Here are some writing samples from my memoir
Gee, Mister G
Published with Amazon in January 2020.
ISBN # 9781086228717
These are true stories from my experiences working as a substitute teacher in a large public-school system in the
United States of America.
In his thirties, Brice Patrick Gorman is about to be introduced to a jobless recovery, and it’s hardly cordial. Unable to locate suitable work in a down American economy, he’s intrigued when he learns the local school district has a shortage of substitute teachers and is currently hiring.
A business major in college and a lifelong bachelor without children, he’s reluctant to apply for the job for worry of not being able to relate to and communicate with today’s modern youth.
However, once hired and working, he discovers most teens really don’t have their own language. He finds if he treats students with respect, dignity, doesn’t talk down to them and throws in a little humor here and there, the communication wall disappears.
On the job, live in person with no do-overs, he must quickly learn how to deal with everything the job can throw at him, including a few paper balls from immature middle schoolers. His experiences run the gamut, from humorous to baffling to headache-inducing.
The high school student who wants to borrow money for a new car muffler. The middle school student who talks of the animal ghost she’s seen. The elementary student who tattles on a fellow pupil because he didn’t eat all of his sloppy joe at lunch. Mister G, as his students call him, has heard it all.
Over time, he finds the job’s positives outweigh the negatives, and he gains a new respect for today’s youth upon realizing they are doing great. The future’s looking bright after all.
I drove to the next county for a job interview for a position listed as a “marketing assistant.” Bridge tolls. Two hours struck in a traffic jam on the highway. Twelve dollars for fuel. Six dollars for a downtown parking garage. After all that, I walked into the business and greeted the receptionist. She barely returned a smile and had some very dark-themed tattoos on her lower arms. Was that a tattoo of a skull with a snake slithering out of its mouth? Whoa!
“Oh, that job,” the receptionist said, “it was filled yesterday. We don’t have any other positions now.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” I asked. “I just spent a total of twenty-two dollars on bridge tolls, fuel and a parking garage with a nasty bubblegum chewing attendant who was on too many steroids. Not to mention wear and tear on my auto and hours of my personal time stuck in traffic jams. Twenty-two dollars. I could have eaten a steak dinner at a restaurant with that money!”
“Look, what’s your beef?” the receptionist said, hardly a care in the world. “It’s not my fault. Tell it to the hiring manager.”
“Can I speak to him?”
“He’s out at lunch getting a cheeseburger.”
I must admit, I was entering teaching for the worst possible reason. I was desperate for a paycheck. I know. I know. A teacher should become a teacher to enlighten young minds. Out of dedication. Out of a passion to spark creativity. I know, I’m sad to admit it. For me it was about a paycheck.
One thing I liked about substituting was I could select those schools at which I wanted to teach, as well as grades and subjects. This was a nice thing. Now my initial fears that I would find myself in front of an advanced calculus class would not materialize. Last thing I needed was some seventeen-year-old future PhD candidate in the sciences requesting I explain the difference between an antiderivative and the definite integral. I needed not fear being called in front of a grade-twelve physics’ class and having a student raise a hand and ask me to explain Phlogiston’s theory or define luminiferous ether. Face it. It’s embarrassing when the teacher doesn’t know the answer.
Summer vacation arrived. No, I wasn’t planning a trip to Gibraltar. The only rock I was going to see was the one in front of my house in the garden. For me it was a working summer.
A college course.
Searching for a job. Summer or permanent.
Painting a few walls.
Trying to chase an irritating iguana out of the garden in my front yard. He’d leave and always return. He was fast.
And pondering about my first two months as a teacher. I think I did a decent job. Oh, there was room for improvement. But I was new to the job, so that was to be expected.
There were some mysteries from the previous school year that were still unsolved.
In one classroom, two brooms went missing. They were there one minute and gone the next. We searched high and low. They were gone. Who hid them? And why?
Who took that female fifth grader’s salami on pumpernickel?
Who deliberately stepped on a packet of ketchup in the school
cafeteria and left a red stain?
