• Welcome teachers! Log in or Register Now for a free ProTeacher account!

Worst day ever - can you top this!


Junior Member
This is about a 2nd grade class. I start off my day with the 3 stars on the board. 3 stars get an outstanding report and 15 minutes of recess at the end of the day, 2 stars get a great report and 10 minutes of recess, 1 star gets a pretty good report and 5 minutes of recess. 0 stars get a very bad report and and no recess.

By the 2nd hour, the students had lost all of their stars. We went on a bathroom break and the bathroom we went to was about 25 feet apart for the girls/boys. I took a responsible girl and told her 4 girls at time and that she would be last. I went to the boys line and picked out a responsible boy and said the same thing. I then looked at the girls line and all the girls were in the bathroom together about 10 of them. I immediately went to get them out. While I was scolding the girls, I noticed that 5 boys were playing tag in the courtyard and that one boy was climbing on one of the light poles. Once I got all the students back into the classroom, I gave the "acceptable behavoir" speech and had them write a 1 page essay on the proper way they should act in the restroom.

After they had finished this task, it was time to goto lunch. I had the 5 boys who were playing tag stay with me in the classroom and miss their recess. While I was sitting in the classroom with the boys, I thought that eating lunch with teacher was too much of a privledge. So I gave the boys a math worksheet to work on while they were eating.

After lunch, we came back to the classroom and had silent reading time. Not with this class, it was chat time again. So, I gave the "acceptable behavoir speech" again and had the students put their heads down on their desks for about 10 minutes as I sat at the front of the classroom and monitored their behavoir.

Then we went to P.E. I warned the students if there was a single word that the student who was talking would miss PE and return to the class with me. Yeppers - 2 students talked and another student climbed on the light pole. 3 students missed PE.

When I returned to pick up the students, 2 boys were fighting over the water fountain and pushing and shoving each other. I told both boys to get into line without getting a drink. One student obeyed - the other one punched the wall. I wrote his name down and submitted the referral paperwork for display of anger when we returned to the classroom.

Finally back to the classroom for the last hour of the day. The students were to make a going away card for the student who had punched the wall. He was leaving the next day. I told the students that they could talk if they kept the noise level low. Funny -- the class was silent. I told the students to put their completed card on the chair and to read a book until the bell. One student alerted me to a card that one of the students had written with the words Fword You written at the top.

Once again, I gave the acceptable behavoir speech and told the students that I would seach their desks for the student who had the green felt tip marker. The girls all pointed to one student but he quickly denied it. It was the end of the day and I would let their teacher deal with it. I found it interesting how the student who had written the vulgar words spelled them correctly but misspelled "goodbye" and "miss you" incorrectly.

It took about 45 minutes to write up the report on the class. One of the next door teachers told me that the class was generally well behaved. I laughed.


Junior Member

I think we've all had those kinds of days! My first day back subbing after not subbing for 9 years was just as bad. And that class was 'normally' a good class??! I don't sub for that class anymore.


Senior Member
Yes, I can...

but I don't like to think about it anymore. They were fourth graders. As Clark said, we've all had those kind of days.


Senior Member
Been there, done that

I've had those days with a few classes. It's a learning process. I have a question about the stars. When you erase the stars and get down to 0, can they earn stars back with good behavior? If not you can expect that behavior will never recover once they have "lost."

I've done the bathroom break thing before with the whole class. It has never gone well for me. I'm sure it goes fine for the regular teacher, but with a sub it's really difficult to keep them under control. The problem with picking out "responsible" kids is that you might get lucky and actually pick the responsible kids, but then you place these kids in a very difficult situation. These "responsible" kids are given the task of keeping the others in line. It's not likely something they can handle when the class is out of control and they are punished along with the rest.

I've also done the keeping the kid(s) in for recess and/or lunch thing. Teachers are all over the board on this one. Some believe in doing it, some don't. There are compelling arguments on either side. As a sub there are a few things that come to my mind. Do I really want to keep kids inside that are full of energy and need to burn it off? Do I want to keep them in with me and let them get even more fidgety? Ultimately do I want to punish myself by not giving me a break from the kids to calm down and attempt to relax? And do I want to risk other issues by being a stranger alone in a room with one or a few kids who are mad at me and might say something about the alone time that's not true?

P.E. is another killer for a sub when the class is out of control. If things are not going well in the class it will not get better outside as you try to keep control. P.E. is always a reward to the class. That's one of the first things I would hold over their heads if it was on the schedule for the day. If they're not in control in the classroom I wouldn't chance it outside and I would cancel it. I don't think any teacher would disagree with that decision if you made it.

