a note from the sub

the things i forgot to tell you today, because i was too busy botching all of your quiz scores.

Month: October, 2013


Dear Student,

When I asked you what you were doing on your iPad while you were supposed to be listening to my instructions, you answered earnestly and without pause, “multitasking.”

Did I look like I was about to hit you? Maybe chuck the smartboard eraser at you? I was close.

Let me tell you a little about multitasking. Because I’m a lot older than you. Okay. Multitasking: yes. Multitasking is an urban myth. Like negative calorie drinks. And other things that you think are actually a thing when you’re a grownup that aren’t really things. Do I seem a bit scattered? That’s because I’m multitasking too. Right now, I am writing this, watching Shahs of Sunset, and texting one of my numerous Tinder boyfriends.

So, Tinder. Can we talk about this? Is it embarrassing that I am openly admitting to you that I subscribe to the grossest, weirdest, most superficial hook-up social media thing out there? God it’s awful. And now I can’t fucking stop doing it. I feel horrible for you; I think dating is hard for me, being twenty-hmmph years old, previously engaged, no longer knowing what the fuck I’m doing and suddenly having everyone tell me the only way I can meet someone is by taking an ad out? This is quite literally the ONLY dating reality you will ever know! When did “putting yourself out there” literally become placing your personal information on the internet for men to peruse, instead of just trying to remember to keep your shoulders back and look strangers in the eye? I told my mom this, positive I would get sympathy. Well, true to unsympathetic form, she called me “old fashioned.” WTF.

I just needed practice flirting with men. I realized I had a problem when I was called upon to PRETEND to flirt with a pretend man, and couldn’t even do that. And it was fun at first. My collection of Tinder Boyfriends with whom I share “mutual likes” in my little chat window is like the closest I’ve ever come to understanding the joy of collecting trading cards. But it has become a little depressing. Tinder has forced me to realize that I have believed, in the very core of my soul, that someday I would meet The Perfect Guy in some charming and serendipitous way, when the time was right, and it would be inevitable and totally idiot-proof. Instead, now, I peruse a site designed for random hookups because I am too uninterested and chickenshit to go on a legit online-dating site, and spend my free time (slash writing-time) trading somewhat muddled euphemisms with “Ben Dover” while I try and advise you on… whatever the fuck it was I was advising you on.

Multitasking. So yeah, never mind. What have I done in the past two hours it took me to write this? I ineffectually flirted with my Tinder Boyfriends, half-listened to one of the Shahs of Sunset fight with someone else (someone fighting with GG?  It’s always someone fighting with GG), and wrote you this charming missive on the benefits and drawbacks of multitasking. I’d actually say that’s pretty damn productive.

And I think I did a pretty great job. I’m sure you did too.



office space

Dear Student,

Yesterday you asked me what it was like to work in an office. I just stared at you for a minute, and then told you to go away (in my defense, I had just demanded that NO ONE GET UP OUT OF THEIR SEATS, OR TOUCH ANYONE ELSE, IF ANYONE TOUCHES ANYONE ELSE AGAIN I AM SENDING YOU ALL TO THE OFFICE.) I do, however, have first-hand knowledge on the subject, and will now take the time to answer.

Occasionally, when I am not suffering your miserable attitudes, or telling you the incorrect way to do a math problem, I am in fact temping in an office. This might come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I need a break from children, yet I cannot take a break from making money, so this is a reasonable compromise. So on those days when you’re hanging with that other sub who is a retired teacher and literally One Million Years Old, I am off elsewhere, in my business-casual finest, being a grown-up.

Below, for your review, please find some pros and cons as found in the realm of the ubiquitous “office worker:”


You make friends! Your OWN age! And you talk about grown-up things, sometimes with curse words, and do things like get lattes from Starbucks (I know what you’re thinking, I don’t drink Starbucks, I hate Starbucks, but sometimes you have to do things you hate to make people like you.  …Forget I said that.)


There are still mean girls.  And now they wear Louboutins.  So that makes them pretty, mean, and, quite often, inordinately tall.


