Substitute Teaching by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche. 2023.
Author: A Little Faith Lift…Finding Joy Beyond Rejection
AWSA (Advanced Writers & Speakers Assoc.)

Friends cautioned me that “times are different.”  They were right.  In my first week of substitute teaching, an administrator was called to remove a student from the classroom. In the twenty years I had taught, I made such a call only one time.  And here I was, in my third day of subbing, and I could not control a student who chose to act up, non-stop.

I tried all the teacher tricks, silently questioning how the actual, full-time teacher handled this child, but when I finally had him stand outside the classroom door and he began licking the door’s window, I knew that, yes, times are very different.

Two periods later, I had him again, and he was great.  Perhaps he had a twin with the same name?  I could not believe the difference.  I praised him for being so well-behaved and told him how much I appreciated him acting so well.  When he showed up for a third class, I expected the same.  It did not happen.  He was wired.  Disruptive.  Rude.  Loud.  Very, very loud.  What had happened to the quiet, attentive boy from the previous class?

Once again, I asked him to leave the classroom and sit by the door.  He chose to walk down the hall… and told me there was nothing I could do about it.  Sadly, he was right.  Gone were the days when a teacher could grab a child’s arm, when students respected (perhaps feared?) authority, when a call home meant double-trouble for the child instead of a complaint to the principal about the teacher.

Today’s educators are saints.

I always knew that subbing was a challenge (which is why I told my students that if they misbehaved for a sub, I would double their detention.)  Rarely, if ever, did I have a problem.  Clearly, the times…they are a changin’. Who/what’s to blame?  Is it social media?  Parents who refuse to hear the teacher’s side?  Who want to be their child’s friend?

Don’t get me wrong.  Many students were on task and well-behaved.  Two said “thank you” when I handed out an assignment. One even tried to quiet my disruptive student by saying, “Stop it.  She’s a good sub.”  (I wanted to hug him.)

Most teachers work hard to help raise up our children, to challenge and encourage them to learn.  And while the rest of us have an end to our work day, teachers don’t have that luxury.  Papers need to be graded and the next day needs to be organized.  As for administrators, they have their hands full, dealing with unruly students and their parents, encouraging teachers and keeping up with government standards for school management.

When I reflected on my sub experience, I had to wonder how God does it.  God, who deals with nothing but unruly children, who has no “one size fits all” form of discipline. God, who knows His children and what moves them to behave.  Do they need a friend to come alongside and challenge them?  He sends that person.  (Think of the servants who told Naaman, the leper, to get rid of his pride and wash in dirty water as Elisha instructed him.)

Do they need a kick in the kazoo?  (Think of Paul who, on his way to persecute Christians, was blinded.)  Do they need a gentle touch?  (Think of the disciples who were calmly admonished when they could not stay awake and support Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.)  Do they need encouragement?  (Think of those same men being told not to fear persecution and death.)  Do they just need a “Hang in there, Child” message? (Think of you and me, waiting on unanswered prayer.)

God amazes me.  Still, I have to wonder if He ever had to deal with someone who licked the window.  I’m thinking he might have laughed.

Maybe I should have tried that.

3 thoughts on “Substitute Teaching by Patty LaRoche”

  1. Dealing with this on a daily basis is the reason I quit teaching. Parents wanted me fired for expecting my students to behave responsibly and for being honest about their children’s behavior. I’ve been called so many rude and demeaning names by parents of students that had never even taken my classes. I had almost no support from administration. I had a really great program and I was a very dedicated and caring teacher, but enough is enough. I now make a lot more money in a career where people appreciate my effort.

  2. “Teachers are saints” should be the take away here, because they are! It takes a special kind of person to encounter this day in and day out! I’m a pretty big believer, it also starts at home with being present in the child’s life, being outside and doing activities and being involved. Kids learn by example starting at a very young age and I think these bad habits, behaviors and bad ideas are really just learned from TV, video games, social media…Now, we have not banned TV from our kid but I will say, when given the choice she will pick doing something fun.. fishing, gardening, board games, arts and crafts, taking care of animals..everytime over watching TV! BE GOOD PARENTS, so teachers can TEACH our children and are not having to raise children to be a good people.. that’s the parents job we all signed up for by having kids!!

    1. Hi Katie
      Please use your correct first and last name and correct email address when commenting on this site, for transparency and accountability.

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