Pity the Substitute Teacher, Cont'd

In our new October issue, veteran teacher Sara Mosle reviews a new book from Nicholson Baker, Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids. Baker is a prolific author who decided to go undercover as a sub in a “not-terribly-poor-but-hardly-rich school district” in Maine for a month. Mosle is mostly critical of Baker’s work, so here in Notes we’d rather hear from readers with more experience as a substitute—one of the most thankless jobs out there. So drop us a note at hello@theatlantic.com to share your horror stories or success stories. Here’s Gary to start us off:

I was amazed when I “subbed” years ago how little students actually know about any subject. Now, you might get the high enders who will listen to you, but it’s all a babysit for less than a 100 dollars a day. The teacher usually picks her sub anyway, so if you are not a buddy, only in an emergency will you be called to sub teach. I’m amazed that anyone with a pulse would do it. It’s abusive to the person they call in.

Speaking of abuse, here’s a Peele sketch to pair with that classic one from Key:

Another reader, Ardea, was a full-time teacher in middle school but had a lot of interaction with subs:

When I have a substitute (as infrequently as possible, because the students and I fall behind in the curriculum), I just have a stay-at-your desk reading and writing assignment, usually from the textbook. When I have written the lesson plan for an actual lab, disaster always strikes, even with my most competent substitutes. Substitutes who regularly subvert the lesson plan or classroom discipline are usually barred via a conversation with our principal and some settings on the computer system. Hooray!

One of my subs wrote back a tirade about how horrible my students were, told my students they were a waste of taxpayer money, and that they belonged in a mental institution.