Any HS Teachers Out There?

Updated on December 27, 2011
C.W. asks from Union Hall, VA
14 answers

Hi All!

I have been 'subbing'. Sunday after T day, got my 'first' call from the HS. Apparently, The 'psych' teacher had to have emergency surgery (back) prior to thanksgiving. They had 2 different 'retired teacher' subs come in for two days each...and each one 'declined' to come

I came the monday after T find CHAOS...and no lesson plans. The students were 'used' to watching a movie...answering questions...with a particular focus...for the previous MONTH on 'serial killers'....YITE!

This is/was an elective class (not AP) for juniors and seniors...and from what I 'easy A' kind of deal (NOT my style).

Anyway, I had to ask for a syllabus...then do my own lesson plans. Once students completed their 'criminal minds' project for the regular teacher...(essentially a 'pick your favorite criminal' power point deal)...I forwarded the projects to the teacher. Since teacher did not provide further guidance...I had/have been teaching personality theory...(thumbnail sketches from skinner...and then a take home 'genogram' (family tree with project for the break.

SO...I guess word got out that there were no 'plans' for the class.

Then, my first day of bus duty, I ended up breaking up a fight. No problem.

The students have been coming around to a 'higher bar'...but a bit

Then...yesterday, after my last class, a student brought me a paper from the previous class in the room. The paper was a diagram of all students in his desk...labeled with names or descriptors like 'random black girl'...'random white guy'...'teacher's pet' etc. What was troubling was the 'key' on the bottom of the page. He had drawn a gun that = 'should be shot'. A 'smiley face = 'cool'. the 'desks' had these symbols next to them...and then 'random blood spatters' (he labeled the tear drops he had drawn on the page as that).

I left a note for the teacher in the room prior to me to come see me. He did this morning. I shared the paper found on the floor...and the notebook found at that desk. I indicated that 'I' was concerned...but felt he should be made aware and handle it.

Then...I went on my day.

At end of the day...I found out several things:

One, the note had been turned in...and the student was arrested. (WOW)

Two...this student is the nephew of the chair of the 'social studies' department...and she is PISSED!!!

Three...the actual teacher of the student was 'ranted and raved' to BY the social studies department head. He 'sought me out' today to 'warn' me to 'document' any encounter with this obviously angry department chair.

SO...only been there 3 weeks...break started end of school today...and I am left wondering IF I will be back in january. I had HIGH hopes that this would turn into an AP course taught by ME!!! (not the history teacher who was teaching it)...and now...I feel like I am being sucked into big time drama that I really do not need.

Any suggestions?

I feel like maybe I need to just go back to middle school random these are 'in and out'. But I have missed the continuity...

Is this 'normal' in schools?

Or is my corner of the world here really 'peyton place'??

I will obviously 'chill' for the two week break...

Any advice?

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So What Happened?

TY for your replies!

Just a note...I am NOT trying to turn this teacher's class into an AP class...these students return after the break to 'finish' this psych elective class...This teacher is a history teacher who was asked to teach a psych elective. I am thinking more 'long term. I LOVE the idea of AP classes (or even dual college enrollment classes) to keep students actively engaged in senior year...and a CHEAP way to knock out some college credit.

More Answers



answers from Atlanta on

I used to teach in a high school that was pretty awful! We had drama of this nature with both students and teachers. The high school where I taught previous to that one was not bad at all. What I gather from my experience and friends' experiences is that it's about 50/50 -great or good high schools and crazy, nightmare high schools!

As far as the diagram you found -who wouldn't be concerned? You did the right thing! Especially in this day and age, anything of that nature should be turned in and investigated.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You did the right thing by turning the paper into the other teacher. Really the kid probably never would have acted on any of his doodles, but you never know and we are living in a post Columbine world. Things have changed.
You will get called back, believe me, good subs are impossible to find. I refuse to do it and my very good friend who subs in k-6 would never step into a high school.
Teachers should have at least two weeks of lesson plans. I still do lesson plans at home with my two that I homeschool.
When you do get called back ask how long the regular teacher will be absent, then plan your "class" accordingly. Obviously you have teaching experience and in Psychology. Teach in units, then when she gets back she can do whatever she wants and your "class" will be over. At least while you're there the kids will learn something.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

You can not change the course to AP from a general level elective on your own or during this year. I assume you know this.

