#503 Walking into class and seeing a substitute teacher

Postpone the pop quiz, torpedo that test, and forget about a tough math lesson today.

No, now’s the time when energy bolts blast through brains as everybody revs up for forty-five minutes of whispering, passing notes, and tossing paper airplanes.


— Email message —

“The perfect night with my book of awesome. Reading an entry everyday in the morning has become a ritual before getting started with work. Now I have the book and the perfect ritual to help me wind down.” – Angie

Photo from: here

76 thoughts on “#503 Walking into class and seeing a substitute teacher

  1. Substitute = movie/game/NOTHING day! SO GOOD.

    Unless you’re in the unfortunate situation known as the Repeat Substitute. R.S., over time, becomes well-acquainted with the actual routine, lesson plan, and curriculum. And actual learning must occur. Sadness.

    Different list, you’re right. Sorry.

    1. I remember this one sub…he came in for the science classes. He wasn’t really a regular, but he showed up a few times. He would always introduce himself, tell us what the plans were for the day….and then prop his feet up and go to sleep!! I wish I could remember his name.

    2. As a substitute teacher who subs quite a bit (averaging 5-10 times a month) at one particular school, I could well be described as a R.S. — but for my sake, and for the sake of those who actually like to -learn- in school, I must lodge a bit of protest with both #503 & also with the post I’m replying to… Actual learning doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy diversions as much as the next person, but when I come into a classroom I consciously try to set a friendly, helpful, and often playful tone, and I think both fun AND learning happen… enough that even though I expect students to work, I am still (according to the students themselves) a favorite sub of many students. I know I don’t fit the ‘norm’ for subs, but I’m just trying to offer up a different perspective here…

      1. I was coming at that from more of a nostalgic reminiscence of having subs as a child. I’m out of school with a Master’s degree in education so I understand the importance of “actual” learning.

  2. ahhh, the substitute teacher. usually i get the same subs; one’s extremely nice, the other’s extremely mean.

    but i havent had the pleasure of having a sub in a few years. now it’s usually just class is cancelled, which is fine by me.
    it’s funny how we pay so much for school, but love when the teacher cancels class. it’s like paying for nothing.

    1. Honestly, one of the most disappointing moments of my college career was the time I walked into class to see a “substitute” … a different professor from the same department, coming to stumble through the PowerPoint and keep us the whoooollleeee time. It should be a college law that in the event of a professor’s absence, the class should be rewarded with a free day, rather than receive punishment via a poorly prepared sub.

      And I went to school on a full scholarship, so I didn’t pay a penny! Cancel away — that’s always been my mantra ;D

  3. Even better: When NO teacher shows up. That happened only TWICE in High School for me.

    When College rolls around, this is commonplace. Where I went, if a professor doesn’t show up after 15 minutes, the class takes an attendance sheet and hands it to the Registrar’s office and everyone else leaves. That was awesome.

    1. In my high school, if a sub didn’t show up for the class, the principal would sit in the class. Of course he wouldn’t teach what was on the lesson plan. Instead we got lectures on stuff like harrassment, bullying, keeping the school clean…that kind of stuff. Only in college did I get to leave a class due to a no show.

      1. Oh totally, leaving a college class with a no-show teacher is totally acceptable.

        The way I heard it (at my school anyway), there are some unwritten rules about it, too.

        And we followed them: if your instructor was a TA or was per-course, you could leave after waiting five minutes. If they had their Master’s, it was ten minutes. If they had their Ph.D. it was fifteen.

        Sometimes we’d leave a note on the white board and/or we’d all sign a piece of paper and drop it off at the department office.

        I loved me some no-show instructors. Unexpected free hour, coming up!

        1. That’s what I heard…everyone saying there’s an unwritten rule on teachers being late and students getting the day off.

  4. My mom was the supply teacher!

    Always was an awkward day, all my friends were acting according to the awesomeness of this post, and doing random crap that they normally can’t get away with.

    I had to behave. And also tell her what the actual rules were, where things were kept…

    Definitely LOVE having substitute teachers who aren’t my mom, though!

