Two years ago, before I became fully lodged in the ample bosoms of corporate America, I was, briefly, a substitute teacher. Not only was this the most fun job ever, but it inflated my ego like low interest rates in a hot economy. It was great. I felt like I knew everything. I felt like I was having a meaningful influence on people’s lives in a tangible way, especially when I actually got to teach a lesson or take the same class for multiple days. Kids looked up to me, which is one of the most uplifting burdens there are.
My favorite grade to substitute for was seventh grade, because, even though I remembered it differently at the time, now that I’m an adult, it seems like everybody is pretty cool when they’re 12 or 13. No one is a hormone disaster yet, but the kids aren’t babies anymore, and they don’t mind being treated accordingly, which was fine with me.
The most awkward grade to teach was 12th. Here’s a reason why.
One day I was supposed to substitute for a 12th grade career and business class. Which, you know, awesome. I have heard of careers, and, at the time, I was hoping to have one of my own someday. I was excellently qualified to babysit this class.
In the last class before lunch, I was honestly having a great time. I can’t remember what poor excuses for lesson plans that particular teacher had left me, but they were somewhere along the lines of “an alien burst out of my chest this morning, so, uh, figure out some way to keep the kids entertained, just so long as you make sure they don’t kill, screw, or set fire to anything or anyone until you can turn them loose for their next class.” But, hell, that’s fine with me – if you can’t leave me something decent to teach, I think everyone is better off if I just improvise rather than show your stupid videos. I remember teaching those kids all about how grad school and professional school works – they had a ton of questions, and, seriously, no one ever talks to kids about that kind of stuff in high school.
Hold on. I need to talk about a thing. Buckle your seat belts, folks, because this is going to get a little awkward.
Now, this wasn’t an issue in other grades, but when I was teaching seniors, I had noticed that sometimes some girls would bat eyelashes at me, or, you know, whatever. You can sometimes get a certain feeling when someone thinks you’re cute. I’m not saying I’m Harrison Ford teaching a history class (seriously, not at all – I wore some of the worst ties mankind has ever seen for that job), and I know that most of the kids were just (open finger-quotes) paying attention to what I was saying (close finger quotes), but occasionally my awkward sense would tip me off to the fact that someone seemed inordinately interested in me.
And even that wasn’t a thing I took personally. I mean, I was a young adult guy in a position of authority. I have read at least one book before. I know that this kind of thing is a result of the way psychology works, and that it doesn’t mean anything. And, honestly, I have zero sympathy for people who abuse that situation. Reading about that kind of thing pisses me off.
Okay. Now that things are quite a bit more awkward than they were three paragraphs ago, I will continue with my story.
As lunch approached, one girl in particular seemed over-interested in what I had to say about whatever I was talking about. Which, you know, whatever. I might have even misread the situation. You can’t always trust your intuition about these things, I was saying to myself inside my head. I’m sure it’s not a thing.
Then, when the class was filing out for lunch, and I was eagerly looking forward to opening up my brown bag and pulling out my copy of The Economist, the same girl piped up again. This time, she had a suggestion.
“You’re fun. Why don’t you come eat lunch with us?” she wondered.
“Uh, thanks, but I don’t think so.” I replied. Seriously – I could just see that headline now. Substitute Teacher Given 20 Years in Prison for Eating Lunch with Cute Girl Students. There are laws against that kind of thing. Good thing I nipped that little disaster in the bud.
That’s when disaster turned into apocalypse.
“Well, you know what I think is silly?” she said, taking a step towards me in the suddenly ominously empty classroom. “How I can’t get to talk to you more. I mean, we’re not that far apart in age, really. Isn’t it stupid that students and teachers can’t get to know each other better?”
Look, I’d love to write lots of hilarious things about what was running through my mind, but, honestly, I knew immediately that this situation needed to end about 30 seconds ago. There was only one suggestion to make, and I made it immediately.
“I think you need to go to lunch.”