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My Day as a Substitute
By Peter Stewart

My wife asked me to sub for her during lunch. She needed to attend a parent conference, so she left me in charge. For twenty minutes. She said to just make sure that the children stay in their seats and read to them while they ate. Then send them outside to the playground. She even wrote out the schedule:

  • 12:00  Settle them in and pass out pizza.
  • 12:05  Read to them.
  • 12:20  Send them outside to play.

O.K. I can do this. How hard can it be? “Hi everyone. Sit down. Time for lunch. As soon as we pass out the pizza, I will read you my story.” (Passing out the pizza took five minutes. This is a breeze!)


“You are all sitting and eating so nicely. Are you ready for my story? Once upon a time…”


“Waaaaaaah” I hear a shattering cry as I watch Meghan run to the bathroom with a flock of concerned girls in tow.


I break through the cluster of girls to get involved.


 “What’s the matter?” “I paid for pizza and I didn’t get a piece,” Meghan blurts out.


 “What are you going to do about it?” the concerned flock asks.


 “Well, I uh…uh (I get a brain storm) I’m going to give her my pizza.”


Yeah! Crisis averted. Now we can get back to MY story. “Once upon a time…”


“Ooooooowwww!” It was Alex.


“What is it?” “I bit into my pizza and my tooth came out. I think it’s on the floor!”


The ENTIRE CLASS dives under the table. Chaos ensues. The tooth is found! I carefully put his tiny treasure inside an envelope and give it back to the boy with a new smile.


“O.K. BACK TO MY STORY. ONCE UPON A TIME…” I look at the clock. It’s 12:20.


 “Everybody, it’s time to go outside. Don’t forget to walk. Walk…WALK! I MEAN IT!” I turn back and take inventory:

  • Number of traumatic episodes – 2
  • Number of teeth lost – 1
  • Number of pieces of pizza left – 0

And then I notice. One boy is still sitting patiently. “Don’t you want to go play outside?” I ask.

He looks up at me and says with complete sincerity, “You’re supposed to dismiss us one by one from the table.”

“O.K You’re dismissed.” And I watched this boy get up from the table and run out into the bright afternoon sunshine.

Parents and teachers have a lot in common. Raising our children is challenging work. The foundation of our work is love. Let us strive to help each other with our children as they grow. From nursery to neighborhood. From classroom to community. From depending on us to depending on themselves. From this day forward.

Peter Stewart is a multifaceted teacher, performer, author, and composer. Currently, he is the director of Sing and Learn Music, founder of Project Pride, and leader of the Potato Chip Band. He can be reached by email at PrideNow@aol.com.