I've also done the acceptable behavior speech throughout the day. It's important that you cover your expectations first thing in the morning and give short reminders throughout the day, but these guys know what is expected of them. At this age putting names on the board works pretty well. Put a happy face and a sad face on the board. These guys know what that's for. Start out by writing a name or two under the happy face and praise those students by stating what behavior you noticed that you really liked. Give them a little attention. Then start putting names on the unhappy side, but only give a brief description of the poor behavior to the offender so that he/she does not get undue attention. I usually let the happy names line up for recess first, get the balls first, and go to recess one minute early. The rest of the class goes on time and the unhappy names might get to go to recess just a few seconds late. That usually makes a pretty good impact. I also let the unhappy names know that better behavior throughout the day will earn them a chance at getting off the unhappy list. Subbing's hard. Good luck.

Mrs. Monica

Full Member
I had a day like that last week

My bad day was in a first grade classroom. First thing in the morning I went over my expectations and read the teacher's posted rules. That didn't seem to do me any good because they were wild within the first hour. I stopped several times to give them a lecture on proper behavior and classroom rules. It didn't help much. At the end of the day I had to report to the teacher that we didn't do about four of the lessons he had planned. A lot of the reason for this was that I had to spend so much time scolding them.

I wouldn't take away their PE though - I needed the break. I also didn't want to take away their recess - that's my lunchtime AND the teacher didn't allow food in the room. During THEIR lunchtime I have to monitor them in the lunchroom.

I respect that you gave up your breaks to punish the students, I wouldn't do it though. I usually need the break to recover. :)


Just Curious . . .

What type of school were you at? Was it a typical middle class school, or a school in a poor neighborhood? Was it in an urban, suburban, or rural area? Because many times the "type" of school you sub at determines the kind of day you have.


Bad Day

I'm sorry about your day. But like the last poster pointed out, the "type" of school can make a big impact. I, a long time ago, subbed for a 6th grade at a poor, urban school. It was so horrible. I wanted to cry so badly. I left the teacher a 2 or 3 page note and I actually said that I would never come back to the school after being in the class. At one point, a gym teacher walked in and looked at me and said what are you doing?? I guess the kids were way too loud (that was the least of our problems). I wanted to scream at him- Instead of criticizing, why don't you help me? The teacher must have gotten after them. I had some sort of closure because a few days later I saw a kid from that class at the grocery store. I literally began to turn around because I wanted NO PART of any of it and I didn't want those rude kids to be part of my personal life in any way. He actually came up to me at the store mind you, and said he was really sorry about the awful way the class treated me. He looked really embarrassed. I remember thinking, good! Now, I just wonder how they all fared. That was a few years back.


Senior Member
"type" of school

What type of school were you at? Was it a typical middle class school, or a school in a poor neighborhood? Was it in an urban, suburban, or rural area? Because many times the "type" of school you sub at determines the kind of day you have. - SubTeacherMan

You should be careful with this one. This statement in one form or another creeps in threads from time to time and is never accepted warmly. This always comes down to a race issue. I get the gist of what you likely mean by making this statement, but you're off a bit.

Comparing these schools based on student population and demographics may contribute to some differences, but it really comes down to a school's administration and the faculty. In the two districts I've subbed at I've been to schools in affluent neighborhoods, schools in very poor neighborhoods and everything in between. I could go on and on about stereotypes, parent involvement, yada, yada, yada, but I've been in schools that were in the "money" neighborhoods that had the most disrespectful students I've ever had to deal with. I've also been in the poor parts of the district and have had some of the best experiences ever, sometimes with 6th graders. I can't beleive I said 6th grade, but it's true. Anyway, it really comes down to the school's pricipal and the expectations/consequences of that principal for the school's students and faculty.

In this particular case, ZigZagZee hasn't yet responded to any posts, but overall it seems likely that she could have a very different day with the same class if she develops a better behavior managment plan. Mine's not perfect, but it's getting better. I've had slumps that have left me feeling nothing in the classroom went right, but eventually many of us figure out where we could make differenct choices for the next class of raging lunatic "angels."



Hifiman, you present good points. I have had some wonderful days at the "less privileged" schools, but more often times than not, those days do not go great for me (why that is, I don't have a concrete answer). But it's not as if every day at an affluent school is a walk in the park, since I've had some terrible days in those places too. About 70% of the time, I sub in "good income" areas - not because I'm afraid of doing an inner-city school, but due to geography and time constraints (since I don't feel like commuting an hour to work unless I have to). Some days in those "poorer" schools, I'm totally up to the challenge of trying to stimulate the students to the best of my ability (and it does work with enough effort), but other times it greatly wears me out after a short time.
Ultimately, for us as substitutes, the day we have will depend on the permanent teacher we're subbing for, and the school to a lesser degree. If the permanent teacher leaves good lesson plans and has taught the students to respect their fellow person (includng subs), than the day should go well. If their are poor lesson plans and it has been taught to the students that any day with a substitute doesn't matter, than the day will go poorly. And this is regardless of where the school is, whether it be in Beverley Hills or downtown LA (I'm not from CA by the way).

