I've had some tough jobs in my life. But none was worse than substitute teaching in a middle school. I did this for one very long year while I was an impoverished graduate student.
We're talking poor: 'Ramen Noodles for dinner' poor. I was so desperate for money I would not turn down any assignment. And although Math was my subject area, I would teach anything from home economics (imagine that) to band.
There was a 7th grade math class, the likes of which you've never seen. Picture Scut Farkas, the bully from 'A Christmas Story' (pictured above), Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson in the same class. Throw in some snotty, hormonal, 13-year old girls trying to hone their reputations as future 8th-grade anarchists. Add to that the fact that this was the last period of the day.
I never met the actual Math teacher (let's call her Miss Isosceles), but she sure was absent a lot. And her absences seemed to grow exponentially during the school year.
Word spread throughout the substitute teachers circles in Western New York about Miss Isosceles' Math class at Edward Town Junior High School. By the end of the 1st 10-week period, a suspicious substitute Math teacher shortage hit the school. (It only took one time subbing in the dreaded class, and the substitutes would conveniently be unavailable thereafter.)
Then they found me.
I cannot recall exactly what happened during those classes. Years of therapy have helped me repress the memories. But I do recall getting the phone calls...
Mrs. K: "Hi! This is Mrs. Kram calling from the middle school. Are you available to teach today?"
Me: "For what class?"
Mrs. K: "Math"
Me: In shaky voice: "Which Math class? "
Mrs. K: "Miss Isosceles class"
I begin to sniffle.
Mrs. K: "Excuse me, did you say you can come in?"
Me: Sniffling more. "I guess so" (between sobs)
Mrs. K: "I'll take that as a yes. Thank you." Not heard: "Sucker!"
But I made it through that year a stronger person. Years later I was working at Miller Brewing Company as a Market Research Analyst and the brewery workers went on strike. I was called to the plant, along with many of my co-workers to keep the beer production flowing.
I put on my hard hat and worked at the de-palletizer for 8-hours a day making sure the beer cans came off the pallet and lined up like little toy soldiers for their journey down the assembly line. I also worked 'bottle wash' where I had to wash labels off the bottles that were put on incorrectly 8-hours a day for 2 weeks. I even worked Beer Dump for several shifts.
My co-corporate-worker-scabbers had a very difficult time moving from their comfortable desk jobs to perform tedius, manual jobs in the brewery.
Not me. I survived substituting for Miss Isosceles classes. I knew there were far worse jobs.