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Mr. Ivan, The Principal Poet

The Substitute Teacher


At five a.m. the telephone
Rings sharply in my ear.
The principal, on the other end,
Says words I almost fear.

"I need you in a classroom.
The teacher calledshe's sick."
I leap out of my nice, warm bed.
And get moving real quick!

You see, I am a substitute;
I show up when folks are gone.
My livelihood is absences.
I live my life on the run.

I've almost got my hair combed.
There's toothpaste on my chin,
But I'm in my car and driving.
Seems like I'll never win.

I'm like a great magician,
Pulling lessons from the air.
'Cuz the plans they leave me
Areat bestjust fair.

Their notes are in some ancient script,
Not known to modern folk.
They might as well be cuneiform;
Or signals made of smoke.

No books. No films. No tests. No chalk.
No help to chart my course.
I half expect to see some plans
Tapped out in coded Morse!

No sense in asking children.
They must be off their games,
Since none of them can quite recall
Their homework or their names.

Objectives? You must be joking!
A seating chart? Yah, right!
The teacher should just be thankful
I know how to stop a fight.

The final bell. At last it sounds.
The day is finally done.
I check the room, then lock the door.
My daily race is run.

I'm good with all the subjects.
I'm great at what I do.
I'm your shadow substitute.
When you're outI'm you.

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Article by Ivan Kershner
Education World®
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