No lesson plans is 100% unacceptable and unprofessional on the teacher's part. I don't care what the excuse is. I was always 2 or more weeks ahead and had another week's worth of work marked sub just in case they needed to pull some fillers.

I would not let anyone think you were gunning for this job. You are subbing and open to a fulltime job, but not after anyone's specific job.

The best subs sometimes have more value as a sub. I was told this repeatedly. It was when I told the principals I was probally not going to sub next year as I needed fulltime that I was offered jobs in each district I was subbing. Otherwise, my ability to handle any class was more valuable than my teaching in a regular classroom.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Hi Michelle, I'm not a teacher but have a lot of teacher friends. I can completely see that you are not trying to turn this particular class into an AP class but bring it up to the level where it should have been in the first place...chaos, lack of lesson plans and watching movies frequently instead of teaching is lazy on the part of the recovering teacher. It drove my daughter crazy if she had a teacher or a substitute that just dialed it in or acted like a baby sitter, her time was better spent learning.

With regard to people finding out she had no lesson's the truth. It's not like you were gossiping, being ugly about it or trying to take her job.

Lastly, the chair of the social studies department needs to be pissed at his nephew for being such a bone head. He has a teacher in the family and doesn't know the consequences of drawing that specific students "should be shot"? EVERYBODY knows that these days!

Enjoy a couple of weeks off, I am willing to bet you will be called back. You have exhibited character, flexibility and that you want the students to learn and reach their potential.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

The only thing I can think of is if this is an elective class,why are you trying to turn it into an AP class? I don't teach HS but I teach in the elementary school and I know I would be upset if I had to have emergency surgery and be out and come back only to find out the sub had changed the curriculum and was taking my job. Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I wouldn't change the type of class it is (elective/AP)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

You will definitely be called back to sub, schools are always looking for dependable and responsible subs and it sounds like you fit that description perfectly. I had a long term sub job this fall in a small school, I was asked to cover the HS ELA class that actually served 8th-12th as well as special needs. The teacher was dismissed without warning so talk about no lesson plans and since it is such a small school, I was the ELA department. STRESS OUT! I spent many days well after school hours grading papers and planning lessons, and guess what...I was still only paid per diem and no benefits. Now that they have hired a full time teacher, I am back to subbing and let me tell you...I am MUCH happier! You did the right thing, those kids will remember you and appreciate you. Other teachers will also remember how hard you work and will ask for you to cover their classes. Congratulations on a job well done and do follow through with your plans if you have decided to enter teaching full time, sounds like you are cut out for it!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Michelle, I'm not a HS teacher, but I have subbed in HS. They can be difficult, can't they!

Listen, I really appreciate as a parent what you did. And I urge you to document ANYTHING that the social studies chair says to you. We ALL remember Columbine and other school shootings. As much as that woman is upset about the attention and the embarrassment, she would be SO much more upset, and her world would end if this kid did something terrible. Hiding her head in the sand is not helping this kid.

I have to say that my hope for teaching a class full time would not keep me from doing what you did. If they decide not to put you in the school full time because the social studies chair has it in for you, then this is their loss and they aren't managing her. And you don't want to have to work in a place that does this.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Michele I was a subsitute for twelve years. In all likelihood you will be called back because good subs are hard to find and your issue will have blown over and new ones come up. Sadly the sub is encouraged to do the right thing (and same here as I am a teaching assistant now) and when you do, for example ut oh, let's filter this because it's the department chairs nephew or whatever, but know in your heart you did the right thing while probably nephew just thought he was being hysterically funny. That he was actually arrested is truly excellent.there are enough incidents in the past that have proven that if even one person took a babystep some horrible things might have been avoided. I was told by a student once that he knew where I lived (yikes, he did! drove by my house once years back) and he said he would bomb my house. I told the principal who said it was 'inappropriate' but that the child explained he didn't mean it, was just joking?? (it was an eighth grader). I was devatstated. 'Inappropriate'??Well, I was discouraged to say the least and luckily haven't seen this child in years, but still look over my shoulder every now and then. I also encountered a child with a knife in school and he was put in some sort of detention, but I felt as though I was being criticized for reporting it. No one has any idea how hard it is to be a sub, yet there is something in us that keeps driving us to do it. It is an adventure to me, wishing I could still do it but got a job with benefits and you wake up never knowing where your next adventure will be. Do not be discouraged. I cannot imagine why you wouldn't be called back. I worked at a highschool for a little while and the students can be tough but so wonderful too and as far as administrations and other teachers go, well, your job perfomance is all a matter of one's opinion and that is not always right. You did the best to protect people and you can sleep with that knowledge.Have a great break!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think like anything you have to follow your heart and brain.. The brain tells you that paper was disturbing, your heart is telling you this child probably has issues.. It is your job to make others in authority aware..

