The Fun, the Crazy and the Touching: Memorable Moments from Substitute Teaching

Singing “Yankee Doodle,” studying the physics of Frisbees and reading stories were just a few memorable moments from substitute teaching this past school year. Throughout my experiences, I posted several statuses about my adventures on Facebook. I’ve wanted to gather them all in one place for a while and have now recorded them all here for a memorable look at my random and crazy brain that manifested itself while substitute teaching.

December 5

First substitute teaching gig today. Here’s to remembering to call myself Miss Brown….

December 12

Wow. Elementary students who are IU fans sure make it known they don’t like your old gold and black winter cap.

December 15

Science and English focus in the elementary today, which meant that I showed a Bill Nye video on atoms and molecules, played the New Periodic Table Song (all of the elements to the tune of “Can-Can”), challenged the students to a game of “Write the Periodic Table Element Symbol on the Board,” talked about Toledo’s water ban this past summer from the algal blooms on Lake Erie and showed a video of the blooms from when I went up to Lake Erie last year. The students especially asked questions when it looked like something might blow up (e.g. Bill Nye demonstrated nitroglycerin…sort of). All of that combined meant that, when I was making a pizza crust tonight and poured vegetable oil at the bottom of a plastic bowl, I wondered, “What would happen if I had a match? Would the vegetable oil explode?”

(One commenter said, “Only if it’s…Vegetable…Oil…of SCIENCE!”)

January 15

Today, I’m impersonating an ag teacher 🙂

January 23

Following the family footsteps and emulating an English educator.

January 26

Student in high school class asked me if I was a new student when I walked in. ‪#‎win

January 27

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I remember a fourth grader’s reaction to the Holocaust and Mengele twin Eva Kor’s example of forgiveness.

January 29

A.) Today, I, Miss Brown, subbed for my mom, Mrs. Brown, and thoroughly confused several elementary students.
B.) I could be a librarian, but I would be a highly inefficient one because I wanted to read the synopsis of each book that was turned in and sometimes thought, “Oh, I should check that one out and take it home!”
C.) A poster in the elementary computer lab reads, “Don’t be mean behind the screen.” An excellent phrase in this day and age of heated Internet debate and online bullying that can have some intense consequences.
D.) I think a lot about how some students believe teachers live at school while I am feeding the livestock and doing general farm chores.
E.) I am grateful for waterproof, insulated and steel-toed Red Wing Boots.

February 3

Last night, I signed up to sub for fifth grade. When I walked into the office this morning, I was switched to Young 5’s. What helped me through the day? Doctor Who, Disney and Harry Potter.


  • I kept wanting to say “Prisoner Zero” instead of “Level Zero” for the amount of noise that was allowed in the hallway.
  • I taught the students what cubes are and kept thinking I should warn them, “Now, students, make sure to stay away from black cubes that invade Earth.”
  • One student held up a t-rex to show me that he had stuffed a car into its mouth, and my first thing I wanted to say was, “And what time did that car come from?” I ended up saying, “Oh, that’s cool!”
  • We watched a lot of “The Aristocats,” and while I was fast forwarding through the credits, Phil Harris came up. I said to myself, “I forgot he was in this movie, that’s exciting!” So I enjoyed hearing all these classic Disney voices, like Winnie the Pooh and Eva Gabor and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
  • During library time, I sat in the classroom and listened to Pandora, singing “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast, amazed at how many of the words I still knew.
  • The book sale is this week, and the library was transformed into Flourish and Blotts, and the hallway was Diagon Alley. Each house and the sorting hat were prominent. The gym was called the Quidditch Field. I felt welcome. Well done, J.K. Rowling, for creating an entire world that feels like home.

From Young 5s to university seniors, I have now taught every class level except for first grade and college freshmen.

And now, I am back to my writing and agriculture mode. I feel well-rounded.

February 13

Today, I’m a music teacher, fulfilling one of my career options from high school. 🙂

February 13

My fingers hurt from snapping…. That was too much fun.

April 9

Subbed for half the day in second grade, where students had a project to find pictures of national landmarks and put them into a slideshow. One group was assigned the Statue of Liberty, and they came up to show me the pictures they found via Google. They scrolled through majestic and scenic pictures, then one pointed to a shot of Lady Liberty, Amy and Rory at Winter Quay in “The Angels Take Manhattan” (a Doctor Who episode; the Statue of Liberty does look very strange in this one). He said,

“Look at that!”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that!”
Split second consideration of giving the practical explanation. Then,
“I time travel.”
“Huh? How?”
“In my TARDIS.”
“What’s that?”
“My spaceship.”
“Where is it?”

