*This following story was written by an experienced teacher who is now substituting in local Fort Bend schools. Her name is being withheld to avoid reprisals. Oh, you know they do it! bkc
Free day, free day! These words resonate from a classroom as a substitute teacher walks into the room. It is a necessary job. Teachers must be out of the classroom for various reasons, sick, personal day, need a break, they deserve it.
The national average for substitute teacher pay is $105 per full day, according to the National Substitute Teachers Alliance. In Fort Bend County, a Texas certified substitute teacher is paid $85 a day to oversee a class of anywhere from 25 to 40 students. Teachers do their best to try to give an assignment that will engage the students for the length of the class. But everyone knows that never happens. Students do not do the work and the substitute has no leverage to discipline.
The schools are tough. One substitute witnessed 4 fights one morning. It was a long day.
The students are talking and texting on their phones; a rule they quickly forget when they see a sub. And the cursing is embarrassing. One student dropped the “F” word several times in one sentence. When the sub asked him to please watch his language, he denied ever saying the word as everyone around him laughed. She had no way to discipline the student.
Another substitute encountered five students walking out of the room after roll was taken. She reported them, but did the school do anything to punish them? Who knows? One morning, a new sub asked one of the full time teachers a question and she replied “Don’t worry; you will never want to come back to this school after today”. What is wrong with this picture? Have we as a society, economy or not, simply given up on our “future leaders”? Are our teachers so burnt out, to not care or so new that don’t know any better?
When a certified veteran teacher is hired as a substitute teacher in Fort Bend ISD they are placed at the bottom of the “food chain.” Better schools have a “preferred substitute list” separate from the internet request list. Some subs never get into these schools; if they do get a day, they must beg their way into the lists of the teachers and administration to be called again. Some have business cards made to sell the teacher on calling them. The preferred subs at the school are no help to the new sub and act as if they are moving in on their territory.
This situation is not exclusive to Fort Bend ISD. Some might add that it is the “economic times” that have now forced this environment. Some educators may hide behind “it is what it is”. But that is simply not the way it should be. Lamar ISD requires every Texas Certified teacher to take an on-line course. They must make 100% on the test before they can be a babysitter, sorry, a substitute teacher. Who made these rules?
It is a shame that the school systems have to run this way. It is not the individual school’s fault. They are just going by the rules. Everyone knows the underlying problems; classes are too large and teachers are under paid, no news here. But if a seasoned teacher finds it so difficult to become involved in a school district, how can one expect a new teacher to pursue a teaching job through substitute teaching and experience a good view of what teaching is all about? Perhaps they should never try to be a sub; it can be one of the worst experiences.
Do the school administrators realize how difficult it is to stay positive? Most substitutes have no idea who the principals are and they are never asked to evaluate the day they spent and the problems they encountered by administration. Some teachers ask the substitute for feedback, but do they really do anything about disruption and chaos? Apparently this is called a “normal day”.
Schools should consider the value of a substitute as an observer/evaluator. After all, the requirements for substituting is no less then a Texas Certified Educator.
By doing so the pulse of the school can then be provided (with an evaluation form) to the principal and the teacher at the end of the day. Allow them to make a list of the students that showed disrespect and were a disruption then take the necessary steps to be sure they are disciplined by the administrator.
Some teachers have difficult groups of students simply from the combination of personalities, but are afraid to address the issues with administration. A substitute can bring it to the attention and something can be done to help the teacher.
If a teacher has a difficult class, she should make sure the students are totally engaged with something for the period. To tell a class to “study” something does not cut it. It is an invitation to talk. Even a class related documentary to watch is better then “busy work” that assumes a well disciplined student will act accordingly.
Give every substitute an opportunity to sub at all of the schools. It would be nice to have a good experience every now and then.
Teaching is not for everyone. Those who do teach, get it…it is the most fulfilling occupation in the world. Every day is not easy, but the good days outweigh the bad.
Students do want to learn. It is up to the teacher to engage them and be a role model.
If someone does not believe this, they need to find another occupation. A substitute teacher is not the teacher. They get assignments (if they are lucky) and hope for the best possible day. They know this. But why make it so difficult for them? Students must know there are consequences for their actions.
At the end of the day, everyone knows the problems in our teaching system. However, small changes can be made with the help of everyone working together, instead of shielding the issues.
Positive, constructive feedback is a good start. If the administration doesn’t know there is a problem, it can’t be fixed. And don’t kid yourself that a day of observation for the Principal’s office tells the whole story.