Monday, February 2, 2009

The Substitute Chonicles

In response to the last posting here, Huck Tater wrote: "I was thinking that it is so funny to see how time and such changes one's perspective. I had the unfortunate experience of having to rely on substitute teaching for a time in upstate NY. So many of those kids were fucking monsters and deserved (along with their parents) to be shot. It was appalling how much time dealing with them took away from the kids who actually wanted to learn something. Of course I was one of the minor league shitheads when I was in high school. Failed 1oth grade at O'Neill but ended up with a PhD after."

It was like he was using some Jedi Mind Trick to read my mind. Back in the day, I, like most students, enjoyed it when we had a substitute. I wasn't the worst offender, but I wasn't an angel either.

I remember once as a sophomore Andy Gasper and I played a little game with a sub with me pretending to be him and him pretending to be me. What a mistake on his part. I started acting up really bad - "What are you gonna do, sub, write up me, Andy Gasper?" Andy quickly fessed up that we had switched places. The sub had no idea what to do.

Also during that year, we had a sub for Biology that I knew wasn't going to make it at O'Neill HS - Mr. Toback. He was...um...let's just say he was a goober. A few weeks later he was subbing in my gym class and Tony Yanatelli (who wasn't in my gym class but was present that day because, well, he was Tony Yanatelli) threw a medicine ball at Toback from across the gym (unbelievable considering the strength required to do so, but if you knew TY, you know it was true), narrowly missing Toback's head by the slimmest of margins. Yeah, he never came back.

Another time, in my junior year, Pampdog and I had a sub for English. We sat in the back of the room instead of our seats as per the sub-rules that said we could do whatever the hell we felt like doing when there was a sub because we were badasses. A little known fact about me is that the back of my head is particularly hard. I could hit the wall with it and make a considerable "THUD" when the sub wasn't looking. Meanwhile, Pampdog, when the sub had her head turned, stood up, back to the wall, and stomped the wall with his clod-hoppers making a bit more noise than me. When someone knocked at the door a minute later, we moved up a couple seats when the sub answered, then scolded the nerdy girl sitting by herself in the back of the room - "Hey, knock off all the shenanigans! I'd write her up, sub!"

Violence...Violence...It's the only thing that will make you see sense, Part II
When I subbed, I clearly remembered all the crap I used to pull. Getting back to my story from ECV (click to read Part I if you haven't already). If the dope throwing pennies was throwing them at me, I would have shrugged it off. I had 5 minutes to think of what I was going to do. I had 12 years, a 100 pounds, a foot in height on him, and a teacher certification to worry about, so I knew I couldn't hit him and make him apologize to the girl. So what did I do? I took a page from my brother's book. When the bell rang, students filed out. He was the last one, but a couple students from the next class had come in. I said to him, "Hey that wasn't really cool picking on that girl like that." He of course said something like,"Man, I didn't do anything." I pressed on, "Picking on someone who can't defend themselves, huh? You must be really proud of yourself." Him again,"I didn't do nothin." Me: "I mean what if I picked on you?" I grabbed him by his sweater, picked him a foot off the ground, and got within an inch of his face. I could feel all the muscles in my face tense up. I imagined my face looked like the cover of Motorhead's Another Perfect Day.
I said all Clint Eastwood-like,"You wouldn't like that would you?" I paused a moment for effect, then put him down. I smoothed out his sweater, and sent him on his way.

I can't say I recommend this course of action for dealing with students. I think maybe you can get away with it once, and that was the only time I did anything as a teacher even remotely like this. If there was one time that I could pick to do this in my 17 year teaching career, this would have been it, and I don't regret it one bit. My penance was sweating out the cops being called throughout the day (they weren't). I don't think he went to 2nd period high-fiving his buddies though either.

19 comments:

Tony Alva said...

Mr. Toback, oh boy...

That guy got the worst sub gig EVER. If Mr, Strong or AY were out (both big burly shop teachers), they sent ole Toback in to babysit the shop classes in either the auditorium or the cafeteria. The things the Garrison guys did to that guy would shock anyone today and SURELY result in arrests. Dumping his briefcase, throwing shit at him (shit that would hurt like hell if it hit him), going nose to nose with threats, etc... Brutal. Each time I was sure he'd never come back, but there he was.

I always respected your move on that kid. It reminded me of how affective the tactic when it was used on me. In my junior year during metal shop class, Mr. Strong (who I respected as a teacher) had built a bed for a friend and had it all banded up to ship. It was sitting on one of the shop benches which I took a seat at. When he came in to start the class, he walked to over to our bench to hand out an assignment and noticed, as I had when I first took my seat, that someone had gouged his bed frames with a screwdriver or something. He calmly asked that I step out into the hall to talk. Once out in the hallway I casually asked, “What’s up Strong?” (he let us call him that). He immediately grabbed me by my jacket collar, and while I was 6 inches taller than his portly Irish frame, he lifted me a foot off the floor. The woodshop guys could see quite clearly what was going on as could AY (Mr. Yagel) who I’m sure as a gesture between two shop teachers who had to employ this tactic every now and again, simply walked over and closed the door as if to say, “I don’t see anything”. Mr. Strong said, “Did you fucking mess with that bed you little punk?”. About to pee my pants I pleaded, “NO Mr. Strong!!! I would never do that to your stuff!!! I swear to god, it wasn’t me!!!” Which happened to be true on my kid’s honor. There were a couple of teachers that I might have done something like that to, but not a guy who let Jr.’s and Sr.’s smoke out back during class as long as they finished their assignments, and not one who was married to my favorite teacher Mrs. Strong. I pleaded with him some more and I guess he either believed, or knew knocking me out would be a very bad thing for him and he put me down. Once I was calmed down, I was genuinely bummed out during the rest of the class period that he thought I’d done that to his project. About 20 minutes before class was done, he called me into his office and apologized to me and I, as earnest as I could be, told him that I always thought he was cool and fair guy and would NEVER do that to him. I’m certain he believed me.

I will say this though, I’m glad I didn’t know the name of the guy who had vandalized his stuff. I was so scared he was going to wail on me that I would have certainly ratted the true culprit out.

coolmomma said...

Poor Mr. Toback. I cannot imagine facing a group of you guys from shop class...No Thank You! I'm glad you didn't get in trouble... the kid probably learned a lesson. BTW, did you have to see him again the next day? If so, what was his mood and behavior??

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