Confession: The Sub


(Disclaimer: Before you read this understand that it was written as a memoir from my high school days. There is no excuse for what I did and it was not written to make fun of anyone except myself and my poor judgment.) 

The Tallahassee sun sizzled as my classmates and I slogged our way to math, which was held in a portable classroom. 

What I realized shortly into the class session was that my friend’s idea wasn’t half as brilliant as I had imagined. Thirty plus years later, I still live with the guilt of having willingly participated in a class-wide fake-out we inflicted upon our substitute teacher that day.  

My high school logo.


I was a junior and Gayle (her real name) was easily the world’s craziest sophomore – at least at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee in the Spring of 1979. 

 The most fiendish substitute abuse I had witnessed in my academic career before THAT day involved the low-tech, high-annoyance “book drop.” Easily the simplest and noisiest activities of all time, the book drop involved classmates randomly “knocking” a textbook off their desks so it slapped the linoleum tiled floors with a reverberating “whack.” It was especially “fun,” because students individually determined their own “drop times.” It made for a whole class period punctuated with the startling book-to-floor kiss.

 How stupid, I had thought. 

 But on that bright and sunny day, solar exposure must have fried my ability to reason. I willingly jumped into the ditch of immaturity as did 20+ of my peers who also agreed to participate in this plot. It required no book dropping and no noise of any kind. 

 Milliseconds after the tardy bell, our flustered math sub rushed into the portable, half-winded from sprinting across campus and her previous class. The portable door snapped shut behind her as she headed straight toward to the chalkboard in front to write her name. 

 Much to her surprise, however, she found orderly students awaiting and sitting silently at attention – math books open on their desks. Slapping her papers down onto our teacher’s desk, the sub used her hands to fan them apart like a huge deck of cards. Class Rolls. Sub plans. Bell schedules. 

 Once she located our class roll, it suddenly registered that we appeared to be a very cooperative class. Why hadn’t the office told her, she thought? 

 She began calling roll – and after the first three or four names – sprouted a quizzical expression while marking what seemed to be several consecutive absentees. She continued. After no response from students with last names A through K, the sub came to the Ls. This is the point at which Gayle’s plan accelerated. 

 She occupied prime real estate being seated up front. She made eye contact with the sub as if to offer assistance. 

 In a perfectly serious voice, Gayle demolished the sub’s hopes with three short words: “We are deaf.” 

Panic, horror, shock and distress gripped the sub’s face as she backed away from Gayle toward the bulletin board. She covered her mouth and whispered, “Oh my …” to herself. 

It was at this crucial juncture that the sophomores and juniors present maintained all the control and decorum of participants at a solemn state sponsored event. 

 For the next 30 minutes, the sub handwrote explanations on the chalkboard about how to do the math problems on which we were to work. 

 Once the bell rang, we all stood up, began laughing simultaneously and left before we were late to the next class. 

 If, by chance, that sub is reading this today, please accept my profound apologies. I never done anything of this nature again. 

If, by chance, she is not, I am living proof that there is hope for students with character lapses. And, I’m the one in front of students now with a full load of creative writing classes for 6th through 8th graders. 

Just wondering: Do you wish you could take back a response, an action resulting from a lapses in judgment? One of the biggest lessons from this in my adult life is that I violated my treat others the way you want to be treated approach to life. Believe me, it never feels good.


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