Who stole my carton of chocolate milk?
Who hid the stapler behind the room’s television set?
How did that girl lose one shoe during the day? In the morning she had two shoes. By afternoon she was hobbling out the door waving goodbye to me with one shoe on.
Was that student joking when he asked me if I ever hit a golf ball so hard it bounced off the moon?
Why did one student loudly eat celery during a spelling test?
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Tattling arrived at all hours of the day. It arrived any day of the week. It was on any subject. About any student. Or students. Want a few examples? Glad to oblige.
“He was blowing bubbles with his milk . . . using his straw.”
That’s what one female elementary student reported about the male student sitting across from her at lunch. Now I understand to a first grader, blowing bubbles in the milk is serious business. It’s almost as serious as treason in their young eyes. But what was I to do about it? As far as I knew, using a straw to blow bubbles in milk wasn’t against the rules, especially if it didn’t overflow the milk carton which, after my questioning, I learned it did not do.
“He didn’t eat all of his cookie at lunch.”
Another female student at another school reported this mind-numbing infraction perpetrated by the male elementary student sitting next to her. Gasp! He only ate half his cookie! Good thing the sugar police were off that day. The poor child may have received a summons.
“He put ketchup on his plate to dunk his French fries in, but then he didn’t dunk his French fries in the ketchup.”
Again, was that against school rules? Maybe he wasn’t in a dunking mood. It happens.
One second grade girl said, “He over-salted his fries on purpose.”
One first grade boy said, “That boy ate his sloppy joe without using the bun. And he didn’t finish the sloppy joe, either.”
One third grade girl said, “See that girl over there? At lunch she ate the cheese off her cheeseburger and then she didn’t eat the meat.”
At some elementary schools, there was a place where recess equipment was forced to retire early. Some schools had a chain link fence surrounding the recess field. The fences were tall and, of course, students were not allowed to climb over if a piece of recess equipment ended up in the wooded area on the other side of the fence. I certainly had no intention of scaling a six-foot-high fence and risk tearing my forty-dollar long sleeve shirt or seventy-dollar wrinkle free slacks to fetch an errant tennis ball. The bizarre things seen on the other side of some of those fences. Okay, soccer balls, softballs, baseballs and footballs are easy to understand. It’s bound to happen that a few of those items would fly over the fence. But a hula hoop? A pair of shoes? A sand pail? A ruler? Pencils? One child’s shoes? A cell phone case? One banana peel? Students’ socks?
So . . . a female student enters my tenth-grade class in second hour eating a waffle on a paper plate. You heard me right. A waffle. It was a well-buttered waffle with too much syrup. Now I have no idea where a student gets a homemade waffle from when in school. It didn’t look like a waffle the school cafeteria would serve at breakfast. It looked like a homemade waffle from home complete with a dollop of whipped butter. It was on a paper plate brought from home and she even had a plastic knife and fork with her.
Who brings a buttered waffle to honors’ history? Who puts that much syrup on a waffle?
“Wait, wait,” I said as she made her way to her assigned seat. “Maybe you should finish that outside. Syrup’s so sticky. You know? I don’t want you to get it on your desk.”
“No problem, Mister G,” the female high school student said with a smile. “I’ll finish it right now.”
She wolfed down the last of the waffle and grinned. She went to toss the paper plate into the trash can.
“Be careful,” I said, “make sure no syrup gets on the sides of the can or it will attract ants.”
Who said subbing is easy, right? As a sub, I worked in a dozen different subject areas in a year. Some high school classes were honors or AP. I had to have knowledge in the sciences, history, geography, math and an understanding of child psychology certainly helped too. One day I might be subbing drama or chorus. The next day history. The next day honors’ science. The next day an ROTC class. You must be versed on a lot of different topics to avoid looking like a fool when you can’t answer a question from a 12-year-old! Mister G, What is an archipelago, a bay and a cay? Yeah, I received that question in an advanced seventh grade class. If those were topics of seventh grade lessons, imagine the questions I received in a junior level high school AP history class! Imagine the questions I received in a senior level calculus class!