Note- I know very little about how race, economics, or class structure affects a district's education system, so as you can see, I'm steering as far from that as possible without trying to cause controversy : )


Senior Member
It definitely sounds like you had a rough day. :( One thing I noticed...if the students had lost all three stars before lunch, what is their incentive to continue to be good (or try to be good) in the afternoon?

Would letting them earn the stars (up to 3 or however many) instead of taking them away work better? They can always earn a star. Which is a little different from what I understand of the approach you used, once it was gone it was gone.

I don't know. Just a thought.

Also, most specials teacher (art, music, pe) get really upset when classroom teachers pull kids from their class. Some feel it says their class isn't a "real" class just something "fun". In fact, in my district we aren't allowed to have children miss a special due to behavior. (However, a music/art/pe teacher may have them sit out if they aren't following the rules) You might want to find out if your district has this kind of rule just so you keep your tush covered. :rolleyes:

I hope today was a better day.


Junior Member

As for the stars, I always give the students the "2nd chance" speech and tell them that if they do well (i.e. assignment, discussion) the stars will come back. After the first star is removed, I start to remove the points on the last 2 stars (it's a slow death) and I tell the students that I believe in rounding up. So if they have 6 points left on the the stars that they will get 10 minutes. The funny thing about this policy is noone would really line the students up, walk them to the playground, let them play for 5 minutes, and then walk them back to the classroom.

As for the type of school, I'm not afraid to admit it but it's an urban school. All of the 12 schools in the district are over 50% free lunch and are of a mix race population. I live in Phoenix.

This school is in my neighborhood and is about a 2 minute walk from my house. I was very excited about working there when I found the assignment. The admin is very strict and gave me a lot of words of encouragment and support once I checked in. I think this problem comes from the teamwork with the 2nd grade teachers. I was told that there are 5 teachers and they all work individually on their assigments. Very sad.

At the beginning of the day, I tell the students in addition to getting a "team" recess award there are inidividual awards - called the superstars. I tell the class that I reward 5 students for outstanding work and they become superstars and will receive an "award" at the end of the day. I also tell the students that "I can have more than 5 if the class is great". I also tell the students that if they make "superstar status" they have to be on their best behavoir or it will be taken away. I also give the "2nd chance" speech with this discussion. So when I'm checking a lesson and a student has finished with all the answers correctly, I'll tell him to go put his name on the board as a "superstar". If at the end of the day, I see more than 10 students in my "superstar" box--- I'll reward the students with some pretzels or a licorice as the treat. If I have only 5 or so -- I give them "dino" and "fish" erasers from the $1 store.


Senior Member
Good blog, Mark

that sure was worth the read. I hope everyone takes the time to go there and read what happened in Mark's class that day. And yes, three subs in a week is a "tipoff" isn't it?

Edited for spelling.


well it depends

However, 3 subs in a week can also occur because the teacher only requested one day of absence at a time in the sub system. Why they would do that, I don't know (unless of course they had an emergency).


My Opinion

I agree with somewhat of what Hilfiman says about how its up to school administration/teachers, but I also have to say it has to do with how these children are parented. I teach inner-city and have my room well-managed because if I didn't I probabaly would be ready to quit, but I have to say that no matter how well my class is managed, there is always rude or disrespectful behavior going on. Its been going on since day one and it happens in every classroom. Its just that some children just plain old don't care about doing work or showing respect for a teacher. It blows my mind.


Junior Member
extra time ...

I just have a few hints that may work on those difficult days.
First of all, I've noticed that if you try your very best to stay composed and not raise your voice, then when you DO raise your voice it has a deeper impact ... the kids know you've HAD IT. Tell the kids that when someone is disrespectful, it is much harder to be nice than it is to be mean ... let them know that you are trying VERY hard to be nice, but they are making it difficult. Reason with them when you can ... you would be surprised how much it effects some kids when you just explain that it hurts your feelings when they're disrespectful or if you tell them you're not mad, just disappointed. Of course, some kids could care less how you feel, but it's always worth a try ... set an example.
I also agree with allowing the kids to earn something back. It gives them motivation to do better.
Also, invent something to take away rather than taking away a special class or recess. Write the word "FREE" on the board, and tell them if they don't lose all the letters they will get 10 minutes of free time at the end of the day ... for a class game or choice activity. That way you don't have to worry about making other teachers angry or causing hyper kids to lose recess.



