Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Substitute Teaching Should Work: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

I'm employed by many districts and I'm certified to work for any of their schools.  All told, I'm signed up to sub for 53 schools in my area, and that doesn't count the many other districts that a regional substitute service has me signed up for.

That's ridiculous.  Instead of having, say, 200 substitutes haphazardly signed up for 50 schools, couldn't we have 3 signed up for each school as full time, and 50 others available for per diem emergencies?

Every school has different standards of scheduling, discipline, teacher duties, and more.  There is no way I'm going to remember exactly what each school does, and there's no way I'll be provided with every bit of that information every day I teach.  I don't even remember which front door is unlocked at the beginning of the day at each school I've worked at.

I'm imagining a system in which I would work for one district and focus on, for example, their High School and their Middle School.  I would be the first (or one of the first, given multiple employees in the same position) to be called to sub and I would be exquisitely prepared.  If I were not needed to sub for a day, I would go to the school anyway and complete other work.  I would be there for any emergency coverage needed as well as a number of other things.

My proposal for the role of full time substitute teachers:

Job Description:  Full time substitutes will proactively keep up-to-date with the curricula of the subjects for which they are assigned as a primary substitute.  They will insure that they understand the material at least as well as the students so that they can introduce new material and answer questions, though they are not expected to be as expert in every subject as the dedicated classroom teachers are.  They will interact daily with students.  They will take part in school-wide events and event planning (if time permits).  They will keep up-to-date on changes in school rules and policies.  They will retain, and update as necessary, emergency plans and materials for all classes of their assigned subjects.

Full time substitutes will be expected to contribute knowledge, experience, and perspective to each class, student, or school community with which they work.  They will make themselves available for emergency coverage, exam proctoring, and other similar needs (especially those unforeseen).  They will serve as one-on-one tutors for students, especially for their assigned subjects of focus.  They will be a primary resource for per diem substitutes and guest teachers when they are needed in the school.  When possible, they will co-teach lessons as arranged with a classroom teacher.

Full time substitutes must be certified highly qualified teachers.  They must be personable, motivated, and flexible.

Benefits:  Full time substitutes will be salaried employees with standard benefits.  They will receive space to work and store materials as well as a network account and the same building access as classroom teachers.

Acknowledged Issues:  Implementing a system in which a few full time substitutes are the primary substitutes of a district and are thus provided with a salary and benefits would be significantly more costly than working only with per diem substitutes.

Advantages:  Students would benefit greatly from this system, as wasted days and time would be much more rare.  They would benefit from the perspective and tutelage of another highly qualified teacher for every subject they study.  Administrators and secretaries would benefit from this system by having the amount of substitute-related paperwork and oversight dramatically reduced.  An automated substitute-calling system would very likely no longer be needed and the job of calling substitutes personally would be minimal compared to what it is for the completely per diem system.  Payroll, too, would have the burden of quantity lifted.

As it was pointed out to me in the comment section of Part 1, there are at least some private schools that do something like this.  I have yet to find out more details about those systems.

A reminder again that this idea is a seedling.  Thus, I am quite open to critique, questions, and input.


  1. The problem with this idea is that salary is not the cost for school districts. The cost comes from benefits. Schools are cutting full time teachers left and right, what makes you think they are going to hire 3 full time "just in case" teachers? I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it is very naive. This all may work in a utopia, but it won't happen in the real world.

  2. It is an idealistic plan, and I'm aware of the cost of benefits. I'm also well-aware of the current financial situation of so many school districts, including most that I work for.

    I probably should have mentioned that this is not at all something that I think can be implemented immediately, because it is cost-prohibitive for almost everyone. When districts recover, there will be many that would be able to afford such a thing, and I think they would find it to be worth the cost.

  3. I'm with you on this Luc, and I think laying out the ideal is an important thing to do. Otherwise we don't have something to shoot for.

    I think another benefit of this kind of system is in teacher training. Imagine if schools could hire new teachers to be full time substitutes for a year before putting them in their own classroom. They'd get to know the school culture and the students, and when they didn't have substitute work to do they could either brush up on material for the next year or watch a more experienced teacher's class.