And before I could explain the intricacies of the space-time continuum and Time Lord technology that makes things bigger on the inside, they got distracted.

April 14

Sang Yankee Doodle in front of a fifth grade class today (some helped). Never saw that one coming.

(We were reading about the Revolutionary War, and the lyrics to Yankee Doodle were on the back of the paper. One of the students wanted to sing the song in class because he liked it. A majority of the class didn’t know the song, so I started singing it. The student who wanted to sing it bounced up and down in his chair, bobbing his head back and forth, singing along and smiling.)

April 21

I am now officially a temporarily permanent 7th and 8th grade science teacher. I also am coming in at the end of the school year and the end of the book and will run out of chapters to talk about. So, fellow science geeks (this includes you, aggies), what kinds of activities did you enjoy in junior high or what suggestions would you have for me to do with the students? (The major topics such as cells and soil have already been done. I was bummed I missed the soil section…by one chapter!)

(I received several helpful ideas!)

April 25

I started my time as a science substitute teacher by asking the students what they were interested in. Several said they wanted to talk about the weather and natural disasters. The next morning, I learned a volcano erupted in Chile. So we talked about that current event and then watched an Eyewitness DVD on volcanoes (I grew up with these videos and still enjoy the theme song). I didn’t even mind watching it six times because it was so interesting.

Yesterday, I wanted to talk about tornadoes since we’re in Tornado Alley and it’s that time of year. I didn’t know how I would fill the entire period, but I woke up early and started searching for a book. What with my background, which would serve me better in filling up a whole English period, I decided to play to my strengths. I found my special illustrated and signed copy still packed away in one of my boxes and brought it in to school. In all six class periods, to open up our discussion on tornadoes, I read part of the first chapter. It was the first time in the three days I’d been subbing where the students were silent and attentive.

Story is powerful. I’d always known that, but yesterday, I truly saw it when I read my students The Wizard of Oz.

April 25

Substitute teaching is hard. And fun. And agitating. And rewarding.
We just make it look easy.

April 28

Raised hand.
“I like your shirt.”
“Thank you!”
“Can I get bonus points?”

May 4

A.) I ate some really good carrots today.
B.) It’s raining hard, so I don’t feel bad about not running like I usually do on Mondays.
C.) The 8th graders did an activity where they had to solve the mystery of who stole a computer chip. They had 14 clues to draw from a cup, and they were to draw five at first, then draw three clues twice. There were several students who said to me on the last drawing of three, “We have more than three left.” So I’d just tell them to pull them all out. Then, I looked at their directions more closely, and I saw that the steps only instructed them to draw out 11 clues so that there would be three clues left. Then I remembered where I had pulled the activity from: Indiana University. lol ‪#‎BoilerUp‬ ‪#‎GoSTEM‬
D.) I also found out that I write hard quizzes with wording that is confusing to junior high students. Not a surprise since I’m so used to college courses.
E.) I started a presentation on forensic science and crime scene investigations today for the 7th graders, and several students became excited about the subject, one saying, “Cool, this is what I want to be!”

May 6

I am a sub who just made sub plans.

May 8

Me: I drive a Taurus.
Student: What? Oh. I thought you said you drive a T.A.R.D.I.S.

Total win.

May 12

Thought I would be ok watching the Purdue forensic entomology episode of Dirty Jobs six times today for my science classes, but I’m only halfway through and starting to feel bugs crawling on me….

(As one commenter emphasized, “This is called Delusory Parasitosis.” They had mentioned this term in the show. And yes, I definitely had that for a little while.)

May 15

A.) I think I could make a blog post out of just the stories about substitute teaching I’ve posted to Facebook. Just copy and paste. Then I’ll hit the new red button from Staples that Gavin gave me. “That was easy.”
B.) Yesterday, we studied The Physics of Frisbees.
C.) Today, I designed a final.
D.) Tomorrow, I have a grading marathon.
E.) This stuff is draining, but I find energy in the crazy things my students do and say. They’re not afraid to just live.

May 26

I am in the dreaming-about-finals-in-my-afternoon-nap-that-helps-me-recover stage. And I’m only a sub….

May 28

My best story from this substitute teaching experience is definitely the one of my 7th grade most improved student….

May 29

And thus ends my vocation as junior high science teacher. What’s next?

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