One of my favorite movies is from the nineteen seventies. Grease. Almost as memorable as the music and dance scenes is the hair gel the actors applied. Today, few male teenagers in my classroom wear hair gel, and only once have I seen it applied so heavily as seen in Grease.
A female junior high school student approached the teacher’s desk and placed her quiz paper down.
“Sir,” the female junior said, “may I have another quiz paper?”
I glanced at the quiz sheet. It was stained wet in spots.
“Did you spill cola or iced tea on it?” I asked, reaching for another blank quiz paper.
“No,” the female junior student responded, “that boy sitting in the desk in front of me leaned his head back while he yawned and stretched his arms. He got hair gel all over my paper.”
In all my years of subbing, I’ve never once seen an all-out, hamburgers-flying-through-the-air style of school cafeteria food fight involving dozens of students. Once an elementary school brat flung her carrots and mashed potatoes at me, but that doesn’t officially count as a food fight. A second grader flung a well-buttered roll in my direction once, but that’s not a cafeteria food fight it’s just foolish immaturity. A seventh grader tossed a ham slice in my direction, but I wouldn’t classify that as a food fight. I’ve seen a few food fights at the movies on the silver screen, but never witnessed one in person, despite working as a cafeteria monitor on dozens of occasions. I wouldn’t say cafeteria food fights are the stuff of urban legend, but they are very rare.
Strangely, I did witness sort of a limited food fight, but in a middle school classroom not the cafeteria. Talk about bizarre.
I was seated at the teacher’s desk looking down and writing something, when in the corner of one eye I saw what looked like a cinnamon roll fly by my head. I flinched, looked up at my students and glanced behind the desk. It’s not every day one sees a flying cinnamon roll. Sure enough, a soft cinnamon roll had been thrown at me.
I felt so bad for the fake plastic skeletons in some of the science classrooms. Forget about the fact some had dust on them from not being touched by a feather duster in months. Forget the fact some were pushed to a dim corner of the room, ignored and almost hidden behind a file cabinet. Forget the fact they received a few paper balls to the shoulders or arms more often than I did in some rowdy classrooms. That was the least of their worries.
I saw a few missing plastic bones. Faux grave robbery in the classroom? Awful! Where has the respect for human dignity gone? And what about the student who put lipstick on one fake skeleton’s teeth? Just why?
Then there was the seventh grader who decided to place a tam o' shanter cap on one plastic skeleton’s head. Where did that student get a Scottish hat from? Internet?
On more than one occasion, some class clown decided to dance with a plastic skeleton in his arms. They waltzed around the room without any music playing.
Schools are strict about being on time to class. It’s not unheard of for a student, especially in high school, to assertively plead their case if they are one or two minutes late. The excuses run the gamut. My locker was broken. The bathroom was out of order, so I had to use one further away. My watch is slow. I was at the office picking up a form. I had to drop off my band instrument. I had to talk to a teacher. I had to talk to a dean. I had to talk to the guidance counselor. My shoe broke. I got lost. I saw a UFO. True, one male middle school student was late to class after claiming he’d stopped to watch something “strange looking” zigzagging in the sky. I chalked it up to an overactive imagination not green men arriving from Mars. The male student described the flying craft as resembling an upside-down bathtub with long wings that resembled a giraffe’s neck. Too bad he didn’t snap a photo with his smart phone. I’d like to see a flying giraffe!
By ninth grade, not many students seem to have a career thought out. Some do, but I find most don’t. I didn’t when I was in ninth grade and was all of fourteen years old. Oh, I’ve met the ninth graders who know that they want to work in nursing or enlist in the military. I’ve met students who tell me they want to do something that will make them a millionaire. Good luck, right? By far the most unusual career goal I’ve heard was from a ninth grader who really set the bar high. I’m talking the stratosphere.
“Mister G,” this male ninth grader said, “I want to be a folk hero when I grow up. Tell me how do I become that?”
What a question! And I’d heard my share of them over the years.
“You want to be a folk hero?” I asked.