My first day as a substitute I went to the wrong school. I remember my hands slipping off of my steering wheel as I turned into the parking lot next to the tall brick building. I slunk in through the side door because I was late to my first class, scouring the empty halls for the classroom that matched the numbers on the napkin I had used to write down my instructions. I remember my footsteps sounding like gunshots with all of the bodies in the classrooms, nothing to absorb the sound of my heel bouncing off the tile floor. Just black, metal lockers. When I finally found the room I thought I was looking for I walked through and loudly announced that I was sorry I was late, and found myself in the middle of a woodshop class. An older gentlemen, a Ghallager look alike at the front of the room, pulled his safety goggles off and balanced them atop his bald head. Can I help you? he asked. And I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket — in contrast with the spinning saw — and knew it was the administration of P.S. 111 wondering where I was.
I missed first period and made in time for the last half of second. In the desk I found the regular teachers instructions. My students are to take a test today. No talking. If they do, don’t hesitate to take the test away. I have preemptively written John Henderson of my fifth period class a referral for disrespect. He will earn it without fail. Just a forewarning. When the third period class filed in I handed them the tests and wrote the answers to the test on the chalkboard. I said, No talking, and watched. The class suspiciously copied down what I had written, even though most of my answers were wrong, and some of the smarter kids knew that, but it didn’t stop me from collecting their sheets and filing them into the teacher’s manila folder.
When the last test was handed in I opened my briefcase and pulled out a VHS of the 1930′s “King Kong” and then told everyone to take notes. One of the kids in the back said, smartly, Shouldn’t you be teaching us something? I wrote him a referral and laid it on his desk. I didn’t get this job to teach, I said. I’m just here to watch movies. I took a seat behind the teacher’s desk and did just that. I watched.