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Teasing the Substitute Teacher

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Subs are like comic gold. You can say just about anything you want, and you can't get in trouble.
Greg Heffley, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Substitute teachers in fiction have it bad. On top of having to deal with a class and material you are unfamiliar with, they also seem to be the butt of their jokes and pranks. Kids feel free to goof around, ignore, annoy, or even talk back to substitutes in ways they never would their main teachers. After all, it's unlikely the students'll ever see them again, so they feel just fine acting laid back and disrespectful around them.

If a substitute isn't a drill sergeant-tier disciplinarian or Sadist Teacher then they'll often succumb to this. Truth in Television, obviously.

This has nothing to do with that kind of teasing.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • One Archie Comics strip has Reggie hellraising during a substitute teacher's class and dismisses Archie's concern about his bullying that it's something a substitute teacher should expect. He gets A Taste Of His Own Medicine when he and Archie agree to watch over a friend's kindergarten class while she goes to the doctor and he gets mercilessly pranked by the kids.
  • In an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker, who now works as a high school teacher, substitutes for a class. One of the troublemakers immediately tries to prank him by throwing a paper ball at his head, but Peter's Spider-Sense kicks in and he catches the ball without turning his head. Peter then approaches the student and proceeds to show he knows what he did, indirectly slipping in a taunt about him being "a big fat wind", while letting him off without punishment.

    Comic Strip 
  • Crabgrass: A February 2024 story arc begins with Kevin roping Miles into pranking a substitute teacher by pretending to be each other. It escalates into the boys getting into a fight when they deliberately exaggerate while playing each other, and then the substitute teacher subjects them both to a "Freaky Friday" Flip.

  • In Sister Act 2, while Sister Mary Clarence is technically a new teacher rather than a substitute, the initial dynamic between her and her students is the same - she is taking over an established class, and it becomes immediately apparent that she has zero control over them and they have zero respect for her. They openly inform her that they expect her class to be a "bird course"note  and go so far as to superglue her to her desk chair. It's not until she lays down the law that they begin to show her at first begrudging respect and later, as she helps them discover their abilities as singers, admiration.

  • The entire plot of the children's book Thirteen Ways To Sink A Sub is essentially a class of students trying to harass, gaslight, and otherwise cause a Wide-Eyed Idealist young substitute to cry. The class is divided into two teams, boys versus girls and the side that makes her cry first wins The Bet.
  • The Berenstain Bears: In the Big Chapter Book The Berenstain Bears Accept No Substitutes, Too-Tall and his gang have a habit of bugging substitute teachers. When they find that Ms. Barr is going to be around for a full week (and is supposed to be a real pushover), they decide to go a step further and break her, and even rope Brother, Cousin Fred, and Barry Bruin (the former two of whom try to keep things from going too far) into helping. It backfires when they find out they've been harassing a skilled martial artist who could, if she wanted, break them.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: In one book, all of the students in Greg's class mix up their identities to fool the substitute teacher. Unfortunately, the kid pretending to be Greg gets in trouble, and when the regular teacher returns, the real Greg has to serve his punishment.
  • In Alan Ahlberg's collection of school poems Please, Mrs Butler! the poem "Supply Teacher" tells kids the three phrases they need to remember: Whenever the supply teacher does anything, say "OUR teacher never does that, Miss!" Whenever you want to do anything, say "OUR teacher always lets us, Miss!" And when your regular teacher returns and questions what's been happening in their absence, say "That OTHER teacher told us to do it, Miss!"
  • Wayside School is Falling Down has the kids being given a substitute teacher on a day when student Benjamin Nushmutt had finally worked up the nerve to tell the class his real name, having gone under the alias of "Mark Miller" until that day. The other students think this trope is in play and also claim their names are Benjamin after they answer a question correctly. When she leaves for the day, she claims her name is Benjamin also, which mystifies the kids as her surname is Franklin.
  • The Winnie Years: In Twelve, Winnie's classmates give wrong names when a substitute teacher takes attendance, and consider playing other pranks on her, including taping her to her desk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In the penultimate television episode, "Principal For A Day", Mr. Conklin is demoted to being a history teacher. He gets a kick-me sign placed on his back.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In one episode, a student teacher begins working at the school and gets ganged upon because he's technically a student. Moze ends up teaching him to stand up for himself.
  • In the first season of Roswell, a new substitute teacher (played by Julie Benz) is actually a government agent investigating the town's strange goings-on. Liz first gets suspicious when she claims a triangle adds up to 360 degrees, not 180, and corrects the error.
  • One episode of the Weird Science sitcom has Gary wish that the classes at his high school were geared more towards his likes. After Lisa grants the wish, one of the classes is about how to torment a substitute teacher.
  • Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby: The entire reason why Mr. Gormsby is employed is that all the Relief Teachers (what the position is called in New Zealand) were terrified of the class. Gormsby's immediate predecessor was so terrified she informed the principal she was immediately going home... to India! Gormsby was subjected to some of the same tactics... and immediately commanded the respect of the worst actors in the classroom. It helped that he and his class had a mutual dislike of Steve, the guidance counselor.
  • Inverted and satirised in the Key & Peele sketch "Substitute Teacher." Mr. Garvey is a black, confrontational substitute teacher who has taught for over 20 years in intercity schools. Because of this, when the students correct him when he mispronounces their names (all of them dime-a-dozen stereotypical white names) while taking attendance, he acts as though they are giving him lip and flips out, ending with him sending Aaron (pronouncing it "Ay-Ay-Ron") to the principal's office for correcting him in the pronunciation of the principal's name.
  • In the Small Wonder episode "My Mom, the Teacher", Jamie does all he can to humiliate his own mother when she's a substitute teacher for his class.
  • Kickin' It: Jerry is revealed to be a self-proclaimed "Sub Sinker" in one episode. After he scares them all off, the school resorts to having Milton, one of his classmates, fill the role. As Milton already knows all of Jerry's tactics, he copes quite handily.
  • Discussed: When Jeff Goldblum served as the Guest Host of The Late Late Show with James Corden for a night in 2019, his monologue opened with him presenting himself as a substitute teacher who can't be fooled by anyone in the audience into just ordering pizza for everybody instead of following the show's "lesson plan".
  • In the Glee episode “The Substitute”, the New Directions attempt to prank substitute teacher Holly Holiday by buttering the club room floor and switching names. This isn’t enough to fool Holly, as she slides across the buttered floor with grace. As for the name-switching, it was pretty obvious in and of itself anyway.
  • In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Big Pete fills in for the regular bus monitor on Little Pete's school bus. He gets along well enough with the kids until the bus driver refers to him as a "substitute bus monitor". All of the kids go silent and get predatory looks on their faces, and Big Pete explains that hearing the word "substitute" triggers a primal response in every schoolkid's brain: "Must destroy substitute".