You wear all sorts of fancy things; dresses, skirts, nice blouses. And, better still, all without a speck of glitter glue, or finger paint, or smelly magic marker on ANY of them. You can even wear earrings if you want (unfortunately, as you know, I don’t own any that match, and it is slightly less acceptable to wear 6 mismatched earrings in the office than it was at school, where I am just awesome for having 6 holes in my ears.)


There is a stunning lack of spirit days. In fact, save one “jeans and leggings day” before Labor Day Weekend (which I repeatedly referred to as “free-dress day,” causing considerable confusion within my department), there are none. No crazy hair, no pajama day. I attribute this to lack of a student government.


Three words: NO.  HALLPASSES.  EVER. If you have to go somewhere, you just leave. And if you look like you’re very busy, no one bothers you. Often, I just grab a folder and carry it around with me, even if I am just going to the bathroom to play Candy Crush.


No nurse. I got this thing in my eye and panicked, and they referred me to a FIRST AID KIT?! There are extremely poor accommodations for mild hypochondriacs in the working world. I called my mother, who didn’t even offer to come and get me, who instead rather callously told me I was “Twenty-hmmf years old and could handle this on my own.” So, additionally, in the working world, mothers remain essentially the same. At least my mother does.

In conclusion, office life has its benefits and drawbacks. But, if I leave you with anything, I hope it is excitement for what awaits you in your post-graduate, early, shit-job office years. There will be corporate intramural sports, holiday mixers, Friday parking-pass raffles, happy hours. Just make sure to keep a proper, extensive first-aid kit on hand.


Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

the golden rule

Dear Student,

Just for reference, in case you forgot, this is the conversation we had today that has prompted me to write this note. It took place in the classroom, right before lunch.

You: Miss… Uh, Miss…?

(Here I give you my name, for at least the fifteenth goddamn time today.)

You: [What’s-his-name] did like this to me!

(here, you make a flailing motion with your hands, like you’re… well, I can’t think of a real life situation in which you would ever “Do like that” so I can’t really explain it, and What’s-His-Name, the alleged culprit, stomps over with as much rage as a 6 year old can muster.)

What’s-His-Name (Bobby?  Bill?  Bryan?  Who knows): HE DID IT FIRST!

Me: (to you) Did you?


Now, this gave me understandable pause. You so kindly elaborated:

You: “… If someone does something to you, you can do it back.”

So, I guess first off: I’m so sorry I laughed. I’m really sorry. You guys were so mad and it wasn’t fair, but between What’s-His-Name stomping around and clenching his tiny little fists, and you reenacting your own weird, chicken-dance of fury… it was just fucking hilarious from beginning to end. I adore you both to pieces.

From my own understanding, the “Golden Rule” is something along the lines of: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” But you know what? I honestly like your definition better. Because, when you’re a grownup, if you go around treating others nicely and expecting everyone to be super sweet and considerate back, well, the only thing that makes you is kind of a chump. Or a martyr, which is what I like being, according to my therapist. Life isn’t like kindergarten (except that it remains messy and strange.) If someone steals your lunch money, or tells you they’re going to play with you and no one else, and then ends up playing tag with the prissy blonde in pigtails right in front of you, or promises to help you with your science project, but ends up stealing your idea and working with your arch nemesis… There is no teacher to tell, who will force the perpetrator to listen as you express your feelings using an I-Message, and then repeat your feelings back to you and apologize. People betray people, with often little to no consequence, and it will leave you feeling hollow and angry and dumb for being so nice to them in the first place.

But once you’re done feeling angry and stupid, and maybe having enacted some very small vengeance that is within the confines of the law and a half-decent moral code, you will realize there is a tiny nugget of truth to the “Golden Rule.” Just maybe not what we are taught to infer from it in kindergarten. It feels good to be nice; it really does. I’m nice to people because it makes me uncomfortable to be not nice to people. When people are nice back, great. When they’re not, well, I’m still glad I wasn’t the person to be a duplicitous jerk first. But I guess that’s because I enjoy being a martyr.

Take care,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

true substitute confessions #1

I wear the same outfit every day until I have to repeat a school.  


Dear Powers That Be,

I received my brand new, government-issued substitute teacher badge in the mail today. It is a full inch larger on all sides, going from being a small annoyance to a giant, screaming red flag announcing: I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON; FEEL FREE TO USE THAT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

I have decided to politely return it and, in its stead, paint a very large bullseye on my back. Then at least I won’t have to worry about remembering to grab the fucking thing out of my glove compartment every morning.


Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

mary fucking poppins

Dear Substitute Who Was Here Yesterday,

I’m not sure there is a good way of putting this, so I’ll just come out and say it: the kids totally hated you! They hated your irrelevant television references, your stupid jokes, your desperate sports trivia. HATED them all, worst day at school ever.


They were so relieved to see a face that wasn’t yours they did everything short of hoist me up on their shoulders and chant my name (probably just because I hadn’t told it to them yet.) They almost had me believing that I had floated down to campus holding onto a little black umbrella instead of pulling up in a dented 2000 Corolla, sipping lukewarm coffee and trying to figure out how Nickleback had made its way into my Sufjan Stevens Pandora station.   And I couldn’t have done it without you, so thanks a bunch.

I was so rad; I hopped casually onto the teacher’s desk, telling them, “Now guys, be nice.  It’s intimidating for some teachers [i.e. not me] to come into a 6th grade class.  She was just trying to find a way to relate to you guys.”

See I can be charitable when I’m on top.

And on top I was. With you to break the ice, I slid effortlessly into my position as “Coolest Substitute of all Time.” We put up halloween decorations instead of doing silent reading. I used the smart board! I called kids out when they weren’t on task, and still had them high-fiving me on their way to lunch. And we got the work done because everyone wants to please the cool sub.

It’s a funny thing too… what attitude can do to a person’s day. Once I believed that I was this Muhammad Ali of substitutes, suddenly all of the chips fell in my favor. Did I actually remember how to do the math that I was supposed to be teaching today? I didn’t, but suddenly I did! Do I have lunch duty? No?! Recess duty?! NO! In my break time, I cheerfully organize and annotate the day’s work with rainbow-colored post-its. I meet the faculty with swagger, looking responsible and pert. I manage to get every single student to return their laptop… no last-minute, school-wide search for that ONE GODDAMN MISSING LAPTOP today! I go down to the office to get my carpool duty assignment, and am politely informed that she doesn’t have one. That means I am dismissed forty-five minutes early, I zoom down the [unspecified major highway] sans rush hour traffic. Thank YOU!

It makes me wonder how life would be if I woke up every day feeling like a champ. Would I still be living in my tiny studio apartment, living paycheck to paycheck? Because the rock-star me of today, I truly believe, could have anything she wants! Why did I need the validation of a classroom of prepubescent private school kids to feel like a (more ethnic, less edgy) Patti Smith? As I look at the dirty dishes in my shoebox kitchen, place a pointless ice cube on the dying orchid on my coffee table, and coax my window a/c unit into working again, I already feel it losing its sheen. The ball is over, the fancy dress is gone. My magic flying umbrella has turned back into a 2000 dented Corolla, littered with school parking passes and Luna Bar wrappers.

It is then, of course, that I hear in my head what I am constantly telling students: confidence has to come from within. You gotta discover your swagger within yourself, because the kind you get from others just doesn’t last.

But man it’s still pretty sweet.


Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

geometry, or the “circle” of life

Dear Student Who Asked Me if She Would Ever Actually Have to Use Geometry in Real Life,

I’m so sorry for flat-out lying to you and telling you “sure.” You won’t remember any of this shit in ten years, and you won’t have to.

Example: I recently purchased an area rug from Ikea, and had to consequently purchase the accompanying Vvlürparg anti-slip underlay, which is appropriately sized to accompany exactly 0% of the rugs offered at Ikea. After a good fifteen minutes struggling with my iPhone calculator in a halfhearted attempt to figure out how many Vvlümpignewtons I would need to cover my [increasingly-seeming-not-worth-the-trouble] rug, I uneasily put two in my cart.

Well, as it turns out I was still a few feet short (how many feet?  I don’t fucking know!) And guess what? Rug still works fine.

Unfortunately, you still have to do your geometry homework. Why? Because we all did. It’s the “circle” of life.  See what I did there?


Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

hall pass

Dear Student,

Just so we’re clear: it did not, in fact, escape me that you took your backpack with you when you left to get a drink of water. I was actually rather disappointed when you returned 20 minutes later to resume being a total pain in my ass.


Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?