Strange and Humorous Moments in the Life of a Sub

Well, I did it, I escaped the industrial hellhole that I had been working in various places for the past three years and got myself a much different gig. I’m no longer feeling my soul slowly being strangled to death in a warehouse or cleaning line; no longer dealing with a boss who threatens me on a daily basis; no longer locked inside and away from view.

After I left the industrial world, I put on a shirt and tie and became Mr. Beck, Substitute Teacher!

I thought I’d be a pretty good fit for the job, I like working with kids. I’m college educated and I like teaching people new things and opening their minds to new ideas. So I called a local sub-agency and put in for the job. A few short days later, my orientation was complete and I was ready to shape and mold youthful minds into a focused world view.

And honestly after a few months on the job, I am already far happier as Mr. Beck than I ever was on the cold concrete floor of that warehouse. I’ve had the privilege of working at many fine local schools. The places seem pretty bright and shiny, the teachers are dedicated to their jobs, and the kids, for the most part, seem pretty happy to learn.

But like any job, there are always a few moments that strike you as funny, odd, or even stone confused.

I’ll admit I’ve felt like an idiot a time or two in the course of my job, especially when it comes to math. Now math has never been my strong suit (my degree is in English/Creative Writing), but I think the state has upped the ante since I sat down at a school desk. I was working this sixth-grade gig and the students were finishing up their morning work. After they finished, we started going over it and I’m looking down at this paper seeing algebra problems that I didn’t see until my sophomore year of high school. I’m thinking to myself “Well, how the hell do you find ‘X’ in this equation? Shit, I hope the kids get the right answer here because I’m stumped.” Fortunately, the kids were a bit sharper on their algebra than I was.

And I do have my share of funny moments sitting behind the big desk. I was working this high school gig and the kids were watching the film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  And in the film, the main kid hooks up with the local Rocky Horror cast and ends up on stage with them. Now my friends and longtime readers know I’m a pure Rocky junkie; a longtime member of Indy’s own shadow cast Transylvanian Lip Treatment. Anyway, there’s a scene in the film where they’re showing the Floor Show Sequence in Rocky, it’s Frank-N-Furter’s solo part and he sings the line “As it clung to her thigh”, and I had to bite down on my lip not to yell out the callback line “Like, a homesick abortion!”. I didn’t want to explain to the students why that was funny or how Mr. Beck does what they’re doing in the movie every month, not to mention getting a phone call from my agency telling me I’m no longer welcome at that high school for making an abortion joke.

Now, I’m gonna get a bit sappy here and tell you that sometimes I have moments that tug on the ol’ heartstrings. I was working this week long stretch back in March at this elementary school, working with a special ed class, and the kids really seemed to attach themselves to me. I was working as a teacher’s aide, helping out the main teacher and the other aides with various tasks throughout the week and at the end of my stretch, the kids asked me if I could come back and be one of their regular teacher aides. They really liked having me around and if I could have come back for another week, I would have. Alas, I was needed elsewhere.

And yes, I’ve even had a moment or two that legitimately spooked me. I was working this gig at a middle school and I had to use the can, so I went down to the faculty john to do my business and while I was taking care of it, I looked to my left and there was this big instructional poster “What To Do If a Student Comes at You With a Weapon?”. That kind of scared the shit out of me. Here I was, spent the last three years working industrial jobs with equipment that could scalp me or take a finger or three off if I didn’t pay attention, and now I was in a clean bright middle school and had to face the remote possibility of being attacked.

Overall, though, being a sub has been a great job shift for me. It’s the first time I can say I’m happy at my gig since my camp counselor days. The kids like me, the teachers (for the most part) appreciate me coming in to cover for them when they’re sick, at a meeting, blew a tire, etc. And since I’ve gotten a lot of repeat gigs at the same schools, I think even the principals appreciate the long-haired odd Mr. Beck.

The only things I miss from my old job are some of the little things; being able to show up to work in punk t-shirts and Goodwill skirts. Being able to have my radio to break up the monotony of the day, and being called Walter (it’s still strange being called Mr. Beck).

Oh and one final thing, if you ever want to hear a teacher start a rant that could put even me to shame, mention standardized testing…

*Score yourself five bonus points if you got the movie reference.


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