Scared to Sub

Some teachers sub after they retire. Not me. I’ve never had the nerve. And this after teaching at a middle school and in a state penitentiary, with even a seminar on death row. For one thing, I remember how we treated substitute teachers when I was a kid. We chatted, chomped on gum, threw paper wads, switched names and seats, refused to work, and pushed each other around.

My last year of teaching, I saw a substitute teacher hiding in the hall. He sagged against the closed classroom door, his head hanging down. And from the gap under the door, I heard yelling and slamming around and raucous laughter.

“I can’t go back in there,” he said to me.

I opened the door and stepped inside. Silence fell.

The difference? I had a relationship with those students, and he didn’t.

Which is why I’m too scared—I wouldn’t know the students.

What’s amazing to me is that some people have the courage to sub anyway. . . and do it well.

These superstars come through the classroom door knowing they’ll get what they want, and, sure enough, they do. They say it like they mean it, walk around like they own the room, and don’t mind making some noise—slamming shut a door, banging down a book, or whistling to call for attention.

They don’t care if students like them, or so it seems. But strangely, students take to them and settle in to do their lessons.

Filling in isn’t easy. But subbing matters—for teachers who need to see doctors and care for sick children and especially for students who need to keep momentum in learning.

Just this morning, I saw the end-of-summer advertisement for substitute teachers in my school district. I hope some fast-thinking, thrill-seeking, kid-loving people answer the call.

4 Replies to “Scared to Sub”

  1. Ooh, how this resonates! I remember driving home from substitute teaching job and having to pull off the side of the road to scream out my frustrations. No fun! Like you, I take my hat off to those who succeed as subs.


  2. After I finished my degree thus spring I subbed in the local school. Several times there were no lesson plans left for me, but I had to come up with something. I did better in some classes than others, for sure. But I did well enough that me subbing this year was an option.
    I had not thought about it as all that impressive though…I appreciate the way you offer a level of respect to substitutes that isn’t always afforded them.


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