Subbing’s Not for Sissies

April 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

“Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?  Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instruction?” Proverbs 5:13 (NLT)

“Yes!  We’ve got a sub today!”  The grin on the student’s face told me all I needed to know.  I was in for a challenge and first period hadn’t even begun.

After years of traveling around the country as a motivational speaker, I had retired and turned to substitute teaching.  The advantages seemed numerous.  Instead of entering a new school each day, I could settle at a single local high school.  The work schedule was flexible; if I wanted to spend time visiting with my grandkids, I could say “no” to teaching.  And instead of speaking on the same topic day after day, I could branch out and teach English, Chemistry or Spanish.

Returning as a teacher, however, made me realize just how much of my high school studies I’d forgotten. Was I really smarter than a tenth grader?  Pulling algebra and geometry out of the recesses of my brain was a challenge.  And in history class, what did I know about life in ancient Greece?  The kids thought I was old, but not that old!

Students, of course, switched seats as I took roll.  Classes attempted to convince me that their teacher hadn’t announced the quiz I was to proctor. And of course, I learned never to send more than one student to the restroom at a time.

When “Colby” saw a large cardboard refrigerator box as he entered Spanish class, he got a gleam in his eye.  He enlisted the help of a crony across the room to distract the sub and then jumped inside the container.  Aware of his movement, I moved to the front of the room, stood next to the box and gently pressed my hand on the top flaps, forcing the boy hiding below to crouch down in a cramped position. I turned to the class and announced, “Today we have access to a new classroom teaching tool: the latest version of Xbox 360.  The software inside is programmed to give correct conjugations of common Spanish verbs.  Each time I thump the side of the box, it will conjugate one of the verbs listed on the whiteboard.  Of course, if the box’s answer should be incorrect, then you will input the correct form so the box remembers the next time.”

Colby thought his crouched position was awkward, but conjugating verbs in front of the entire class made him even more uncomfortable.  Out of sight, this class clown was unable to distract his classmates, and by the time I released him from his cardboard casing, he had reviewed all his verb forms.  Who says a sub can’t teach outside the box?

Next “Aidan” needed my attention.  He kept getting out of his seat in order to talk to his friend on the other side of the room. When I reminded him to return to his desk, he explained, “I speak Arabic and need to get help from my friend.”

Pointing at his desk, I pronounced firmly, “Bito d uk ni’ida!”

With a look of shock in his eyes, Aidan turned to his classmates.  “She speaks Arabic!”

I don’t.  Speak Arabic, that is.  But since he didn’t know the language either, what difference did it make?  Aidan never knew my words were from an obscure Mexican indigenous dialect, but he dashed back to his seat. Obviously I still have gifts as a motivational speaker.

Subbing may have advantages but, believe me, it’s no job for sissies.

To book Emily as a speaker and to learn about her books such as Why Say No When My Hormones Say Go? you can visit her at!

About Emily Chase

Emily Parke Chase is a popular conference speaker and the author of six books on relationship issues, including Help! My Family's Messed Up! (WingSpread) and Why Say No When My Hormones Say Go? (Kregel) Visit her at


2 Responses to “Subbing’s Not for Sissies”
  1. Christine Thomas says:

    This is written so cleverly. Writing is obviously one of your many talents. Keep giving those kids in school a run for their money!

  2. Robin J. Steinweg says:

    Emily, you actually got me to laugh aloud! Too bad you couldn’t BOX up your fast thinking and sell it; you could quit subbing and relax on a beach somewhere. “Colby” might still be quoting Proverbs 5:13 if he’s ever read it.
    Good one.

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