The word that can change the class dynamic

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

March 12, 2017

Substitute teaching is like being stranded on a desert island. Just like Robinson Crusoe, Friday is your best friend. But it’s not Friday, it’s Monday. And you have 15 minutes to prepare a lesson for a heavy topic. My blood pressure elevates to a boil. Then a presence walks in. I relax when I see Ms. Landry, my partner teacher for the afternoon. Or I should say, security.

Simply put, Ms. Landry is a badass. I look up to this woman. She became my mentor. I leaned on her heavily for the next few months. Of course…


Spoiler alert: requires super glue

El Camino is a very good high school. The students are respectful, and the staff is very helpful. Also, they pay 28 bucks an hour!

The third Period is my honors bio class. It’s Friday, and I wanna try something new. Everyone in this class is college-bound. So, let's treat them like college students.

“Hey everyone, I’m going to be very transparent with you. Today is Friday and we don’t have much planned. See this worksheet?” I model the worksheet for them to see.

“It’s very straight forward, finish the front and back. That is…


Walk Out Wednesday. The Turn I never expected.

Bell Rings. I wait for one student.

Tardy, Harmony bolts in the room louder than a third grader sitting at the adult's table. Before I arrive at the front of the room, Harmony shouts to her neighbor.

“10:30 we’re leaving. We’re walkin out. Okay. Walk out. Lets do this at 10:30.”

She said this so loud that it required me to do my job. So, I attack the situation head-on.

“If you plan on walking out today, I just want you to know that is your decision. I will call the front…


Empathy and Understanding. Lessons I learned from an 8th grader.

“Mr.Marks, step into my office?” The hairs on my neck prickle, and without hesitation I obey.

“Close the door behind you.” The principal orders. Suddenly I get flashbacks to Middle School. Am I in trouble? A familiar fear pierces through my veins. Is she going to call my mom? No, she can’t. I’m a teacher. Well, half a teacher. But can She?

My fingers are trembling. A minute goes by. It feels like ten. …


When a High School Student forgets to drink coffee

It’s 7 am and it's time for roll call. For a high school substitute teacher, this is the worst part of the day. This is not my first rodeo. So I make it as painless as possible. To avoid confusion I explain to the class that I will read their first name and last initial. But most importantly, if I still pronounce your name wrong. Correct me, because it’s your name. I say this in every class for two reasons.

  • First, to get the class on your side. If they see…

Mark Rius

Teacher & Comedic Writer

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