You know that old saying, “There are no bad students, only bad teachers?” Yeah, that one that Betsy DeVos keeps pinging off of Trump’s brain?
Well, only idiots and educational administrators actually believe that. And I had three full classrooms of proof of this Tuesday while subbing sixth-grade Science classes.
Yes, they were bad kids. And apparently, the last time they had a sub before me, they killed and ate her, after eating her lunch in front of her. They were not merely bad kids. They were vile and noxious, unrepentant Spawn of Hell.
They were, in fact, laying in wait for me, testing every way a vile and noxious sixth grader knows to get the sub off track, dazed and confused, and turned from teacher into a helpless prey animal.
The very first class in the door immediately chased each other around the room instead of having a seat. Jamika stole a package of pencils off the teacher’s desk, ate one, and threw the plastic package in the trash. Seferino chased her around three of the tables and pinched her on the butt. And Jaden threw three different pieces of a pink eraser in three different directions at once at about three different girls, hitting two, in about three seconds of time. These aren’t their real names. But I know their real names because I had them sign my sin-sheet with first and last names before I even went through roll call. I tell them, “Sign your name so I can report what you did and, hopefully, also leave a note for the teacher that you were much better behaved for the rest of the period.” Two of the three were actually better for a majority of the period. Jaden got the Golden Turkey award at the end of the fifty minutes.
The next class had four names on my list before roll call ended, and they never did completely settle down. In fact, the teacher across the hall came in at the end of the period and jumped all over them about “Unacceptable behavior!” and vent a little heat and hatred on a few of the star players whom she knew by name and had for Math class. It wasn’t just that she thought I was an incompetent sub, but she deeply disliked some of the bad behavior that was a part of both the varnish on the surface of these kids, and the taint in the marrow of their bones. Ah, sixth graders! Thy teachers do not love thee, and yet thou keepest on screwing aroundeth! And I know the teacher I was subbing for. She taught number two son and the Princess both. She is no slouch as a teacher and is not to blame for the condition of the class.
And then the last class sauntered in behind Mr. Evil-in-a-small-package. Yes, the last class of 28 kids was under the complete control of one self-centered, manipulative, emotionally-disturbed little man. The teacher I was subbing for had warned me about him and had arranged for the Special Teacher of Special Edwards to come and take him to his special quiet place because they knew he was so special and the special things he would do if they left me at his mercy. And, of course, something went awry with the arrangement. I was left at his mercy (of which he had none.)
He would not sign his name to the paper. Or sit in his assigned seat. Or stop talking. Or stop saying inappropriately sexual things to the girls. I tried to phone the office, but the number of the assistant principal’s secretary would not ring through. I asked the teacher across the hall, also a sub, to call for me. The science teacher next door came in just in time to see Mr. Evil give me the one-finger salute. He immediately began arguing that he would not be removed from “his” class. He wanted me removed instead. Then an assistant principal showed up. He began hollering and screaming about being touched as the AP shoved him out of the classroom through the lab door. It was a total meltdown. And the fumes and melted wax of it affected the behavior of the rest of the class for the rest of the period. I yelled at them (a pointless thing to do, but it made me feel better). The science teacher next door came back in and yelled at them for making me yell at them. And everybody ended the day feeling terrible. A couple of well-behaved girls apologized to me for the behavior of the class, saying that that kind of thing happened almost every day. A cute little black kid who got in trouble too that period ended the day by almost crying and telling me that he was basically a bad kid. I told him I knew him just well enough to tell him he was not, that he only needed a little more self-discipline and he could be among the best kids in that classroom. (And I don’t believe that was completely a teacher-lie either.)
So, I had a bad day at being a sub. Not merely a bad day, but the kind of bad day that makes a teacher want to give up and never sub again. The sub that got eaten before me probably did that very thing. But, me… I’ve had bad days like that before. Worse ones, in fact. So, I will not give up.
I had an excellent day teaching yesterday at a different school. I can still teach, no matter what lasting scars Mr. Evil gave me. And there really are bad kids in the world. Somebody needs to actually feed them to alligators, not just threaten them with being fed to alligators. Then they will finally know how their substitute-teacher victims feel.