25 Teachers Share the Bad Things Substitutes Did When They Were Away

It’s gotta be kind of weird to be a teacher and just hand your entire universe (aka, your classroom) over to a stranger once in a while when you take a day off.

But that’s what the substitute teaching game is all about, folks! And it’s also a total crapshoot about what kind of individual will be teaching your beloved students for the day…and anything can happen.

Teachers shared their stories of substitutes gone wild on AskReddit.

1. The accused.

“Accused a student of stealing something that the aide had put away. This was a class that contained some pretty rough students including one suspended multiple times for fighting and some gang members.

She decided to go after a sweet, petite girl that never caused trouble and was generally popular with her classmates. This set off the entire class which is when the sub went ballistic and started wildly throwing accusations and yelling at said students. Security eventually got called and took several students out.

My first clue was when the sub got my cell number from the staff directory and went off for 20+ minutes about how bad my students had been. This was followed up with an extremely long email and a two page written note on my desk plus a concerned note from the administrator about not having appropriate sub plans (she didn’t follow them in the first place and decided to throw me under the bus).

The next morning when I arrived at school, the students were waiting for me at the door. Once I got them calmed down enough to tell their side of the story, we had a discussion on how they could have handled the situation differently. I promised them never to get that sub again.

On a related note, I had a good relationship with said “rough children” because I treated them with respect and fairness. They usually behaved for me.”

2. Out on a limb.

“She was bought in to teach history.

What did she teach? GEOGRAPHY

Like how?

The worksheets I left were literally on Hitler’s rise to power?!”

3. Lay off the sauce.

“The sub passed out drunk at my desk. Kids WRECKED the room. Kids stole all my stuff.

The kids had the sense to take themselves to lunch and recess, so no one in the school realized anything was wrong until after the kids had left for the day.”

4. You can’t do that!

“Had a substitute teacher in my high school French class show a movie that was straight up soft core p*rnography but tried to explain that since it was in French it was artistic.

It was equally frustrating because while I wanted to see boobs, I also couldn’t stop reading the subtitles because I had to understand what they were saying.

The teacher did not come back the next day.”

5. Ouch.

“I would occasionally give out Starbursts to my 4th graders.

B*tch ate all the pink ones.”

6. Hmmmm…

“He yelled at one of the only girls in my high school engineering class saying girls don’t belong in engineering.

He also kicked his feet up on the desk and read the paper the entire day.

He banged a yardstick on a desk to get everyone’s attention then pointed it at the whiteboards with the daily objectives. All without saying a word.

He disappeared at lunch and came back smelling like weed.

These are all reports I got from my students the next day. This guy was a retired teacher, too.”

7. Total chaos.

“Came back to my art room with paint on the walls , chairs, and tabletops.

None of my plans had been followed.

My chocolate stash had clearly been eaten, and apparently she allowed the students to leave the room and wander the school.

They were a class of 8th graders. I was furious.”

8. Oh, boy…

“Two things come to mind:

Tell the black children they need to speak more clearly because people think black people are hard to understand.

Just sit and play on the phone while class loses its mind.”

9. Oops.

“I had a substitute when I worked in a rough school.

I knew it was going to be a challenge for the substitute, so I prepared ahead of time with a LOT of candy (from Costco) and notes to not leave their lunch in the fridge (it would have been stolen). The substitute gave out all of my 5 pound bag of candy AND my calcium chews.

When I came back from the field trip the kids were in a soft lockdown, because the school was being searched for drugs. I immediately noticed my calcium chews (chocolate flavored) were gone. I assumed there would be some serious health repercussions, so I frantically searched for a warning label. It said something along the lines of “excess consumption may cause to act as a laxative”. One of my hungrier kids had eaten 15+ chews…

The nurse had to round up each of my classes and (with the sub) escort them to the bathroom. The kids NEVER took candy from another substitute of mine, ever again.”

10. Time to lock it down.

“I had a sub steal my dry erase markers and emergency chocolate once.

After that, I locked my drawers and left them with two pens and one dry erase marker.”

11. What happened to the eggs?

“I had left out – overnight – eggs that I was going to use in a science experiment the following day. I was out and thought nothing about it.

I returned the following day and went looking for the eggs only to find them missing. Asked a student where they went and I was informed that the substitute took the class to the special education kitchen, hard boiled them and ate them.

I went to talk to my AP and was informed that the sub had called in sick for her job for that day, due to food poisoning.”

12. A nightmare.

“Gave out snacks I bought with my own money that I kept for kids who stayed after to get tutoring.

Threw out a broken electric pencil sharpener that kids broke in front of her. Which again, I bought with my own money and couldn’t get replaced by the company because I had no product to send back. I still don’t have a sharpener for my room.

Let the kids go through my things in my cabinets and desk. Lost a bunch of stuff that way.”

13. That’s pretty bad.

“I was a teacher’s assistant while in college. The teacher and I took a week long workshop and had a sub.

The worst thing she did was not letting the kids go potty. It was in kindergarten and she said all the kids going to bathroom were interrupting the class.

