Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Teacher Thoughts: Sub Problems

Last time, I talked about what it's like to be a sick teacher.  For this post, I thought I'd delve a bit deeper into why having a substitute is so much of a problem.

One of the biggest issues in my school district is a severe lack of substitute teachers.  (I am finding out that this is not just an issue in my school district, but it is a problem in many schools in Central PA.)  We use an online system for acquiring our subs.  Openings are listed online, but subs can also be called by phone if jobs are not picked up.

There a few problems with this system:

  • Sometimes the jobs do not show up for subs for various reasons
  • The school district no longer hires subs directly.  They are hired by the company that runs the system.  These substitutes may not even know where my school district is or live anywhere near it.
  • It's easier to not take jobs because there's no live person you feel like you are disappointing.  (When I first started teaching as a substitute, I loved the online system for this reason.  Even when calls are made, it is an automated system.  It's much easier to reject a machine than a real person calling from the school.)

We have quite a few retired teachers from our district who return to sub all of the time.  Due to restrictions, though, they are only allowed to accumulate a certain number of days/hours or it can affect their retirement.

The district has collected data, and we have actually been asked to do our best to avoid missing Fridays because we are highly likely NOT to get a substitute on a Friday.

If we don't have a substitute to cover our absences, my school has a couple of things--none of which are pleasant for anyone.

  1. Cancel a special area class (i.e. art, library, music, phys ed, technology) and have that teacher cover the teacher's class for the day.  This means that any teacher whose students were scheduled for that class will not have their planning time.
  2. Cancel Title 1 Reading support and have the reading specialist cover for the day (which we are technically not allowed to do).
  3. Have a different teacher cover the class each period.  This works by other teachers having to give up their planning time to teach a class for a period.  I have planning time 2nd period, so when this happens, I would go during second period and teach who knows what and who knows what grade.
Of these options, #1 is the most preferred, but we shouldn't have to do this!  A teacher who is out sick shouldn't have to worry or feel bad that someone else might lose their precious planning time to cover his/her class!

IF you are fortunate enough to get a substitute any sort of things can go wrong.

I admit.  I'm a control freak.  I write detailed plans that explain what and how to do things in my classroom so that everything will run smoothly.  All a person needs to do is follow these plans.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

One of our retired substitutes has been subbing with us for awhile.  When I was teaching first grade, she refused to allow my students to work in their learning centers because she didn't like the "chaos."  A few weeks ago, I was at a professional development conference.  I was out for two days, and I got a text from a teacher on my team the second day.  The sub from Thursday had done ALL of the work I had planned for reading for Thursday AND Friday.  The worst part of it was that she assigned part of the work as homework.  Luckily, the sub for the next day was one I could trust, and we just had the students read for their reading period.

I can't tell you how many times I've come back from an absence--planned or otherwise--to a disaster.  Stuff that should have been done that wasn't.  Stuff that was done that shouldn't have been.  It's not that hard to follow a person's plans.

Subs will inevitably get things done faster than you because they don't know the students or the nuances you add into your lessons.  For my sixth graders, the simple solution is to let them read quietly.  In fact, I usually write in my plans that if they have extra time they should let the kids read!

It's not rocket science.


Kristin said...

We have the same issue here. I never noticed it in Alaska.
And I've told people about how you have to give up your planning period (because I remember doing that!) and they were appalled. Are you compensated for that?
Here, when we have meetings during plan periods, I always think about how we can file grievances for things and that THAT is one of those things we should be allowed to contest.

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