An unfortunate story about a substitute teacher, a third grade class, and a hamster

On Thursday when the bus dropped off my younger two daughters from school, my eight-year-old had pressing news.  "Five kids threw up in my classroom today and had to go home," she said. "One was sitting right beside me."

No parent ever wants to hear these words because you know, deep in your heart, that this isn't a mere statement.  It's a proclamation.  It's fair warning.  It's game on.  Your child is now a ticking time bomb inserted into your family structure with the power to bring you all down.

She was sick within hours.  The next morning, my oldest daughter also complained of an upset stomach and promptly joined the ranks of Sick Kramer Children Staying at Home.  I succumbed today.  None of this has surprised me.  Twelve years of parenting have taught me many lessons, including the innate knowledge that the stomach bug rarely stays contained.

But this isn't just a story about our family.  It's a story about the unfortunate substitute teacher who was in the third grade classroom that day -- you know, that fresh-out-of-college, maybe 23-year-old substitute who, perhaps like a young foal, is still finding her footing as an educator while the regular teacher recovers from surgery for a few weeks.

I immediately tried to imagine her day because, people, five kids vomiting in a third grade classroom is not ordinary.  It's a day that goes down in lore and gets referenced for years -- maybe decades -- to come, like the Blizzard of '93.

It's a day that lives in infamy.

I imagine her pausing in shock when the first child threw up, then springing into action and calling the custodian.  I see her regaining composure and re-establishing classroom order as the student was ushered to the nurse and the mess was cleaned.  But then the second kid threw up.  And then the third.  Then two more for good measure.

Somewhere along the line, I imagine her composure ending.

No.  No, no, no, no, no.  Dear Lord, no.

I didn't know that much stuff could come out of such a small person.

This is not what I signed up for.

That's it.  I'm showering in Lysol as soon as I get home.  

I will never wear these clothes again.

What are the odds of this happening while I'm subbing?  I've clearly been set up.  Recovering from surgery?  That's easy!  I'll take recovering from surgery compared to this!

Lysol is not enough.  This room must be destroyed, and I need a Hazmat suit.  I saw the movie Contagion, and this scene is eerily similar. There's no way today's going to end well.

(I'm speculating on that last one, but then again, I am the woman who proposed burning down her own house as a viable middle-of-the-night solution when a child threw up on our hallway carpeting.)

All told, the word on the street is that two more children threw up during their bus rides home.  One made it off the bus and then reached his yard, where he promptly threw up in the bushes.  Like my own daughter, more students got sick later in the evening.  I even saw the father of a classmate at the grocery store that night buying ginger ale while I was picking up Saltine crackers.  (We nodded in solidarity.)  The substitute teacher had to take the next day off, and even Cupcake, the dearly loved classroom hamster, was sadly found the next morning resting in peace.

A day in infamy, I tell you.

Oh, substitute teacher, I'd raise my glass to you in your honor, but I can't hold down any liquids yet.  You have earned your stripes.


  1. Oh my. Poor little teacher! I hope she can face a classroom again.

    1. I know! Can an event like this spark PTSD?

  2. oh geez. Hopefully she takes the viewpoint that having survived this, she can survive anything. Hope you're all feeling better soon!

    1. Yes, the rest of her 40-year career will be a breeze in comparison. :)

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  3. Hilariously true! In 16 years, I've never experienced something like this and hope to never have to! Wish you well, and a quick recovery! (how is it possible that you have a 12 year old? Didn't we meet around that age??)

    1. I hope you nevery experience a day like this, either! I heard that 16 students were absent from class the following day. Unreal!

      Yes, we met in sixth grade, which boggles the mind!


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