That is part of being a teacher a sub an administrator..

It was up to the school to decide what needed to be done about it, you were only the messenger.

I think it is cool that you are engaging these students in this class.. probably up until then it was an ok class for an easy grade, but I bet you are really capturing their attention..

Our daughter would have loved a class like you are teaching and she was always an AP student. I say to pursue your idea of the class if not at this school, then with the district in general..

You could even sell the lesson plans.. I have a friend that teachers workshops based on her lesson plans and curriculum.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

The kind of drawing you have described would be considered a threat in my school. I would have turned it into the head administrator. The police would have been called. In fact, the school may have gone into lockdown mode until the police came so that the student could be escorted off of the campus. The student could have had a weapon on the school grounds. If the one student had harmed the other student, you may have been held liable.

The problem is that full time teachers have been informed to take such actions. What kind of training did you receive in order to become a substitute teacher in the district?

There are great people in leadership roles at schools. In other spots, people with the wrong concerns have a lot of power and influence. Documenting the conversations with the department head sounds wise. Maybe even any conversation on the topic.

Make an appointment to introduce yourself to the principal and discuss how the situation was handled. You may be pleasantly surprised, and you'll have a face-to-face contact with him or her.

Then there's liability. Make sure your home owner's insurance covers you while you are on the job.

Teaching middle school is no guarantee that you will not have to confront kids who are bullying others. In some cases, it is even worse there.

Find some teachers who can be mentors for you. There is so much to learn on the job of the teaching profession. People just don't realize.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I teach HS English (11th grade AP Language/12th grade regular British Lit.). What you described does not sound too off base. Teachers should leave good lesson plans for substitutes, and good teachers do. Unfortunately not all teachers do what they should. In your situation, other teachers in the department should have stepped up and helped you with plans, however in an elective class there may not have been another teacher teaching the same course. You handled the situation with the lack of plans very well.

As for the note, you did exactly what you should have. The social studies department chair was completely out of line. As you have seen from your experience, issues (or threats) of school violence are taken very seriously. I would expect that you will be called back.

Your goal of wanting to teach AP classes is understandable. It is a lot of work, but is very rewarding. You are on the right track by proving that you are willing to go the extra mile. If you aren't already certified to teach, you know you need to get your teaching certificate first. You will also need extra training/certification to teach AP classes. If you are serious about it, go ahead and get the certification. In our area, and probably most areas, you have to wait for someone to retire to get an AP position, and then there is a lot of competition for those spots. You need to be the very best at what you do and be willing to work extremely hard. I don't want to discourage you; I just want you to know how to get ahead of the game. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, Cat:

Seems to me that the school is in need of Restorative Practices.

Look on the web:

good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Sorry, no advice, but I would have been as concerned as you! I don't envy your job, glad I'm a nurse, though plenty of drama there too.

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answers from Richmond on

well, for starters..
you probably prevented a blood bath, but on the other hand, you are probably going to get fired for turning in the student. but at least you know you wont be there when the shooting starts. the kid sounds like a serious head case, too bad his aunt doesnt see the forest for the trees. if i were you, i would volunteer to go to another school, and quietly warn the other teachers about this student, because when he comes back, not if,he will probably be armed. i gurantee that his aunt will " pull some strings" and get him back into class.for some background, the kid that turned virginia tech into a morgue, did the exact same thing, drew a diagram poiting out which students he thought should die, the teacher turned him in, and got fired, then the shooting started. so, volunteer to go to another school, and lock your doors, just in case.
K. h.
honestly, i am not really surprised that this kids aunt has her head so far into denial land that she doesnt see the kid for how he really is, the parents of the mass killer at virginia tech were exactly the same way, didnt shock them at all that he killed 32 people, they knew something was wrong with him and they simply denied it, despite him being pulled into a treatment program at least once before the shootings for his violent fantasies.

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