Arthur Wiki
"Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble"
Season/Series: 1
Number in season: 27B
Original Airdate: United States November 12, 1996[1]
Canada February 11, 1997[2]
Germany January 18, 2002[3]
Written by: Joe Fallon
Storyboard by: Nadja Cozic
"D.W.'s Blankie"
"I'm a Poet"
Read transcript

"Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble" is the second half of the twenty-seventh episode in the first season of Arthur.


Mr. Ratburn, being the toughest teacher in Lakewood Elementary, has to call off sick for the entire week. The kids are all relieved, until they hear that Mr. Ratburn's sister will act as their substitute teacher, much to their horror.


The episode begins with Arthur and Buster carrying a huge stack of books and papers home from school. Arthur begins to complain about how difficult Mr. Ratburn is as a teacher because of the enormous amount of homework he assigns. He goes on to tell how Mr. Ratburn once managed to turn a routine trip to the zoo into class time, much to the dismay of his students. As Arthur and Buster continue walking, Buster trips on a crack in the sidewalk and falls into a mud puddle, losing his work. He tells Arthur that he wishes Mr. Ratburn would just disappear sometimes.

Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble

During a routine day in class as Mr. Ratburn teaches his students, he begins to show signs of losing his voice. While the kids are at recess, he tries to tell Mr. Haney he won't be able to continue teaching the class, but loses his voice before he can say so. Mr. Haney sends Mr. Ratburn home on sick leave and announces to the class that they will have a substitute teacher until Mr. Ratburn returns, much to the excitement of the students.

Arthur and his friends wonder who the substitute will be and recall a few past stand-ins they didn't like. First was Mr. Elkin, whose big antlers accidentally knocked several of the students out of their seats. Another was Mrs. Bofini, whose loud chewing of an apple made it impossible for the kids to concentrate on their learning. Then there was Ms. Tremello, who mumbled everything so the students couldn't understand her. She was considered the worst of the three.

Their favorite substitute was Ms. Blank, who apparently never showed up to teach the class. Miss Sweetwater filled in for her and let the kids color and have snacks. Hopeful that Ms. Blank will come back, the kids are horrified when Mr. Haney names their substitute: Ms. Rodentia Ratburn, Mr. Ratburn's sister.

After school, the kids wonder what Ms. Ratburn is like, figuring that since she is Mr. Ratburn's sister, she is probably as tough or even tougher than him. Arthur and his friends imagine Ms. Ratburn as a baby in a crib doing calculus on a computer. Her brother asks her if she can spell the word "antediluvian", to which she replies "of course, can't you?" and tells him to stop bothering her so she can focus on her calculus. Then the Ratburn siblings are imagined as eight-year-olds, eating nails for breakfast (based on Prunella's myths about Mr. Ratburn's dietary habits). The eight-year-old Ms. Ratburn says she likes her nails without milk, and screws are her favorite. Arthur and his friends then imagine Ms. Ratburn and Mr. Ratburn in college, where they still behave like young children; he teases her that he notified one of her professors of a mistake she made on a final paper, and her grade will be lowered accordingly. Ms. Ratburn gets back at her brother, with the news that she proved the star he discovered was nothing but gas, and his name will be taken off the Honor Roll. In response, young Mr. Ratburn vows that someday he will show her, by becoming "the toughest teacher in the universe". Ms. Ratburn disagrees, vowing that she will be "even tougher".

Fearing that Ms. Ratburn could be tougher, Arthur takes the opportunity later that day to stay home from school the next day to help David with his work. However, David declines, insisting Arthur to go to school instead. The next morning, Arthur and Francine hatch up with their own plans on getting out of school quicker if they find out Ms. Ratburn is anything like Mr. Ratburn.

Ms. Ratburn then arrives, but is surprisingly sweet and cheerful. Rather than having the students do complicated math as Mr. Ratburn does, she practices the multiplication tables with the class, only doing the 1x table. Surprised by how easy her class is, the kids gladly play along (although Francine thinks the 1x table is for babies).

Ms. Ratburn also puts on a puppet show, teaches the names of the four seasons, quizzes the students on basic color concepts, and has them recite simple words and phrases to match with pictures, and plays music on her guitar.

The class enjoys the unusually easy workday at first but are soon bored by the simplicity of the assignments. Brain speaks up about it, so Ms. Ratburn tries to make things more doing the 2x table. The kids are relieved when class finally ends, and Brain runs out in a panic. At the tree house, the kids realize they actually miss Mr. Ratburn.

The next morning, the class waits in dread for another day with Ms. Ratburn, knowing they will be bored again. Francine's parents wouldn't let her stay home because she was well. However, Mr. Haney announces that Ms. Ratburn will not be back today, because Mr. Ratburn has returned. The class enthusiastically welcomes him, and he immediately gets back to work.

Seeing Mr. Ratburn's return, a girl and a boy watching from Miss Sweetwater's room say to each other that they feel bad for Arthur's class. Back in Mr. Ratburn's room, however, Arthur says he feels sorry for the students of Miss Sweetwater, who doesn't present much more of a challenge than Ms. Ratburn. Buster makes a remark about how tough their work is, but the boys are happy to be challenged again.








  • In the flashback scenes with the previous substitute teachers for Mr. Ratburn's class, Arthur and his friends are wearing different clothes than usual. Worth of note is Francine in an orange shirt, Buster in a red shirt, and "The Brain" in a blue sweater vest, which is what the outfits they generally wore in the older "Arthur Adventure" books were.
  • Morals:
    • Sometimes, there is more fun in taking difficult challenges, than doing the simple problems you are very familiar with.
  • Ms. Ratburn's laptop appears more modern than it should be in the flashback of her childhood; however, the flashback was what Arthur thought their childhood was like. (It is possible that he wasn't aware of earlier technology, as he wasn't born then.)
  • When Mr. Ratburn says “The fun and games are over”, he has an angry look. It’s possible that he didn’t want the class to be too excited, afraid that might distract them from their work.
  • This episode is most likely a parody of the children's book Ms. Nelson Is Missing.

Cultural references

  • When Mr. Ratburn was having problems with his throat, he was asking his students to plot the location of Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator), the capital of Mongolia.
  • In Buster's fantasy, Ms. Ratburn is the Statue of Liberty sunken into the sand near the shore. This is a reference to the ending of the original Planet of the Apes.

Episode connections


  • When Ms. Ratburn starts playing the guitar, she is playing with her left hand; but in the next few seconds, she switches to playing it with her right hand.
  • When Ms. Ratburn finishes playing the guitar and leaves, the frame where she animatedly freezes is visible.
  • Out of all of Ms. Ratburn’s teaching methods that the class confirmed to be too easy, she appears to recite the 1X's tables; yet, most kids don't learn about multiplication and division until third grade which Arthur and his classmates are in. It would have only made sense if she only recited the 1+? tables and/or the ?–1 tables for the class to prove it too easy.
  • When Mr. Haney announces, that Mr. Ratburn will come back, someone throws up a black hat. This is unrealistic, as no one had a black hat.

Production notes

  • Starting from this episode, the Season 2 end credits with a 1997 copyright date were used in place of the original ending credits. This would continue for the rest of the season.

Storyline analysis

  • In the later episode, "Desk Wars", Mr. Ratburn received a call from his sister that he has become an uncle, yet in this episode her body is normal without any mention of a pregnancy. However, this episode could've taken place a while after, or before "Desk Wars". It's also possible that Mr. Ratburn was mentioning his other sister).