By Ren Ixley
Substitue Teacher Chuck JonesWith whistle and clipboard in hand, first-time substitute P.E. teacher Chuck Jones showed up to the Exhibition Gym with a mission. “I’m going to change these kids’ lives,” he said to himself as he confidently walked in. Those were lofty ambitions considering he was only substituting for one day while the teacher was home sick. However, if there was ever a man for the job, he was it. Or at least he thought he was. “I did some assistant coaching down at the Y for my son Connor’s hockey team, and I’ve recently spent a lot of time down at the rec center teaching jump shots to differently-abled foster children.”
“I think I’m prepared to handle this,” he said, with a blaze of healthy self-assurance. Despite the fact that there was nothing to actually “handle”, Mr. Jones was nothing if not prepared. Mr. Jones attempted to get off to a friendly start with the class when he informed the class that they were free to call him “Mr. J” or simply “Charlie”. The class however found this well-intentioned remark somewhat condescending. “I don’t believe I have any trouble pronouncing Jones,” said one cynical youth. However, the real trouble began when “Charlie” took attendance. He first asked student Nomar Adams if he was related to Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, which was responded to with an unadulterated “no.”
He then made the mistake of asking student Miles Douglas, who was wearing an Indiana University t-shirt, if he was an Indiana fan. “I guess,” replied Douglas, with an obvious nonchalance. Jones then went on a friendly tangent. “I went down there last year to see a game with a buddy of mine. It was a great game. It went into O.T., but we had to leave in the middle of the third quarter because it was just freezing outside.” Although it was clear the student was uninterested, Jones didn’t seem deterred, and he went on with the attendance, going by last name to establish a rapport with the youngsters and keep things moving, and continually mispronouncing names as simple as Donaldson and Martin. The straw that broke the camel’s back however was when he inexplicably mispronounced the name Trevor Eaton as “Jeffrey Steinman.” Once corrected, an embarrassed Jones remarked “Oh, that’s an E.”
After the seemingly eternal attendance call finally ended, it was on to playing time. Although the class was midway through their basketball unit and was currently in the middle of playing actual games, the well-meaning teacher instead made them work on their passing skills, unconvincingly saying that it was what he was told to do. After cutely miscounting the number of people in the class upwards of ten times while attempting to count off by 2’s, he eventually let the kids pick their own partners. “Bounce pass, chest pass, baseball pass. Bounce pass, chest pass, baseball pass. Bounce pass, chest pass, baseball pass,” he repeated over and over again. There was no foreseeable end in sight. When asked why he was working the class so hard the teacher replied, “When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade.”
Despite this cliché having no correlation to the question whatsoever, Mr. Jones remained satisfied. “I think I’ve made a real difference,” he thought to himself. A difference indeed.