An Amusing Teacher Story: Tammy’s Puppy

Back in the days before substitute teaching assignments were given out by robocomputers, subs would call the early-rising sub-assigners during our lunch hour and beg for work.

One day the sub lady in Pomona granted me an after-lunch half-day assignment for the next afternoon. (Normally if a teacher can’t get a dentist appointment for the late afternoon, she schedules it for the morning and takes the day off. But some districts offer half-day substitutes.) This is usually a pretty good gig for the substitute, particularly in elementary school where most of the heavy lifting (Math and Language Arts) is done before lunch.

The teacher was sitting in the classroom reading her newspaper when I arrived during lunch. I said Hi and she gave me the lesson plans which consisted of a map and one sentence instructing me to walk the students several blocks to and from the theater located at the district office where there was going to a West African Talking Drums concert. This ought to be fun, I thought.

The teacher was out the door before I got a chance to ask her how many parent volunteers she had arranged for the trip. I soon discovered that the answer to that question was zero, and my day went downhill from there.

I picked up the kids from lunch recess, and thirty-two fifth graders and I embarked through the turbulent streets of Pomona, California towards the district office. Normally in such a situation I would put my best parent volunteer at the front of the line, and string the rest of the volunteers throughout the line as I took up the rear in order to encourage slowpokes.

But working alone I was forced to man the front of the line, stopping frequently whenever the students in the back straggled out of view. But we were making good time nonetheless, and I was looking forward to getting good seats for the show.

Suddenly there was a great commotion when a thirty-third soul joined our serpentine. As we walked past Tammy’s house, her puppy which had somehow gotten loose decided to tag along with us. Everyone but Tammy and I were thrilled by this addition to our group. So we all waited as Tammy knocked and knocked on her door, summoning a grandmother who did not answer. I asked Tammy if there were anything else she could do, such as leave the dog with a neighbor. But she just kept knocking on the door.

There was much merriment among the students as my aggravation rose. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I implored Tammy to think of something (anything!) that she could do to rid us of our little friend. “Well,” she said, “maybe I could tie him up in the backyard.” She hopped the locked gate and someone handed her the puppy. About ten minutes later she miraculously appeared sans puppy, and we were off.

We were the last group of students to arrive at the theater. I was greeted with dirty looks from several district officials. We had to squeeze into the remaining gaps at the back of the theater. Several of the students were objecting to being separated from their friends as the West African Drummers were filing down the aisle towards the stage.

I may have raised my voice a tad when I said, “Just sit down. Now!”

One of the West African ladies from the drum troupe looked up and asked, “Who is dis terrible man shouting at de cheeldren?

by Richard W. Bray

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