Tales from my first month as a substitute teacher. The NHL is back, whoo-hoo! And a Super Mario Bros. spoof I loved.


It’s been about a month now that I’ve been substitute teaching in the New York City school system.

Just as I expected, it hasn’t been boring. Every day brings a different challenge ( I’m actually subbing three days a week, so I can keep doing the freelance writing I do), and there have been more highs and lows than I can count.

Subbing is hard, it’s thankless, and it doesn’t pay a whole lot. But so far I’m liking it, mostly.

Some stories from my own personal Sub Files…

— One day about two weeks ago I walked out of the teacher’s lounge at a Harlem high school and started to walk down the stairs.

Then I saw something on fire in the stairwell. It looked like a sock, with a piece of paper wrapped around it. My first thought was , “go put it out.” My second thought was, “Are you crazy?” Go call security.” So I went back upstairs to the lounge, one of the regular teachers got security, and soon the stairs were safe again.

Turns out it was the second fire of the day in that school. “But that’s very unusual,” a security guard told me. That doesn’t explain why his uniform was flame-retardant.

— The lack of respect for me as a sub, by students, I expected. But just the incredible lack of respect they have for me as an adult, was a little jarring. Never in a million years would I have imagined talking to a grown-up the way some of these kids have talked to me. (“Get away dude, you’re just a sub, you don’t count” was one of the nicer things I’ve heard).

But it’s a different world, and a lot of these kids were not raised to respect authority. Makes me sad.

— Similarly, the feeling of powerlessness is something that’s been hard to get used to. More than once a kid has said to me “You’re just a sub, you’re here for one day, I’m here every day. You don’t matter, I don’t have to listen to you.” And they don’t. I’m just a blip in their academic life, and I have no power to get them to behave or do their work.

— Some of my most interesting days have come at elementary schools; I’m not really trained as a elementary teacher, but I’ve filled in for a few days. The adorable kids, the crazy names (I’ve taught two Syncere’s, a Joelmy, and a Washier, among others), and the things that come out of their mouths keep me laughing.

Two of my favorite comments from the little people set:
“Mr. Lewis, they’re just acting wild because Mrs. V. isn’t here. They feel like they have freedom now.”
And “Mr. Lewis, you a good grown-up and a good worker. I wanna shake your hand.” I had to bend down to reach the boy’s digits, but it was still nice of him to say.

— The cell phone/iPod epidemic is incredible in NYC schools. Every junior high or high school class I’ve been in, at least 5-6 kids are trying to sneak texts or earphones. It’s like putting out little fires; you yell at one kid to put the phone away, and two others across the room are busy texting.

 I always knew subbing was hard, but man, my respect for the job increases every day.

More stories to come, I’m sure.

**And now, an interlude from the incredibly awesome Nintendo video game “Super Mario Brothers.” If you are at all like me, you spent hundreds of hours playing this instead of doing homework as a kid.
Here’s a bizarre video of Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, acting as Mario as he navigates the first board of the game.
I laughed pretty hard.

**Well it’s about damn time.
After months and months of arguing and posturing and abusing the loyalty of the most dedicated fans in sports, the grand poobahs of the NHL finally came to an agreement with the players on a new labor deal Sunday morning.

Four months after the season was supposed to begin, we are finally getting NHL hockey, in about a week.

I know I’m supposed to be bitter about how ridiculous this lockout was, and I am, a little.
But I can’t lie: I love, love, love this sport, especially at its highest level. And I’m very excited to have it back, especially when my Rangers have such a good shot at a Stanley Cup this year, having added Rick Nash.

Can’t wait for the puck to drop. A pox on Gary Bettman, the league owners, and Donald Fehr for dragging this lockout on so long.

Finally, we can think about hockey. I watched the video above and got pumped up big-time.

Let’s go Rangers!

One response to “Tales from my first month as a substitute teacher. The NHL is back, whoo-hoo! And a Super Mario Bros. spoof I loved.

  1. Loved the part about your experiences subbing. As you know, I’ve been a sub. (A good sense of humor really helps.) Maybe we should collaborate on a book someday! 🙂

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