    1. My mom is a teacher, and she took off work when I was born and stayed home to take care of my sister and me. When I was in fifth grade, she decided to ease back into working by subbing. I only had my mom once, and it was only for an hour. LUCKILY, all my friends behaved themselves and respected her. Phew.

      1. you definitely lucked out.

        Oh man, I would sometimes have my mom sub for a few days straight. It’s a natural thing for kids to test the sub and see how much crap she’ll take. It’s weird to see your classmates battle with your mom…

  5. I had a favorite substitute teacher. She would always come in for the English and History teachers. Mrs. Burdette….she was awesome. Yeah, she did follow the plan a bit and teach a little, but she let us do basically whatever we wanted to do.

    1. I had a favorite, too. It was this (seriously) 75+ year old dude. He was so weird and so hilarious and it was guaranteed that he would NEVER so much as open up the plan book (or take attendance, for that matter). I’m much too much of a weenie to have ever skipped, but I certainly enjoyed kicking back for 50 minutes and listening to his crazy stories. :)

      1. There was one sub who ended up getting a permenant job there at my school…..I can’t remember her name. I don’t remember how it happened either or what teacher she was filling in for, but she would sit and tell us about her life. How her husband left her and all this stuff. Things that a teacher shouldn’t be telling students. It was very awkward.

    2. Mr. Aggasucci(that may be spelled incorrectly) was known all throughout my district of 20 elementary schools as being the best supply teacher one could have.

      Mr. A if you’re out there reading this by some chance thank you so much for all the great memories, for letting us do fun things, and for always being AWESOME.

      1. WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA. Hold up.

        Is it pronounced ah-ga-sushi? Is he bald or half bald..whatever..? Ive had a teacher with that name and he’s like..remembered in our school as an awesome sub..

        Please reply back, im curious if its the same guy. O_o

  6. Call me crazy, but I’m a high school teacher and I get really annoyed when the supply teacher gets nothing accomplished while I’m away. I’d also like to think that the rare day I’m away, my students might actually miss me (especially if the supply is really strict).

  7. Last year, our math teacher quit in the middle of the year, so we got a long term sub who had majored in psychology (not math), and he didn’t teach us anything.

    Don’t get me wrong, he was awesome and one of my favorite teachers, but we did absolutely nothing in that class for the rest of the year…..AWESOME!

    1. I feel that, only in a less awesome way. My 8th grade year, I guess everyone on my town’s school board was on crack or something because they hired a lady certified in P.E. to teach Algebra I. That was some hard math back then! It was soooo UN-AWESOME.

      Everyday, we all just sat there staring at the bored with blank expressions on our faces and would go home and attempt homework for hours, many of our nights ending in tears of frustration. True story.

      1. and by bored … i obviously mean board :( note to self: proofread before, not after ;)

    2. One of the best teachers I have ever had was a 6-month sub the year I was in grade 5. Our “real” teacher was on maternity leave and so we had our “sub” from September to February. We loved him, and when she got back it was a huge disappointment. He was definitely our real teacher and he was Awesome.

            1. That’s crazy! You aren’t even getting any sleep yet, and how are you supposed to breast-feed??

              1. I don’t know…I’m not going that route. I know all the advantages, but its just not for me. I don’t think I take good enough care of myself for one. For two… the short time I have at home isn’t enough. I would have to use a pump or something.
                I would really love to take a year off. I wouldn’t miss any of those precious little moments, like the first laugh or first steps. Thankfully, I didn’t miss my daughters first steps…I would have been devastated.

  8. I’m hoping for a good sub today!
    it’s even ok when your teacher leaves stuff to do as long as you don’t have to deal with your least favorite teacher for one day.

  9. Hey, I’m a long-term substitute teacher! It really annoys the bejesus out of me when kids act like a sub means no learning will happen. Then again I was a goody two-shoes in school and always behaved for the sub, haha.

    1. Yeah, it’s different when you’re on the other side, but tap into the memories of child-you and remember all the awesome days of HAVING a sub (as opposed to the decidedly less awesome days of BEING one).

