The One Where A Kid Dives Out A Window*

(via: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VbG-d6SeGuA/R0-2un6iHkI/AAAAAAAAAIc/ovEn99JVP_4/s400/old-school-window.jpg)

So. In my ravings about being sick I casually mentioned that I’ve learned that supply teaching isn’t always sunshine and roses. My lovelies, it’s time to tell you a story…

As you know, I spent nearly a week rocking a sexy man-voice and death cough. The combination of the two left me with a raspy whisper of a voice that rendered me incapable of speaking loudly or raising my voice at all as the strain would send me into a violent round of barking (aka: the death cough). By the end of the weekend I already had two days of teaching booked, and I was a little apprehensive about it. Really, aside from the cough, I felt okay, but not being able to use my voice in a classroom of students who didn’t know me was a bit scary. I reasoned that I hadn’t really had any issues to date so I would probably be fine.


The morning rolled around and my first period class was a dream. I taught a grade 12 university-stream Writer’s Craft course, and while the students jokingly mocked my man-voice, we had a great time. We watched a film and had a brief discussion about it.

After rocking the first period, I was so ready to take on the next class: a grade nine applied (general) English course. Now I have to be honest–I usually prefer this stream. I like working with kids who need a little more help and more one-to-one teaching, and generally I find their behaviour and attitudes kind of fun. I usually get along great with these kids.


The class filed in and cheered when they saw they had a supply teacher. As they found their seats they told me alllll about how they disliked their regular classroom teacher and loved when supply teachers came in. What I should have taken as a warning, I took as a pat on the back. After all, I was a supply teacher, and this class loved supply teachers!

I introduced myself and apologized for my man-voice before running through the attendance. I then outlined the agenda for the period which involved my least favourite lesson plan: a work period. Most students in grades 9 through 11 translate a “work period” as the exact opposite: a “free period” to sit and chat with friends. Usually, I don’t mind this. I get that everyone works at a different pace and many students don’t need a full period to complete whatever assignment they are working on. I usually ask the students who aren’t interested in working to show me their progress, suggest something they could do to continue working on it or invite them to read or work on an activity I have with me. It usually helps to keep students on track and allow for some work to get done while they chit chat.


These students were having none of it. For the first twenty minutes the majority of the class was either working or talking quietly. Then two students decided they were bored and had had enough.

First they started moving about the room trying to switch desks constantly, moving ever closer to the open classroom door. As they were beginning to distract other students I firmly asked them to find one seat and shut the door. This frustrated their efforts to escape my class but they sat down and were quiet for the next 10 minutes.

That’s when I really learned the truth of that old adage–“when one door closes, somewhere a window opens”.

The entire class started to get restless and my attempts to engage them in their work were becoming less and less effective. I tried humor, then being friendly, then when that didn’t work I knew I had to be firm. I started moving students away from peers that were causing problems and they weren’t happy about it. As I was trying to help one lovely young lady get through a portion of her assignment, she accused me of being an awful, uptight supply teacher. (I should mention that I had just caught her throwing tiny wads of paper at another girl in the class and moved her entire supply into a garbage can. ha)

While I was trying to keep her on task and have a discussion why we can’t always do what we want all the time, I heard a burst of laughter to my left. I whirled around to see this:

(via: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/156/382186738_619075ca94.jpg?v=0)

Seriously. Except for the part where the kid was trying to escape my class, not get into it.

I turned around just in time to see his knees and feet disappear out the (first floor) window. I ran over only to see him sprinting down the street.

As the students in the room exploded into laughter, I racked my brain for how to deal with the situation.

For half a second as I watched him run down the street I completely froze–I panicked. I saw my chance at a job running down the street with him. But I knew I had to act and I whipped around and for not having any voice, I yelled at that class. The laughter died immediately and I demanded to know who had gone out the window.

Oh, didn’t I mention that part? One of the joys of teaching in a different class every day is never knowing your students’ names. You might remember a couple from the attendance sheet, but it’s hard when you’ve got 20+ new faces every 76 minutes.

As I roared to know who it was that had gone out the students giggled nervously but refused to give up his name, stating that they didn’t know who he was. So, incredulously I grabbed the attendance sheet and began barking out students’ names. Between the students who were absent and those who had left to go work in a resource room, I had a pretty good idea of who it was that had left. I called the office and asked for a vice principal to come down immediately.

As soon as I called for the VP the students’ realized that I was serious and that trouble was coming. When a large, towering man entered the room I was so relieved. The first words that roared out his mouth to the students were that he was furious for having to come down as I had apparently interrupted a meeting with a parent. As I explained that I had taken attendance and was pretty sure who it was (but not 100%) he demanded to know the name. The students shrunk down in their seats and he began pointing and barking at students to grab their books and follow him to the office.

He took six students in all and the room was silent after he left. It was clear that the students both respected and feared this man. No one asked questions, no one talked back and as the students filed back into the room after the “interrogation” no one spoke rudely about him. I was even intimidated while he was in the room. haha!

The rest of the period was uneventful, and I began the task of writing a detailed letter to the regular teacher to explain what had happened and how I handled the incident.