  • MAD once had a cartoon of a substitute teacher falling for a fake name on the attendance sheet. As the students all giggle uncontrollably, he furiously tells them to shut up: "I'll ask you all one last time... who's Dick Hertz?"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Implied in one early story arc where Calvin's normal homeroom teacher, Miss Wormwood, is sick. Although we never actually see what happens, Calvin mentions to Hobbes after school "she went home at noon". It's left to the reader's imagination what could have possibly happened to her.

    Video Games 
  • The Nickelodeon Clickamajigs game "Substitute Teacher" revolves around a class toying around with their math substitute, who only speaks in "Blah, Blah, Blah", "yap yap yap", and "yadda yadda yadda".

  • In the Hark! A Vagrant strip "Substitute Teacher", the teacher reacts mockingly when one of her students is introduced as "Tits Palmer", assuming the students are trying to get one over on her — but it turns out that really is Tits' name.

    Web Original 
  • The first Yamiko that Himei ever encountered in Sailor Nothing used a substitute teacher as its host. The woman was used to being casually disrespected by her student but she pretends not to notice, even though it secretly bothered her. The Yamiko used the teacher's pent-up anger against her and made her want to attack children.

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!: Though he was meant to be a permanent teacher, Mr. Simmons was subject to the usual tricks played on a substitute (such as switching names and dropping pencils) when he started teaching Arnold's class. They end up driving him away and plan to do the same to every new/substitute teacher sent after. Then the next teacher sent is Lt. Major Goose, a Drill Sergeant Nasty that makes them want Mr. Simmons back — which they get by pulling the same tricks again.
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, Peggy becomes a Spanish class substitute in the middle school where Bobby, her son, attends. The two bullies in the class immediately go out of their way to make her miserable just for the hell of it.
  • Recess has this trope double subverted when the class has the substitute teacher Mr. E, whose nonchalant dodge of the first prank of the day convinces the kids not to try anything further, setting up the Sadist Teacher angle. Subverted when he turns out to assign independent study and helps the kids with their own independent interests, leaving only TJ to be unimpressed, though TJ's entire project was reminding the class that their regular teacher was still sick and that he hadn't forgotten about that over Mr. E's impressive credentials as a teacher.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "The PTA Disbands", Springfield Elementary has become such a Sucky School that the teachers go on strike and the rest of the community is forced to try to teach. Bart manages to annoy or terrorize several substitute teachers away from his class until his mother Marge arrives, annoying him to no end with her coddling and turning him into a bully magnet.
  • South Park: In one episode, Stan, Kenny, and Cartmannote  decide to mess with their substitute teacher by pretending to be each other during roll call. They all laugh hysterically when each of them responds to a different name while the rest of the class stares at them in silence, with Wendy telling the trio their prank isn't that funny.
  • Another Disney cartoon show, similar to Recess above, Teacher's Pet episode "No Substitutions, Please", where Scott decides to play nasty pranks on the substitute teacher Ms Dewygood, due to his canine super-sense and the fact that he is not used to different teachers.


Video Example(s):


Bob's First Day Teaching

It's Bob's first day being a substitute teacher in Tina's home ec class and it doesn't take long for him to lose control of the class and then threaten them with pepper spray.

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Example of:

Main / TeasingTheSubstituteTeacher

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