      We’re not encouraging or supporting kids being super-bad or misbehaved, just … more relaxed :)

  10. Its not so glorious for the substitute teacher. I know cause I am one and the amount of stress that you have to deal with some days is not cool. Also we do give out those pop quizzes and tests! Its much easier on us then it is for you!

    1. I was just thinking that, as I subbed today…

      I’m certified in music ed so I constantly get called to sub music classes. Never have I seen kids so disappointed as they are when they find out that they will indeed be rehearsing in band today, despite having a sub.

      No matter what subject, I generally do something though. I can’t imagine spending all day sleeping or telling kids about my personal life.

  11. Ugh, at my school the teacher either leaves a test or an in-class essay to do while the sub is there. Very rarely do we get a movie.

    And we get the repeat sub a lot. But he’s a cool guy so we don’t mind all that much.

  12. I am the sub, have been for 2 years….and opposed to what other subs on here have said, I think it is equally awesome!
    You don’t do any planning but still get to deliver lessons and do what you love, you leave any problems you had that day there, and you have no marking! And if you’re as awesome as me, you have student’s requesting you and telling you that you are their fave sub!
    Those comments make my life as a sub


    1. Oh … you just described why I love my job.

      It’s the odd day (surprisingly in grade one usually) that I don’t have an AWESOME day … for all the reasons you described.

  13. cool i love it when sub come in and basically fool around all day except when the mean sub writes a letter to the teacher and you have to stay in.

    oh well I’ll deal with it =)

    stay awesome

  14. I am a substitute, and I love it. One, because the job is pretty easy; and, two, because when I was a student I loved subs. :)

    Thanks Diana for sending me a link to this awesome blog.

    Now time to substitute for algebra and pre-calc.

  15. When I was growing up there was a sub – Mr. P. He was a southern gentleman with the full southern accent. He called all us young ladies “peach” or “darling” and all the young men “sir” or “lad”. He only subbed for languages, and always taught us something new and fun.

    It was the best days ever when Mr. P was there teaching us Spanish with his southern drawl.


  16. This makes me think of the movie School of Rock.

    My brother is a substitute teacher and he’s a very mellow person with some good ideas about keeping things cool in class.

    1. OK, Ms DumBum ain’t your teacher today, I am, and I have a headache and the runs. So I say, time for recess!

  17. Now, I loved it when classes were cancelled in college, but I have to disagree about the substitutes.

    I hated having subs in school, probably because I liked my teachers so much. But also because the subs never knew what was going on, and kids were disrespectful.

    Okay, so yes I loved school, and yes I’m a geek, but substitutes were NOT awesome for me!

  18. My students love when I’m gone and they have a sub. The day never goes according to plan and somehow when I return from a day of being “ill,” they’ve watched “The Hangover” instead of the biography on Harriet Tubman I had for them. Funny how that works out.

  19. This happened to me today!!! We were supposed to read, but instead we played a classwide game of heads up seven up-sub included.

  20. This made me smile! It was good to know that my students felt awesome today because they had a sub!

  21. Today, I had 3 subs and personally, I hate it when we have subs, because they usually sub in for my favorite teachers. My awesome LA teacher was gone and left this sub that actually knew what was going on. xD The problem with my class is that our teachers are just awesome and know how to deal with the jerks and the clowns in our class. So, like the minute the teacher is gone, the guys start being total jerks. =.=

  22. As a substitute teacher I have to say the look of a student when the walk in the room and see me or any other sub instead of the regular teacher is priceless. Having a sub is pretty awesome! And I have to say, being a sub can be pretty fun too.

  23. I had a substitute teacher in high school whom everyone respected and loved. Her name was Mrs. Kimble. When she retired at 65 she didn’t enjoy not having an occupation, so she decided to sub. When I meet her she was 76 years old and had this gentle, but firm way of getting students to do their work. She did follow the lesson plan and had us do work, but she asked for this in such a nice way that to me it felt like if I didn’t do it I’d be letting down my grandmother. When she died a year ago the whole school turned out to her funeral. I have never had a more caring, wonderful, effective substitute teacher then Mrs. Kimble. Love you and hope you’re teaching people a thing or two in your special way in the afterlife.

