New Career: Substitute Teaching
by Bernadette Sukley
If you’re not ready to retire and still want to keep your mind sharp, consider substitute teaching. Contrary to popular belief, subs or emergency guest teachers are not glorified babysitters. They are true contributors to the classroom. And they ensure that the curriculum is continued in a consistent manner.
Substitute teaching can be lucrative and enjoyable. Background checks and succinct training are required but aren’t burdensome. Commute time may be minimal as many school districts in your area may have a need for subs on a regular basis. An adventurous spirit as well as a flexible schedule is a plus.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for starting subs:
Ask where to park. Most schools have designated parking spots. Some lots are numbered for faculty, staff, and students who pay for the space. It’s also important not to take visitor parking unless you are instructed to do so.
Meet the principal. Make sure you know who’s in charge and what she looks like. It’s also a great idea to get to know the office staff. They’re the brains of the school and the ones who handle your paperwork and paychecks.
Find the staff bathroom. In this era of zero interaction with students, you shouldn’t be seen using the student bathrooms. Ask for faculty bathroom and lunchrooms and any kind of prep room.
Find your helper. In every class or room, there will be the one student who will answer all your questions honestly. Ask them about attendance, who runs messages to the office, how the lunch count is taken, how often bathroom breaks are permitted, and where the recess yard is located.
Get a floor plan. Students will be scheduled to have gym, music, art, or a “special” sort of humanities-based class. To avoid wandering the halls, grab a floor plan prior to the beginning of the day. One of the primary goals for any sub is to make sure your kids are safe. This means you must know the evacuation plan. In case of an emergency or fire drill, scared kids will follow you only if you don’t panic.
Argue. With anyone. Not the janitor, the lunch lady, the students, or even the hall monitor. This takes an enormous amount of patience. And you have to squelch the urge to put the rude little kiddos in their place. Arguments will only make your day unpleasant, and you won’t want to be called back.
Touch the desk. Most of the time, the teachers’ desks are small and packed with supplies, plans, and pertinent paperwork. Any rearrangement of plans or papers can disrupt the flow of the day, disrupt plans for the following day, and potentially make the teacher really angry.
Be afraid. Take assignments of math, science, physics, literature, music, or even phys ed. Most lessons plans are created with the notion that the substitute knows very little or nothing about the subject matter. Your primary goal is not to teach the students new concepts or the latest theory in quantum physics, but to keep them safe. Worst-case scenario: a NOVA video or MythBusters on YouTube is just the ticket.
Be late. Good teachers will leave detailed lesson plans. And you’re going to need every minute you can to review them before students arrive. If traffic was lousy, don’t rush the review. Take your time, in the morning students have the option to finish homework, read a book, or grab a tablet until you’re ready to begin.
And let’s face it, today more than ever, schools are going to need a village to help.
Photo by Adam Winger (Utah) @awcreativeut
Bernadette Sukley has been in publishing for over 25 years. She’s written and published fiction and nonfiction books, short stories and articles. Her work has appeared in international magazines, including SAGA, a Scandinavian fashion magazine. She is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG) and served a year as the co-chair for its annual conference, The Write Stuff, and has served a year as GLVWG's anthology editor.