I May Have Shortened the Substitute’s Life

The other day, I mentioned that I never received a detention in my entire school career. That fact doesn’t, of course, mean that I never deserved detention. In all honesty, there was one incident that should’ve earned me a whole week’s detention, and given my guilt complex, I still occasionally dwell on what a rotten person I was on that given day….

After my back injury, I quit gymnastics and immediately jumped into theatre. I loved performing and getting the chance to take on the character of someone I wasn’t. I explored the realm of insanity many times as I was often cast as the crazy old woman, questioned my faith as I portrayed the young girl Anne Frank, and learned how to walk sexy (my most challenging feat) for my role as a tramp.

Acting was very satisfying to me, as I could experience life as someone else without the consequences; I always returned as Jennifer. However, sometimes the line between reality and pure drama blurred. Periodically, those in my drama class would break into fantasy world, and improv would begin.

I remember finding myself in the middle of a fake domestic dispute as my friend and I choreographed a fight scene between a boyfriend and girlfriend. I had fun using some of the moves I had learned in Tae Kwan Do while he enjoyed fake slapping me to the floor.

Weird, I know, but what does one expect when a bunch of dramatic teenagers are thrown into the theatre for a performance class?

Probably not this story.

I honestly do not know how this scene began, but I clearly remember sitting on the front row of seats in the theatre having a fake fight (just verbal this time) with my ‘boyfriend.’ He yelled at me, and I began to cry. My friend came to comfort me, and so did the elderly substitute teacher who was given the task of dealing with we crazies on this particular day.

“You tell me what he did, and I’ll get him out of here! I’ll get him right out!” he exclaimed in anger. Clearly, I looked very convincing as the innocent, broken-hearted girl.

“No, no, he’s just never talked to me that way before, but I’ll be fine,” I choked out through a stifled sob.

“Well, you just let me know. I’ll have him out! I’ll have him out!”

My friend hugged me as I shook my head in understanding.

“Thank you. I’ll be fine; I’ll be fine.”

And at that moment, it was as if the floodgates to hell broke open. Like a line of dominoes falling, one after another students began to pair up, each acting out their own fantasies. In a matter of moments, the theatre auditorium had the feel of Lord of the Flies, minus the pig head on a stick.

There was a stick, however. For some reason that I will never know, other than the frenzy created by the mob scene, one of the students grabbed a 2×4 piece of wood from the backstage area and whacked the glowing ‘Exit’ sign by the side door. This poor old man–not frail, mind you, but clearly substituting for something to do during retirement–looked around bewildered, not sure which fire to put out first.

I sat in amazement at what I had started, not sure how to continue. How could I now go back to being Jennifer when this kind man tried to help me from my evil boyfriend? We didn’t start this charade to cause him stress; we were just weird theatre kids who liked to have an excuse to yell at each other. I certainly hadn’t foreseen the rest of the class starting a riot.

Nonetheless, a riot is what happened. The entire class period was spent in pure chaos. There was no going back.

The whole rest of the day I worried. Would this poor man get fired from substitute teaching? What would he tell our current theatre teacher? Would he go home that night and die of a heart attack?

Theatre was proving more dangerous than the flips I did in gymnastics.

God made sure I paid for my mistake, though. My punishment came in the form of my own third period English class my first year teaching.

I’ve often thought about that substitute teacher, but I can’t even remember his name. If I could, perhaps I’d look him up. He might not be alive, but if he is, I think I owe him an apology.

Any of my high school theatre friends out there–do you remember this incident or our substitute teacher’s name? For everyone else–did you ever take advantage of a substitute teacher?

I’m linking up with Mama Kat today for her Writer’s Workshop to tell about a time I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.

Mama’s Losin’ It


8 thoughts on “I May Have Shortened the Substitute’s Life

  1. Hysterical. Unless you were the substitute, I guess. I never tortured subs but I did participate in some particularly evil shenanigans against a student teacher, for which I still feel guilty.


  2. Oh that poor man! Reminds me of my middle school band teacher. I NEVER ever got in trouble at school being the shy introvert I was but my buddies were in band and this guy was a brand new teacher, hot off the press. I can't recall exactly what started it but I distinctly remember jumping on the bandwagon (no pun intended!) by standing up in a chair and getting in on the action. Things were flying through the air and this guy had completely lost control of us. I got a note sent home (the only time that ever happened!) and my mother was so shocked, she didn't know whether to punish me or just be thankful I'd finally stepped out of my shell!


  3. I'm at work right now cracking up at my desk. I just had to swivel around in my chair and explain to my office-mate why I was laughing my head off. Sweet innocent Jennifer caused a riot. Well how about that!

    To answer your question, I never took advantage of the substitute teachers. I never caused comical ruckus. I went for the big dogs. I told the principal in middle school to "shove a pass up her ass," kicked a guidance counselor and was once rumored to be sleeping with an English teacher in high school. Somehow I only ever had detention for being late three times. Ugh, I was a horrible teenager.


  4. Jennifer! I vividly remember all of this! I don’t remember his name though–in my head, I totally remember it as Ms. Roddenberry…but maybe that’s just because she subbed so much for us. Then Ed Hunt came and had a talk with our class either later that day or the next day, didn’t he? I also felt the exhilaration and the guilt of our charade gone wild. What a mess we all were that day…


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