I felt awful.

I felt like my luck had run out and that somehow the incident was a direct result of my failings as a teacher. I needed a moment to collect myself so I did what any self-respecting woman would do: I ran to hide in the bathroom.

As I hovered over the sink another teacher I knew in the school came in and rescued me. She listened patiently as I lamented over the utter disaster that period had been and reassured me that I had done everything I could have done and that I had handled the situation correctly. Apparently this was not an isolated event and happens on a fairly regular basis. After a moment, she paused then asked me whose class I was covering that day. When I revealed the teacher’s name, her eyebrows shot up and a knowing look came into her eyes. She patted me on the shoulder and told me that the class had a reputation throughout the whole school and that she was proud of me for surviving.

I felt considerably better after, but I’m not going to lie–my pride was seriously wounded knowing that a student had taken to diving out a window to escape my class.


Thankfully it was just a half day, and all the days since have been full of sunshine and roses.

It really made me think back to when I was a student and how I behaved with supply teachers. There was only ever one that I didn’t get along with, and it was only because he was just weird. But I know some of my friends and classmates used to love playing pranks on supply teachers…

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to a substitute teacher; or, what was the worst thing a sub did ever did in your class?

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  • Rayndrop

    Wow, that sounds like a fun class! I've had a few similar days. It certainly tests your faith that we are capable teachers! I think it's just part of the joy of being a supply teacher. Good for you for callying the VP; I'm always afraid to do that, mostly because in a few schools, they don't provide much support anyway. Plus I feel the fear of risking getting a job there in the future if you have to call the VP for discipline! Sounds like you did a great job tho.

  • [email protected]

    I think that students, especially 9th graders, like to torture subs. They feel it is a free day, no matter how much work you leave for them. I have great classroom management and rarely have a behaviour problem, yet when my children are left with subs, they tend to do nothing. This past year I had to be out for an entire week. I warned the kids, left their actual work that they would have done if I wasn't there, and assured them that the material would be on their final and they still didn't do the work. Sigh, 9th graders are just immature.

  • LaQuebecoise

    Hey, It could always be worse! At least you had full support of the administration! I was once punched by a student while supplying in the board you're in now. I've been knocked down as a student tried to bolt past me and also been told to f-off by a grade 8. So really, at least it wasn't a personal attack!! The key is that it WASN'T YOU it was the student… that won't affect your reputation with the board. It's if you say something, don't follow the lesson plans, etc.

    So no worries! This is the beauty of supply work – new faces every day!

  • Peppers

    This is so funny! LOL. If I were you- I would go in each day (especially if it's the first day with the specific group of students) and act like one bad-ass bitch who doesn't take shit from anyone. Don't be timid, quiet, passive, or nice. Be firm, tough, and bland. I know it sucks having to act like someone you're not, but if they're afraid of you, it will make them respect you and listen to you (just like the VP). Good luck! I hope it gets better!

  • Sun Girl

    ah don't fret over it. the student would have jumped out the window regardless. i think you handled the situation correctly, even though im not a teacher. hopefully you'll get better students next time!

  • Melody Welton

    Oh. my. word. What a story. I remember getting hit on by one of my substitute teachers when I was in high school, what a weird experience… and before I came to teach English in Korea I was a substitute teacher in Michigan, I taught elementary kiddies… I understand the moment of panic completely and truly, but with elementary kids you also get the most hilarious events, as I had a kindergarten class sitting on a rug one morning to take their attendance one boy shot his hand up and before I could call on him said 'My name is Trevor and I pick my nose and eat the boogers!!!” the whole class went “ewww!” and everyone sitting by him leaned away. SO FUNNY.

  • Karen

    In high school, I had a math teacher out on maternity leave and a long-term sub had been brought in. She was terrible and no one got along with her. But I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I always tried to be especially courteous to substitutes because I could only imagine how hard their job must be sometimes.

    But, one day, I was sitting outside waiting for the class to start and just ranted to a friend about how awful this sub was. I mean, everything I said was true, but it was really harsh.

    To my absolute horror, I turned around and discovered that she'd overheard everything I'd said about her. She was gone the next day and never came back. And I can't begin to describe how guilty I felt.

  • julie--burnett

    Did I ever tell you about the time that my brother jumped out of a classroom window? You should ask him about it sometime. My parents found out that day… They. Were. FURIOUS!

    I personally have never done anything out of my way to make the subs life a living hell… But! I once had a substitute teacher send me to the office for… wait for it… laughing. Yepp, laughter. What happened was that she was obsessing about the class remaining completely silent and obviously, being a grade 10 immersion science class, it was utterly impossible. So my friend, being the little joker that he is, sat up in his chair perfectly upright with his arms sitting perfectly across his work. I obviously erupted into laughter… The sub freaked out and was like GO TO THE OFFICE! NOW! So I said “What?!” Obviously a witty come back… “Whatever, I don’t even care.” I sat in the hallway waiting for my VP to come fetch me… I sat in the box in the office for the rest of the period and was so embarrassed I almost cried.

    I <3 subs.