You Really Want to be a Teacher?


The way they portray being a substitute teacher on TV and movies is either total anarchy that looks like a self contained riot, or the fateful connection that suddenly breaks through to those difficult but soulful students who were only misunderstood and waiting for that wise sage of a teacher.

Don’t worry, I am not going to bust your bubble (though I feel like doing just that). It isn’t that this is the farthest thing from the truth, but rather that it isn’t a choice between A or B.  A and B merely represent the furthest points on the pendulum swing.  Most substitute classes are just rather dull.  There isn’t time to make a connection and everybody, students and teachers are on edge.

My situation is not that of a high school teacher, which has given rise to those two archetypes mentioned earlier. I teach “adults” how to speak, write, read and listen to English because they (or more likely their parents) are hoping it is the key to a better future.  I also teach adults who are more motivated and hardworking–but they aren’t the main focus of this story, so we’ll let them be for the moment.

Today, I was asked to substitute as an emergency.  I was prepared for the class and I expected it to go well.  From the drop of the hat, things did not go well.  I could tell from the room layout that they had already split into two groups.  One group was interesting and hard working.  The other was arrogant and snotty.  I have seen this before, and was prepared to deal with it.

The first half of the class wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t terrible. I had several battles to wage and others to ignore, but we moved along.  I wasn’t going to make a breakthrough, but I hoped for a bit more civility.

Oddly enough, after the break that entire side of the room had decided to leave. I had a moment of recrimination.  Did I cause this?  Then, I decided that I didn’t really care.  They were spoiling the class, treating the other classmates and myself disrespectfully and so good riddance.  I only hope they decided to take time to go and watch a movie in English (today is the discount day) rather than scouring the streets for Pokémon.

The remaining 8 students seemed just as relieved as I was. As you might guess, the class flowed quite well from that point on.


About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in adversity, Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, ESL, hard work, lessons, Pokemon, students, teaching, work and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to You Really Want to be a Teacher?

  1. Anna Kwan says:

    We need to talk to discuss MY experiences as a substitute teacher in the public school system. I’ve covered all classes from JK-Grade 8. And do I have stories!

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