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Auntie SparkNotes: My Substitute Teacher Is a Creep

Hey Auntie!

I’m a junior in high school—yeah, the most important year, the one that every college looks at, etc, etc. And I have a problem the likes of which I’ve never dealt with before.

Someone at the school is acting like a huge creep. And it’s not a student—if it were, I could easily solve that problem before it even started. It’s a teacher, or rather a substitute teacher. A substitute teacher that all the drama classes, including mine, have been stuck with for over a month.

Long story short: the wonderful woman who is the actual drama teacher and director here was forced to leave due to a dumb problem. And who did the school hire? A teacher who works in something that is just barely related to drama. It’s like the second cousin of the mother-in-law of the roommate of drama.

And guess what? This sub is rude, probably missing time with his own classes, and yet they still won’t hire a sub who’s remotely okay. He is fully unfamiliar with the class, or drama, or how not to look and act like an alien that’s trying to study the ways of humans by leering at them. And he’s a jerk to my friend. Why? Because she won’t submit to him completely and has a functioning creep-radar.

This sub does nothing but sit on a stool with his laptop and stare at us, occasionally barking an order for silence, more proof of hard work, whatever. He never helps, gives advice, or tries to treat us like human beings. My friend was the first to start avoiding his classes. When the dean decided the two of us could stay in a spare room, we chatted about how this sub prioritized assertion of dominance over being of any help.

It’s almost the end of the year and I couldn’t be more excited, but what do I do if I encounter this guy next year? How do I tell the counselor about the guy being so off-putting? And what if my grades suffer for it?

You mean, what if your impulsive one-woman campaign of aggrievement against this poor sap of a teacher (whose main offense, as far as I can tell, is to have been assigned through no fault of his own to oversee a class he’s just not very good at managing) comes back to bite you if and when you wind up in his classroom again next year?

Uh, I don’t know, Sparkler. Some people—not Auntie, of course, but some people—might suggest that you should’ve thought of that before you picked an un-winnable fight with a temporary authority figure.

But look: I know you don’t like this teacher, and that’s fine. You don’t have to like him. It certainly sounds like he’s in over his head, poorly equipped to teach the course material, fighting a losing battle to maintain control of the classroom, and very possibly an unpleasant person in general—none of which is fun to deal with, and particularly not when it coincides with the “dumb” departure of a teacher you really loved. But you must realize, Sparkler: it’s not like qualified substitutes with impeccable dramatic credentials and the ability to step into a full-time temporary teaching gig on short notice are just wandering the earth in droves. Your school had to hire whomever was available—and all the guy doing is what he has to, as contractually required. He’s not there to spite you and ruin your junior year. His lack of skill and expertise is not a personal affront to you, and his attempts to manage the classroom are not some kind of targeted persecution against you. Monitoring the students (a.k.a. “leering like an alien”), getting them to be productive (a.k.a. “barking orders for silence”), and expecting compliance when he makes a request (a.k.a. “submitting to him completely”) are literally his job.

So when you and your friend go out of your way to be snarky and insubordinate, you really don’t leave your teacher a whole lot of choice but to clamp down and try to keep you in line—because if he doesn’t, there’s a good chance that other kids will follow your lead and throw every one of his classes into chaos. Really, considering how blatantly contemptuous you seem to be of this guy and how much you were potentially disrupting the classroom, I’m sure he’s as relieved as you are that your Dean has decided to give you and Friend a free pass to kick it in another room for the rest of the year.

The thing is, that also means your problem has already been solved. You don’t have to be in class with the loathed sub anymore; by now, you’re probably not even in the same building. And when it comes to telling a counselor how off-putting you found his presence, I think you can safely assume that your feelings are not a secret and don’t need to be restated. (Frankly, I’d be shocked if there were a single person in your entire school district who isn’t aware that you hate the guy.) Certainly, there’s no need to hold a grudge all summer long and start your war of attrition afresh next year—and as for the sub, the good news is that he’s an adult, and he is professionally obligated to remain cool even if he’s not entirely thrilled to encounter you in one of his classes. If you keep your head down and do your work, you’ll be fine.

But on that note, since it’s summertime and you have a few weeks to think about it, you might want to ask yourself if you’re still entirely cool with how you handled this. Your teacher was tapped in an emergency to do a job he wasn’t very good at, and I know what was disappointing—but did he really do anything to deserve quite so much grief? And don’t get me wrong, maybe the answer is yes, and you have no regrets. But if you do see him next year, and if you’ve decided by then that maybe you weren’t entirely fair about this, you could always apologize.

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