Substitute Teaching

I don’t believe that anyone plans a career as a substitute teacher. It’s usually college students getting their credential, recent graduates of a teaching program, or retired teachers that are substitute teachers. However, there is the occasional college graduate, who has passed the test in order to teach, and cannot find other work (either due to a poor economy, or just lack of jobs) that becomes a substitute teacher. 

I started substitute teaching a year-and-a-half after I graduated from college and had not landed in a career I’d planned for. A friend had also chosen to substitute teach after she’d been laid off from the Social Worker job she’d gotten right out of college. 

She made it sound so easy. She said she’d get up at 6:30am, plug in her rollers (hot curling set), go back to bed, and wait for the phone to ring.

After being laid off of a “temp” job I’d had for almost a year, I decided to sign up for substitute teaching. It was the first time in history that my local school district had to advertise in the “help wanted” section of the paper for substitute teachers.

I started working the day after I registered with the school district. I got a Kindergarten class. My  Mom told me “All you have to do is read to them all day”. She could not have been more wrong. A Kindergartener’s attention span is shorter than that of a Hummingbird. It’s hard to read to them when you are constantly being interrupted with “He hit me!”, “She’s farting”, “Can I go to the bathroom?”, “We heard that one already” (referring to the book I’m trying to read), and “How do you spell….?”.

After a few “hit and misses”, I found that High School was my niche’. It was much easier to go into a classroom, read the lesson plan, jot a few notes on the board, and hand out a worksheet left by the well-prepared teacher.

Sure, there were problems from time to time, but for the most part, the high schoolers seemed the easiest to deal with. They could potty themselves, go to lunch without having to line up and be walked to the cafeteria by the teacher, and, at the end of the day, did not have to be walked out to the bus.

The hardest part was getting out of the parking lot at the end of the day.

As years passed, I thought about what I was going to do “with the rest of my life”. Paralegal was supposedly the “up and coming profession”, so, I plunked down $5,000, and went to Law School for a year. We were told the first night of class that we’d make $50-an-hour, and jobs would be WAITING for us upon completion of the program.

Not so. Lawyers were paying $10-an-hour for paralegals, and jobs were NOT waiting for us when we got out.

Have you ever tried to get a paycheck out of an Attorney? While I’m sure it’s not true of ALL Attorneys, it certainly seemed to be the case with the ones I worked for. I still recall the weekend the attorney I was working for took off on vacation, and conveniently “forgot” to pay me.

So, I went back to substitute teaching, as I knew the school district would always cut me a paycheck.

Years went by, and I found myself taking care of my aging mother. Substitute Teaching was great in that I was almost always out by 3:00pm, and didn’t have to take work home with me, nor make lesson plans for the next day. I didn’t work evenings or weekends. The money was OK, and actually more than what I had been making at the “temp” job, and for the attorneys.

Then, one day, I landed a “long term” position at a brand new school in town. A friend was out on medical leave (surgery) and I took over her classes. I had to create fun and interesting lesson plans to keep the students engaged.

While in the teacher’s workroom one day, I said something to the affect that not all “subs” would be….well, “smart” enough…to have gone to the Media center to check out materials as I had. Then, I got the “slap in the face” from one of the “regular” teachers at the school. She said (with sort of a nasal whine in her voice) “Well, if you were SMART, why would you be a SUB, why wouldn’t you be a TEACHER?”.

Just because I had not chosen to go back and get a full credential, did not make me “stupid”. In fact, I might even venture to guess that my IQ is actually higher than the teacher who made the remark.

I guess it doesn’t occur to some people that “Life Happens”. Just because someone had a teaching credential, it does not guarantee that they will be hired as a full-time teacher!

Some people “choose” to be Substitute Teachers as they do not want the responsibility of having the same class for an entire school year, deal with the parents, grades, having to chaparone events, proms, dances, etc. Also, most teachers at some time or another, must be a club sponsor, or coach a sport.

Sure, teachers get paid 4 times what subs get paid, but they have to work for it, too.


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