Confessions of a Substitute Teacher

Mark Rius
2 min readJan 7, 2019


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 that you are being respectful toward them, usually they will follow.
  • And second, it's a life lesson. Your name is who you are, embrace it!

Today’s class is very straight forward. They have one worksheet to complete. They may work as partners and I am collecting it at the end of the period. As I allow the class to work in partners, I peer over with astonishment to see Malcolm with his head down. I approach him, but before I can speak he says,

”Sorry i’m so tired Mr. R. I don’t really have an excuse. Like, I drank a cup of coffee for the first time yesterday. I skipped it today. And now I feel like jello. Is this a thing?”

My internal self starts giggling when I hear this. As an educator, it's our job to teach our students real-world scenarios. I looked at Malcolm and gave him a lesson from the book of life.

”Malcom, you went down the rabbit hole. Once you start coffee, it becomes a requirement. It hooks you for life. Watch, tomorrow morning have a cup of coffee before you start your day. I guarantee you will be back to normal. When I was your age, the same thing happened to me.”

I remember my first cup of coffee like it was yesterday. Senior year, one morning I was feeling adventurous. So I took my parents French Press and I gave it a whirl. Bam! It hit me faster than a caffeinated chipmunk! The whole day I was on top of everything! I felt like a superhero. Like the Hulk. Except less destructive. I crushed it. I felt good about myself.

The fall from grace was tough. The next morning I skipped coffee and tried to ride yesterday's confidence into the day. Wrong! The next day dragged on longer than a 3rd grade Tee Ball game. The morning after, I knew not to make the same mistake twice. From that moment on, coffee became part of my regiment.

Do you remember your first cup of coffee?