Substitute teaching is almost always a challenge. Sometimes, I suppose, a teacher can leave lesson plans consisting mostly of writing chores that work and the substitute can have an easy (but boring) time. I never had that happen.
I did substitute work before I had a regular job. I had lesson plans that I took with me and managed to survive most of the time with reasonable poise. One experience I had, however, was an exception.
This was at a junior high school that feeds the school where I eventually taught full time. This was a boy's shop class. It was a new course being offered in this school for the first time. They had students enrolled in five classes, but they had no shop and no teacher. I was supposed to hold the fort for all five of these shop classes until they could find a qualified regular teacher.
I thought I could manage this ridiculous situation because I had rather wide experience in teaching crafts in day camps. Crafts are fun and most children enjoy being creative. I prepared myself with lesson plans and materials for presenting the program. I was naive.
Actually, I managed reasonably well in four of the five classes. The fifth class was a double section involving twice as many students as the other classes had. All of the students were boys, of course, because this was designed as a shop class and girls did not take shop in those days.
I never did settle these boys long enough to give them directions for doing the craft projects. It became a game to interrupt me each time I established enough silence to begin whatever activity I had done successfully in other classes. I survived one interminable week and decided I would have to withdraw from the assignment. I squirmed over the decision all one weekend. Then, in the middle of the night, I decided I would not let them win! I went back to school on Monday with a plan I had to make work. It was calisthenics.
The plan was simple. The moment one person disrupted the class I ordered all of the students on their feet and we began our exercises. At first they enjoyed it. We did a few arm stretches and toe touches and I sat them down. Each time I started to give directions for the craft project, another person would pop off. Back on our feet we went with more exercises. This continued for most of the hour. The students were finally getting tired and I thought that one more toe touch would settle them for good.
As I ordered it, I heard a strange, scratching sound. It was really a ripping sound. The seam in a rather plump boy's pants ripped from top to bottom! The whole room roared, but I did not think it was funny.
Wrapping one of my craft towels around his waist for modesty's sake, I sent him to the office for discipline. The period ended before the class saw how the office reacted. This was fortunate because the vice principal laughed as hard as the students. Even more fortunate was the fact that a regular teacher was ready to take over the program. She taught them mechanical drawing until the laboratories were established.
Later the boys in that class moved on to senior high school. By then I was teaching my psychology course full time there. On more than one occasion I would hear a shout from the full length of the football field length halls, "How are yah, Jesse?" (My last name is James) and I would shout back, "Better than I used to be!" and we would both laugh.