I once (notice I said once) taught in an emotional support class with 9 students, all boys. After lunch and recess one of the boys comes back to the classroom looking like a raccoon. While he was out at recess he asked to go to the restroom. On his way there he stopped off at his classroom and picked up brown and black markers to make himself look like a raccoon. We had been reading a story about a raccoon in the morning. My afternoons was spent preventing the other boys from doing the same to their faces.



Senior Member
Throwing candy at the teacher!

Not me, but...!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I recently subbed two days at the end of a teacher's planned two week trip to India. She had a guy who taught 8 days, followed by a one-day sub, and then I ended with the last two days.

It was high school freshmen and pretty hectic the first few periods, so it took me a while to read all the sub reports. The poor first teacher wrote increasingly bad reports on the kids, day by day...I don't know what happened, but by Valentine's Day, they were throwing candy at him, calling him an idiot, and worse. So, my next class came in (and they had been the WORST by all accounts) and I started the period with an informative lecture. I waved the sub reports around and told them that their teacher would read this when she returned, and there were names mentioned over and over. I then told them they could redeem themselves by behaving the next two days. And they DID. (I did the same speech the next morning to the few periods I had missed.) They were very worried about it and asked me to remove the first sub's reports...I told them I couldn't do that, but THAT I would report that they had reformed...

It turned out that the WORST class of the day (for the original sub) turned out to be the BEST for me!

Another thing that I observed during those two days...(it was HS Freshman Health). It's a very high energy, high hormone group of people. A LOT of these kids just need to run around the block or something...I wish I could BUY their energy! They just can't contain themselves.

I did plenty of "shhhh' and scolding but they weren't BAD. It sounded like the previous sub had gotten on them for every little thing - and lost respect, I am not sure what happened but he had to call security ultimately...

On the last day, there were a group of boys who had continually been loud, but it was if they just couldn't HELP IT. I had to show a 40 minute video on racism in America...it was a really good film, and dealt not just with African and Mexican Americans, but Japanese, Jews, etc. etc..Mostly the students were riveted and astounded....this group of loud boys kept being loud, and at first I was scolding and sshhhing, and then I started LISTENING to them. They were OUTRAGED about what they were learning. They were saying, "HOW CAN PEOPLE HAVE DONE THAT?" and "THAT IS TERRIBLE!" I decided to quit getting on them for being loud...they were DEFINITELY getting the lesson and it was just their way to be loud...I was really proud of them actually.

As they left the classroom, they were saying, "Hey goodbye Ms. M!" and showing me the "cool" handshake. I felt glad that I hadn't labeled them "bad" - even though they will likely have to learn at some point how to contain themselves...

So, it wasn't MY worst day, but that poor original sub - throwing candy at him and swearing at him!!!! Oh boy...



Substitute teaching is full of surprises. Unfortunately, that does include some days of total chaos! I'm glad they aren't all bad.

For the elementary bathroom break, I try to avoid taking the entire class out at the same time. The hallways in our school, an open air building, are quiet zones. If the desks are arranged into several groups, I will dismiss one person from each table to take a bathroom break. Upon each student's return, they are to tap the shoulder of a student from their table to take their turn. This usually works pretty well, but you have to start the bathroom breaks during an independent lesson, or silent reading. You don't want students missing total group lessons.

Also, our school assigns walkies to each classroom. I have learned to always take the walkie with me. I left the walkie in the classroom as I was only going next door to pick up a class from P.E. I didn't have the walkie and of course, a fight broke out. A teacher happened to be in the hall and she escorted one child to the office and sent word for the behavior specialist to come to the classroom after the second student.

Your chaotic bathroom situation, would have been reason enough to call for assistance at our school. I realize this isn't an acceptable practice in every school, but my experience has shown me, that it is better to prevent total chaos than to try to fix it later. Most of my assignments are by request. I believe this is evidence that it is acceptable to call for help if I think it is necessary.

I also agree with some of the others that most classes give up once their incentive has been lost. The stars sound like a good system. If you aren't doing so, tweak it a bit so that the kids have a chance to earn back lost stars. You may even have to remind the kids that they are trying to earn the said incentive. You have to allow yourself a chance for recovery after chaos.

Keep in mind that some incentive plans work well with certain classes and not at all with others. I have started out with an incentive plan and realized it wasn't working and changed gears.


Junior Member
Not the worst, but definitely not the best!

I had a two-day sub call for the 13th & 14th of Feb. Not only did I have the experience of subbing for a major holiday party (with parents & relatives), but I also had the joy of handling two pukers ... neither made it to a bathroom or garbage can, of course. The two trouble-makers in the class didn't make the assignment any easier, but I still have to say that I've had worse days. Isn't that sad?