Meet The Substitute

Arnie Blume CBS

If there were ever a good reason for humans to eat their young, it would be junior high.

It's nerve-racking enough just being a news crew in one of these places, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports amid pre-teens yelling at the cameras, but imagine being a substitute teacher — an 81-year-old substitute teacher.

Arnie Blume subs at Great Neck North Middle School outside New York City.

He takes no nonsense. No matter who you are. He even told Hartman not to sit on the windowsill.

"Hey, off the sill," he scolded.

"Nobody ever acts out when we have Mr. Blume," one student says. "Everybody is just so intrigued in the conversation that they just want to listen."

Captivating the audience has never been a problem for Blume.

"Whenever they ask, 'What do you teach,' my answer is always the same — 'children,'" Blume says. "I don't teach history. I don't teach geography. I teach children at this age."

It is a loose interpretation that allows him to talk about pretty much anything he wants. And Blume has a lot to talk about.

Teaching about the Depression — born before the Depression.

"I remember that to this day," he says.

He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He's been married twice, raised four kids and traveled the world. His classes are mostly about his experiences.

What does the principal think of him when instead of necessarily following the lesson plan he tells stories?

"I think — boy did you just hit one," he says.

Actually, she has had to scold him. The principal admits it: "Yes, I have; a couple of times."

She says some teachers really don't like him straying off their syllabus.

"I promise them one thing — I'll stay within the subject area," Blume says. "I will give the kids an interesting lesson, an enjoyable lesson, one that will want them to get to know more about the subject."

The kids are more pragmatic.

"We do learn something," one student says. "And when the teachers come back, it's not like we're going to be a day behind for the rest of our lives."

Even the principal can't argue with that — concluding that when it comes to hiring substitutes, there really is no substitute for Arnie Blume.

  • Christine Lagorio

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