Imagine your class on their very worst day ever. Now, imagine—on that very same day—you can’t remember any of the children’s names, you don’t know where you put your essential supplies, you aren’t sure when or where to go for recess or lunch, you don’t know any of your teammates, and you can’t find the bathroom.
Sounds like a terrible dream, right? Not if you are a sub. For a sub, this is reality.
Unfortunately, our profession does NOTHING to improve this situation for substitute teachers. Although many subs have a college degree, they do not receive adequate training in classroom management. With recent cutbacks over the past few years, increasing sub pay is not even a conversation happening in most districts. Subs are underpaid and under-appreciated. Yet, by the time a child has graduated from high school, he or she will have spent almost a full half year being instructed by a sub. Isn’t it time our profession uplifted our substitutes by giving them the support they need?!
There is not a curriculum for subs. Teachers are expected to write lesson plans for their absences. This is an unrealistic expectation during those times when we are sick or called away for an emergency. Unfortunately, that means we throw together anything we can find quickly. This leaves the sub with meaningless busy work much of the time. Teachers intend to leave quality work, but it is often impossible.
Then, there is the unfortunate fact that we teachers do not do a great job making subs feel welcome on our campus. Again, this in NOT on purpose. We are busy. We are preoccupied with planning for our day. We are overwhelmed and often feel like we don’t have time to stop and introduce ourselves to the many guest teachers we encounter from day to day. This past Christmas, I asked a long-term sub why she did not come to our staff Christmas party. She innocently explained that she thought it was just for teachers. My answer was, YOU ARE A TEACHER!!!! Our school is known to have one of the nicest, most fun-loving staffs of all the schools in our district. Yet somehow, we did not make her feel a part of our extended family.
It is unlikely that these obstacles will change anytime soon. Teachers find themselves facing increasingly busy workloads as they are expected to modify existing curriculum to meet Common Core standards. This leaves us with less time to write quality sub plans. Until we are provided a standard curriculum to leave our substitute teachers—or more time to prepare sub plans— subs will continue to struggle. If subs continue to struggle, then students ultimately suffer.
What can we do as a profession to improve the situation for subs? Do you do something special for your substitutes at your school? Please share your ideas.