignment.”
Eddie Haskell (every class has one) leaps up: “Mr. Woodside, thanks for teaching us today. That’s a sick tie, yo. Where is Mr. Pike?”
“We’re not talking about that right now,” I answer. “Sit down.”
“CLASS! QUIET! EYES ON ME! HERE ARE MY RULES.”
“Rule 1. We will show each other respect. When I’m talking you’re NOT talking. If you want to talk, raise your hand.”
Dakshesh, fidgeting, interpreting my rule literally, immediately raises his hand and says, “Mr. Pike gives us hall passes if we have to go to the bathroom.”
More titters. I glare silently.
“Rule 2. We will be safe. No climbing, running, throwing things or touching others.”
This rule is ignored later when Gwandoya throws a box of raisins at Ibrahim’s eye and then Abdul-Muqaddim, needing a snack, eagerly retrieves the richoched raisins from the sink full of dirty chemistry beakers.
“Rule 3. “You must do your work! I have your assignment after I take roll.”
Koosooma: “Is it homework if we don’t finish?”
“I’ll tell you later. Sit down.”
The students begin to smell my rising fear. In a louder voice I say, “RULE 4: NO DISRUPTIONS PERMITTED!” Hmm, maybe this should have been Rule 1.
I continue with Rule 5, the one everyone’s been wondering about: “NO HALL PASSES!
Dakshesh again, fidgeting wildly now: “What if you have a serious Number-Two type bathroom situation?'”
Lots of sniggers, which I ignore. Ignoring is a powerful substitute tool, which never works. I revise: “NO HALL PASSES UNLESS IT’S AN EMERGENCY! I decide if it’s an emergency, and you’d better be throwing up!” This answer conveniently dove-tails into the students’ innate tendency to regurgitate teachers.
Silence. I’ve gained ground. But I know the cyclone is gathering energy.
“Rule 6: Stay in your assigned seats! No wandering around or visiting!”
“Do you understand the rules? Say YES.”
Next I take roll, which occupies 12 minutes because there are an average of 38 kids in each period, I can’t pronounce most of the names, the 22 kids still learning English can’t understand many words I say, and I slip on raisins and bang my elbow on the counter, demonstrating the ironic gravitas of my own safety rule.
Finally I give the assignment, which is also written on the board. “Read pages 666 through 681 in your Science book. In your notebook write one fact for each paragraph. There are 28 paragraphs. Do you understand the assignment? Say YES.”
“Good. Get to work.”
Elikapeka raises her hand. “I spelling 681 sentences each page, yes?”
The next 20 minutes proceed normally without any learning and lots of students wandering around talking and throwing raisins.
To not regain control, I give an impromptu lesson on gravity, which I think cleverly complements the teacher’s assignment on the climate of Antarctica. I get these pertinent questions:
“How tall are you?”
“Tall. Sit Down.”
“Where is Mr. Pike?”
I improvise: “He was in an accident.”
“Well, where is he?”
I pause and look worried as if I shouldn’t be divulging this. “He’s in Antarctica on a secret gravity mission for the Government. He’ll be back on Monday.”
En masse: “BITCHIN, DUDE!”
I repeat this entire process 7 times. After fourth period I am rewarded with a 22 minute lunch break, which I gleefully spend in the bathroom.
The last bell rings. I’m exhausted, but in a good way, because I know I’ve contributed to the enlightenment of young minds.
I know what you’re wondering: “Why would anyone want to be a substitute teacher?”
We’re not talking about that right now. SIT DOWN!