Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Substitute

Today, I’m giving props to substitute teachers. Why? No particular reason. I just think they deserve some recognition. I remember the feeling that would rise through the class when we had a substitute, a kind of joy even if a good teacher was out. Because a sub is someone new, someone different, someone who might let you get away with throwing a balloon around class (or might not!).

You have to admit, they have a tough job. They go in to a class usually not knowing what to expect, have to follow someone else’s lesson plan. Unless it was an unplanned absence, in which case they have to wing it. And part of the skill in running a classroom is having a connection with the students. These teachers go in with nothing. They have to be tough and they have to be adaptable.

In my never-ending quest to relate all things back to the Simpsons, we can look at the nineteenth episode of season two, “Lisa’s Substitute,” where Mr. Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman, credited as ‘Sam Etic’—really) says “…it’s the life of the substitute teacher. He’s a fraud. Today he might be wearing gym shorts, tomorrow he’s speaking French, or, or, pretending to know how to run a band saw or God knows what.” While they aren’t really frauds : ), the sentiment is correct. They are there one day, gone the next, which is really hard when you come across one that you really like.

One substitute I remember in particular is Mr. Harper. He was a good teacher and an all-around nice guy, a hell of a lot better than the sixth grade English teacher he was subbing for in both counts. Most important, he was someone who listened when you talked to him, not just heard what you said. Whenever anyone heard he was subbing for their class, they didn’t just get excited the teacher was gone. They got excited that Mr. Harper was there. 

To all the substitute teachers out there: someone, maybe a student who prefers to stay quiet in the back of the classroom instead of jump into the discussion, does remember you. Maybe for just one day, you made them think of something in a different way, you made them feel at ease when they usually just felt awkward. Thank you.


  1. A very nice post from a Substitute Teacher who appreciates it! The day can be tough, but also there are good days. When you keep going to the same school, yes, it is nice when they remember you with just a plan, Hello, Mrs.______. That always makes me smile.

  2. I was a substitute teacher for two years in a Middle School and Elementary School teachings. Some days were horrible. I remember one in particular that was so bad I was ready to walk out forever, but that was just one day. For the most part it was great. It is definitely a very interesting albeit challenging job. And yeah, I felt like a fraud much of the time, especially when I was in a math class. Kudos for your kind words for all subs.


Please validate me.