8 Ways Substitute Teaching Prepared Me for Parenthood

Vicki Lesage

To help pay my way through keg parties college, I used to substitute teach at the local school district. I would sub for any subject, any grade level. I wasn’t picky. That beer college education wasn’t going to pay for itself! Spanish 2? Sí! Home Ec? Let’s get cookin’!

I kissed my loved ones goodbye each morning (my boyfriend and my cat), and hoped I’d make it home in one piece. Because kids can be brutal. But you can also learn a lot from them. Or at least from (substitute) teaching them.

Now that I’ve got two kids of my own, I put that training to use on a daily basis, before kissing them goodbye and sending them into the unsuspecting arms of innocent substitute teachers:

  1. You don’t have to be in control, you just have to act like it.

Whether it’s a screaming toddler or a screaming class of 24 students, they don’t have to know you’re freaked out of your mind. Just act cool, and speak calmly and with authority, instead of freaking out like you are totally about to. They just might listen.

  1. Never let kids play with scissors or else someone’s hair will get cut.

There is no such thing as “safety scissors.” Those newfangled contraptions only help children SAFELY cut another child’s hair. As in, not-stabbing-their-friend’s-eye-out-while-they’re-chopping-clumps-off-their-friend’s-hair. You’ll have a Category 1 disaster just giving them glue and markers. Do yourself a favor and hide the scissors, preferably in another school district/ next-door neighbor’s house/ solar system. Don’t make it harder on yourself.

  1. If your child/ a student asks if you’re old enough to be doing this, take the compliment.

Your first instinct may be to be insulted. “P-shaw! Of course I’m old enough to be a parent/ substitute teacher.” Instead, be grateful they can’t see the crow’s feet forming in the corners of your exhausted eyes. Bonus points if a fellow parent/ teacher mistakes you for a student. Except not in an elementary school. That’s just weird.

  1. Keep an eye on those bathroom breaks.

If a child asks to go to the bathroom, he’s probably legit. No need to scar the kid for life by making him hold it or have an accident. But if he has to go twice in an hour, he might be taking advantage. If he and a friend/ sibling have to go at the same time, you can bet they’re up to no good.

  1. Don’t let them pit you against their regular teacher/ the other parent.

“Mrs. Brown lets us talk while we write our essays.”

“Dad lets us eat pizza and candy for breakfast.”

“Mr. Elliott said it’s OK to eat Cheetos in chem lab as long as we share.”

Don’t be fooled! Your subs said it to you, now it’s your turn to say it: “Well, I’m not Mrs. Brown/ your Dad/ Mr. Elliott!” And go ahead and confiscate all that pizza and candy and Cheetos for yourself.

  1. If a kid asks if you’d like to see his shark bite scar, DO NOT take the bait.

He’s trying to shock and disgust you. It will work. In theory, if it’s your own kid, you should have already seen the scar. Still, if he tries to show it during dinner, DO NOT let him or he’ll ruin everyone’s appetite.

  1. When in doubt, bring the videos out.

Yeah, yeah, we all know videos rot kids’ brains and turn them into zombies. But they also keep them nice and quiet. Stash this tool in your back pocket and whip it out in emergencies. And feel free to define “emergencies” as loosely as necessary.

  1. No matter how bad your day is, you get to leave at the end of it.

They may put you through hell, but as soon as the final school bell rings, it’s adios amigos. Another day under your belt, another day’s wages in your pocket. Oh wait. That doesn’t apply when it’s your own kids. Well, at least I learned seven things.

Head to the Family Room


8 Ways Substitute Teaching Prepared Me for Parenthood

 This post was written by Vicki Lesage exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. She penned three books in between diaper changes and wine refills: Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, and Christmas Confessions & Cocktails. She writes about the ups and downs of life in the City of Light at Vicki Lesage, Author.