Pity this reader, Julie:
I substitute teach in Maryland. I went for a half-day job in a fourth-grade class. I walked in and the teacher said, “I was too busy and left no plans. Do what you want.” He also warned me about a problem child. So, long story short, among other things the boy kept running out of the classroom. The fourth time I tried to stop him—after all, I am responsible for his safety. Reporting it to the office had been useless. I told the assistant principle [AP] of the boy’s behavior before I left that day.
Two days later I got a call from the AP. The parent complained that I “grabbed” her son's arm, so the AP accused me of child abuse. After the school filed a request to ban me, I was reprimanded and banned from the school and received a letter admonishing me for my inappropriate behavior. The complaint contained quotes of things I had not said—but I had no recourse. There was no person willing to meet with me. The system made up quotes and never let me defend myself.
All this for $19.00 an hour.
My father worked as a full-time teacher at a middle school in a rough part of Kansas City that had a fair amount of gang violence, so he—a large 6’2’’ retired Army veteran—was always called upon by teachers to try to neutralize an especially rowdy or violent student. (The security guard at his school would actually try to avoid such confrontations.) Physical contact with students is always incredibly dicey for a teacher, regardless of context, so if a student was a threat to others, my dad would try to quickly get him in a fireman’s carry—a safety maneuver, as he would remind parents—and haul him down to the office to detain, often for a police officer. He got assaulted many times but still had parents protest that he shouldn’t have intervened at all, so it was a really fraught, unofficial part of his job. (If you’re a teacher, of any kind, and have any advice or stories to share regarding violent students, please drop us a note.)
A reader in Texas, Dave, recalls a high point and a low one from his days of subbing:
I essentially got assaulted one day. I was the sub in ISS (In-School Suspension) and was helping a student with her homework at the desk upfront when I saw something flying toward me. I managed to duck just in time. It was a pear, and it hit the wall five feet behind us, with enough force to splatter us both with chunks of the pear. I wasn’t exactly sure who threw it, although I knew which desk it had been sitting on all morning, but dude should have been on the baseball team; that was a strong throw and pretty damned good control.
I did almost exclusively middle and high school, but I once did a day with a second grade class that was by far the most fun I ever had as a sub.