One girl wet herself. School policy was if kids under a certain age had an accident the nurse would give them a pull up (basically a diaper) to wear. The substitute proceeded to make fun of the girl for wear a diaper, calling her baby and such.

The little girl ended facing repercussions at home too.

It’s was devastating to hear about.”

14. So many…

“I’ve had so many bad subs.

One sub made an elementary student cry insisting her own name was misspelled and made her stand up in front of the class and admit her name was spelled wrong. I asked that she not return but I still saw her around as other teachers had her sub.

Another one worth mentioning was supposed to be my sub for the last 2 weeks of school because I went on maternity leave, this time teaching at a 7th-12th grade school. Ignored all my sub plans, played on his cell phone the whole time, and then like 3 days in got upset at the students and told them off.

And then they watched as he walked out to the parking lot and drove away. Thank goodness some kids went and told the office. When I came back it was like my room had been ransacked!

It was awful.”

15. Sleeping on the job.

“Went to sleep for 1.5 hours.

My class was freaking amazing—the sweetest, most thoughtful group I’ve ever had. When I got back the next day, I asked how the sub was.

Me: How was the sub?

Them: uhhh… he was fine. He kinda took a nap for a while.

Me: WHAT?! What did you guys do?

Them: Worked quietly so that we wouldn’t wake him up. Eventually we ran out of work, so we just had silent reading.

Me: For how long?

Them: From when we started working until it was time to go outside.

Me: That’s a really long time! Look, I am glad that you guys were so thoughtful, but if something like that ever happens again, please wake the sub up. It’s not safe for the sub to sleep. He needed to be awake in case something happened.

Them: We would have woken him up if we really needed to. But we also figured he probably really needed the sleep.

Seriously. The SWEETEST class ever!”

16. Pretty rude.

“Re-arranged my room.

Not in a “Moved Student A away from Student B and put her by Student C” way.

In a “Move the giant rug over to the opposite corner of the room, and completely change the layout of student desks, and rearrange a bookshelf” way.”

17. Not cool!

“Left my perfectly prepped and neat desk an absolute disaster.

Did not follow the lesson plan and… took my gel pens!”

18. Sorry…

“There was a harpsichord in the front of the classroom used both for demonstration and performance.

Not knowing what he was doing, the sub tried to tune 3 notes that had gone mildly out of tune while I was away.

He managed to break the strings on all 3 notes and left a message inside reading: “Sorry about that . . .””

19. What?!?!

“I had a sub give out my cell phone number to my high school students so they could call me and give me excuses as to why they weren’t taking their test while I was gone.

I was LIVID.

I complained to the sub office, and that teacher never subbed for my building again.”

20. Was he drunk?

“He peed in my desk chair. Swear. To. God.

He apparently peed in my chair and the students noticed it and mentioned it to him. He ignored them and just sat there anyway with a huge puddle of urine on the floor.

The kids called security on him.

I came in the next day and sat in the chair. It was wet and about that time a security guard stuck her head in the door and said “Don’t sit there, that guy peed in your chair…””

21. What am I doing here?

“I taught middle school Math and English in the 90s and the sub didn’t know how to convert a decimal into a fraction and kept insisting that the students who did know how to do it were wrong.

She also apparently didn’t know how to pronounce five of our twenty vocabulary words and didn’t know what half of them meant.”

22. Runnin’ wild.

“She let the kids run wild and do whatever they wanted (first graders). I was out because my dad died.

Thank God my team realized what happened and all pulled together and cleaned the room/put it back together before I returned to work.”

23. That’s…weird…

“I had a substitute decide that my plans weren’t good enough for her and she went rogue.

She decided to show my students videos of animals giving birth on YouTube.

I taught English…”

24. Wow…

“I came back after being gone ONE DAY and my students told me the substitute teacher flipped over tables in a rage and was escorted from the building by a cop.

What actually happened is that the sub left the room to take a 20 min phone call and the kids thought it would be funny to flip the tables over. The substitute then had to flip the tables right side up while yelling at the kids.

Then, during lunch, my Special Ed. Co-teacher came into my room to set up and caught the sub MAKING OUT WITH A STUDENT. Turns out she was 18 to his 25 and the 20 min phone call was to set up the lunch meeting.

The principal then had him escorted from the building by the resource officer. This is why I say having a sub is more work than just coming into school myself.”

25. Ignored the instructions.

“I caught the flu the week my students had a district benchmark test. I could feel that I was coming down with something, so I stayed late to put together really in depth review packets and slideshows.

I wrote pages of directions for the substitute, and separated the reviews out by class numbers. I even included my personal number and told them to call me any time if a student had a question they couldn’t answer. I spent about 5 hours putting everything together after school, while battling around a 103 temp.

The substitute completely ignored my instructions. She instead took every single piece of construction paper and card stock in my classroom from my personal locker that I had left open for her in case she needed something, and had the students make flip books about their feelings. They used thousands of pieces of paper and craft supplies, probably around $100 of my own personal supplies.

This was for freshmen in high school. I’m still bitter.”

Okay, all you educators out there!

Tell us the worst thing a substitute teacher ever did when you were gone.

We can’t wait to hear from you!