Adam Hoagland


If (for Substitute Teachers)


(a parody of Rudyard Kipling’s far-superior, but somewhat shorter, poem “If…”)

If you can go to bed with no assurance
that, when the daybreak comes, you’ll get a call,
If you can keep a room of antsy students
from walking out or climbing up the wall,
If you can hand out sheets for “on your own” work,
and then collect them back again as well,
If you can trumpet, “Finish this for homework,
if you don’t get it done before the bell, ”

If you can press down “Play” and “Stop” and “Rewind, ”
and watch the same “Bill Nye” tape seven times,
If you can spend your day perched on your behind,
or dashing like you’re fleeing from your crimes,
If you can talk a talk that you’re not versed in,
If you can sling the bull and have it stick,
If you can teach the class that you did worst in,
and make it sound like it was your first pick,

If you can do your job each day for peanuts,
and then for shells when peanuts prove too dear,
If you can blow your top but never mean it,
and repeat that stunt each school-day of the year,
If you can park where parking ‘s not inviting,
but not get dinged or ticketed, the same,
If you can write a bad kid up for fighting,
when you can’t, on your life, recall his name,

If you don’t fear your sense of self will flounder,
If you don’t feel your ego fade away,
When everyone you casually encounter
asks, pleasantly, “So, who are you today? ”
If you can fake some knowledge or refinement
from high-school’s echoes bouncing ‘round your head,
Then help your charges finish their assignment
and not just get ‘em more confused instead,

If you can follow plans that are provided,
be they tomes or post-its strewn across the room,
Or, if no plans are left, make it decided
that study hall ‘s the best plan to assume,
If you can eat three-dollar taco salad,
If you can wait until your prep to pee,
If you can tell when hall passes are valid,
but then allow them unequivocally,

If you can make your telephone a lover,
and sleep beside her loyally each night,
So if, at six A.M., she rings, above her,
instinctively, will grasp your groping right,
If you can cruise through four long years of college,
for a job a trained orangutan could loathe,
If you don’t run and hide from all this knowledge,
You’ll sub, like me, and Heaven help us both!

- ARH 2/14/11

Submitted: Monday, February 14, 2011
Edited: Friday, March 11, 2011

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