Most school districts frown upon teachers taking days off before the holidays, so the work has been slow. I did some short half-day jobs, but there wasn’t much to write about. So, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I present to you the “leftovers” from Substitute Purgatory. I try to keep each entry around 700 words and sometimes I have a leftover story, or small joke that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the entry. What follows is a bunch of “leftovers.” Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

From October 2011:

Overheard by a student who is studying a vocabulary list: “’Dubious.’ That must mean you smoke a lot of doobies. Ha ha.”

From 10/31/11:

Before the bell rings, a student explains that for Halloween, they are driving out to Seven Gables (near Dansville). I find this an amusing way to spend Halloween because when I was in high school, people would go out there to:

a) get drunk

b) make out

c) get drunk AND make out and

d) try to frighten other people who were sitting in their cars getting drunk and/or possibly making out.

Judging by the looks of this student, he is going out to Seven Gables for option “D.”

From 11/2/11

If you haven’t heard a 6th grade boy trying to describe the difference between Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Chupacabra to his friends, then you have not witnessed true comedy.

Also from, 11/2/11

I’m walking down the 6th grade hallway of this middle school and the walls are decked with posters for book reports. For the most part, I see that students have chosen books from the typical “young adult” canon (Gary Soto, Judy Blume, “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” etc.). But the one poster that catches my eye is done by a kid named “Clayton” who chose to do his book report on a book called “Ronald Reagan: An Introduction.” Clayton’s hand-drawn illustration, which shows the former president riding a horse, accurately captures Reagan’s “gumby-esque” haircut perfectly.  Displayed on each of the posters is a “meaningful quote” from the book. On this poster Clayton wrote, “A meaningful quote from this book is when President Reagan said, ‘Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.’” Clayton will probably grow up to be the next Karl Rove.

Depending on your political preference, this news either gives you hope for the future, or fills you with dread.

From 11/7/11:

Conversation overheard in an Honor’s English Class:

tudent A: (Who seems to have a bit of a ‘cool-geeky’ vibe) “Mr. Smith told us a really funny joke in chemistry class today, do you want to hear it?”

Student B: “Sure.”

Student A: “What did Hydroxide say to Magnesium?”

Student B: “I don’t know.”

Student A: “OMG!” (Which, when written in a chemical equation, reads “OH + Mg”)

Student B: (Totally deadpan) “Who would think that joke was funny?”

Student A: “Lots of people!”

Student B: “Whatever.”

From 11/9/11:

Since I’ve been rejected for so many jobs, I feel somewhat like Doug Fister, a baseball pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. For those unfamiliar, Fister was a pitcher who got traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Tigers in the middle of the 2011 season. When he came from the Mariners his record was 3 wins and 12 losses. Fans and sports-talk radio personalities in Detroit were scratching their heads like, “Why are we bringing this loser to Detroit? This guy’s record sucks. He’s 3-12!” But, here’s the thing: Fister didn’t suck. He was just on a sucky team. When he was pitching in Seattle, his team couldn’t put up the runs to give him the win.

When Fister came to Detroit, he got the run support he needed from a powerful offense. In the last half of the 2011 baseball season, Fister pitched 10 games for the Tigers and his record was a respectable 8-1! He just needed to get on a winning team for others to see that he didn’t suck! Attention all school districts: I’m still waiting for the call from a winning team.

From 10/26

This final piece of leftover writing was edited out of the first entry. It’s about eating lunch on the job:

The act of packing and eating lunch is another dynamic of subbing that often gets overlooked. It seems like no school ever has the same schedule. As a sub, I’ve eaten lunch as early as 10:04am and as late as 1:22pm.

I hate eating lunch too early in the day. Eating lunch before 11:00am feels like “brunch” and it makes the rest of the day drag on. As a result, I’m usually hungry for a real lunch by 1:00pm.

When I was a teacher, I had access to a microwave in the teacher’s lounge and would usually pack chili, pasta, Chinese leftovers, and other stuff that tastes better when heated. As a sub, my lunch pretty much consists of packing sandwiches. But even this is a complicated matter because, by my own admission, I’m a food snob. I’m limited by my own cursed palate. Chicken salad is a disqualified choice for lunch because the bread is usually soggy by lunch time. Sprouts, one of my favorite sandwich toppings, is also disqualified as a choice because they become a watery, globby mess by lunchtime as well.

I usually eat lunch in the classroom by myself. It’s quieter and it’s also easier than going to the teacher’s lounge to attempt conversation with people I don’t really know. At various times, I’ve tried eating in the teacher’s lounge with other teachers, but history has shown that to be an awkward experience. For example, the last time I went down to a teacher’s lounge to have lunch, I ended up unknowingly sitting at what I later perceived was the “ladies” table. Here’s what happened: I walked in and found an empty seat next to a female teacher – who happened to be pregnant, and introduced myself and I made the usual small-talk with this teacher (“How’s the day going?”, “What classes to you teach?” etc.)

Within five minutes, five or six male staff came in, and sat at a different table to eat lunch and discuss the most recent Detroit Lions game. Then a wave of female staffers came in and sat at my table. The ladies began to talk about all sorts of pregnancy horror stories and comical anecdotes about awkward moments involving their water breaking in public, or profanities that they’ve shouted at their husbands during labor.

Now, I was in the delivery room for the birth of both of my daughters, so I’m not really feeling grossed out as the ladies mention the word “afterbirth” and “tearing” in casual conversation. (I swear I am not making this stuff up – someone actually said “afterbirth”). However, by the time this conversation gets deep, I am feeling a bit awkward. In normal conversation, people want to contribute to the topic being discussed. But in this instance, I’m clearly not going to add to this conversation because a) no matter what any guy says about child birthing process, a woman’s perspective will always be more accurate (which is valid) and b) I don’t know any of these female teachers well enough to sympathize with their experiences without sounding like a creep.

So, this Thanksgiving, here’s a tip: don’t share your birthing experiences at the table. I’ll be back with more stories next week.


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