  24. As a kid I know that the only things better are holidays and when you haven’t done your homework and the teacher forgets you should have.

  25. As a student or as a teacher it’s nice to have the occasional day off, so if I can’t make it to class I may just cancel. Sometimes though I can get someone else to guest lecture on a topic I feel is important, and I think the students like hearing a different point of view. Either way, I try to make learning fun, and I am not one of those who feels it is important to “fill all the time”. If I’ve got nothing else to contribute, we get out early. Our classes are two hours long, and rarely can I talk that long and still keep them focused.

    1. Then you’re the professor everyone wants! That’s awesome. Perfect balance. :)

      I hated being kept in class the whole time if the teacher was unprepared and was filling the hour(s) with worthless time-wasters just for the sake of keeping us there. No learning is taking place at that point.

  26. Another awesome thing – related – is walking in to work and finding out that your boss is out for the day. AWESOME!

  27. I’ve been a sub teacher in the past and enjoyed it, but disrespectful and verbally abusive students not so much. They should be expelled.

  28. Hahahaha! I read this while I was in my geography class and today we had a substitute. We were using laptops to work on a project, and of course when the teacher (who, in my case, had a large mustache and was totally clueless) stands at the front of the room, they have no idea what we’re actually doing. The irony made my day. Thanks Neil!!

  29. As a substitute teacher for half a school-year, full-time, I can say that for the sub, it is most decidedly *not* awesome.

    Insane? yes.
    Terrifying? sometimes.
    Requiring a mastery of spontaneity, cleverness, skepticism, creativity and humor even in the face of all hell breaking loose in the classroom when there are no lesson plans left for you? You bet.

    …Well, maybe it’s a little bit awesome.

  30. So true! This happened my senior year of high school on the day of my French final. No one in my class had studied on the hope that my teacher would have her baby, and she did! Definitely one of the most awesome things ever.

  31. I m a substitute as well and I want all the students to know that at least with this sub, I am in the same boat as you. I love it when on the lesson plan it reads “insert movie” and I cry a little inside when it reads “deliver lesson”, especially if it is in something outside of my area.

    But, as some people have said, there’s a good chance you will have a test, as it’s pretty easy for us to give out, sorry kids.

    Love, your substitute teacher

  32. When I was in elemantary school, we knew we’d have a sub before we even got in the school. My teacher used to park her car right in front of the school, so when we’d arrive and we saw her car wasn’t there, it was great. But where I went to school, no one respected the sub, so there was always complete and utter chaos. My friends and I stayed tucked in the corner of the classroom quietly joking and working as we watched the miserable sub try to get control over the kids. It was great. Those are some of my fondest memories from my school days.

  33. i love this website and was recently watching tv when i thought of another awesome thing. when listening and singing a song, leave the room still singing, then come back to the song perfectly with the singer. :)

  34. I wish this is what we came back to when we’ve had to leave a supply teacher to cover the class! Whispering? Passing notes? My friend came back after a day off to find numerous penis-shaped drawings all over her classroom, including seven feet up a white wall… Though that is slightly ‘awesome’ in its own way…!

  35. 45minutes, seriously? At our school, period 1 is 45, period 2 is 80, and periods 3,4 and 5 are 1 hour. Although by the time most of my class has arrived and settled there is 45 minutes to go… -_- And some of the relief teachers we get are bitches. And they dont let us slack off- we have to do the work set by our normal teacher, left for the relief to set us. Although sometimes we have a relief teacher that is nicer than our normally grumpy ones- thats why they call it ‘relief’ :D

  36. i was once in a class where the teacher had just given us all below D’s on our final. the next day a substitute walked in, we were so happy that the entire class started crying and applauding.
    its a good feeling.
    especially when the sub is the really cute musician with the scruffy beard, or the really cute surfer with the scruffy beard. haha i guess they all have beards at my school….

  37. What is truly awesome is when you have such an amazing teacher that you never want a sub! Permanent awesome in the classroom!

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