Do you recall when you had a substitute teacher when you were a student? You would walk into the classroom and see an adult that you didn’t know and realize that your teacher was not going to be in that day.
Do you remember how you took the opportunity to switch seats to be near the friends your regular teacher would never let you sit by? Do you remember how you would only pretend to work on whatever independent packet that was passed out because you knew the teacher wouldn’t actually grade it? Do you remember how when you got in trouble you would just give the sub a fake name so he couldn’t report back to the teacher how you actually acted? Do you remember how the room would be a complete mess by the end of the day?
Turns out, things have not changed that much. Students still act up for the sub; the only difference being that smart phones are everywhere.
All of the aforementioned scenarios are just a fraction of what makes being a sub so hard. Conversely it is what makes finding them so hard too. Indiana districts have announced plans to pay subs more due to the shortage, and that will certainly help but schools need to think long and hard about the experience a sub has when they come into their school because truth be told, there were some schools who couldn’t get a sub well before the national shortage.
Like anything else, a sub’s experience is heavily dependent on where they are working. Obviously, there are some schools with limited behavior problems and good resources. Being a sub is hard there too but not like it is at other schools.
My school does a better job now but when I first started a substitute teacher could expect to receive a “emergency sub plan packet” and be left to their own devices. Some teachers took their sub-plans seriously but most of those packets contained outdated busy work that students would complete well before class was over which of-course made the remainder of the class difficult to manage. Seating charts would be inaccurate if present at all. Directions about how to get the kids to lunch or to buses were almost never given.
One of the most important skills I have seen in a successful sub is the ability to figure things out that people didn’t tell you. That’s a good skill to have … but people really should just tell you. That is the essence of the problem.
Often times when the main teacher calls out sick, schools just write that class off for the day. There isn’t much thought given to what the sub is doing other than keeping all the children alive. This leads to some confused person with limited education experience attempting to tread water all day while students are trying their hardest to get over on them. This doesn’t sound like an experience anyone would want to go through but for whatever reason district leaders are often shocked when they suddenly can’t secure subs for their schools.
To some degree, the sub will always be a downgrade to the normal teacher. You can’t expect someone who doesn’t even know the students to replicate the same environment. However, there is little excuse for not having well thought out plans, charts and relevant information ready for anyone that comes in to take on the challenge. It probably should not come as a shock that subs generally prefer schools where they have positive experiences, and they deserve that like any other employee temporary or not. Pay subs more, but also make sure they are well prepared for the day.