Skip to main content

Substitute Teaching

Bill Watts - October 06, 2020

In September, I began working one-day-a-week as a substitute teacher at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati. A good friend of mine is a teacher there, and he mentioned that they were in need of subs, which piqued my interest. I was excited to experience life inside a school, and to help out, plus the $100-per-day payment certainly doesn't hurt. I sub for any teacher or subject, working from 7:30am to 2:30pm.

The school is excellent. The teachers are well-organized, hard-working, and relentless. The students are well-mannered, respectful, and interested in learning. My supervisor, the coordinator for substitute teachers, always goes out of his way to make sure that I have a positive experience. All this is even more impressive when considering the current reality of Covid-19, which the school is handling very well.

Health and Safety

Extensive precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of the students and teachers. Some examples:

  1. Everyone wears a mask, all the time.
  2. Only half the students come into the school building each day. One half comes Monday/Tuesday, the other half comes Thursday/Friday, and they alternate on Wednesdays.
  3. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant are bountiful.
  4. Hallways and staircases are one-way-only.
  5. End-of-day dismissal is divided by floors.
  6. Students are divided into groups for lunch.

This is only a partial list. I feel safe at the school, and I feel that others are safe at the school.

In-person Instruction

Attending school in-person is vital to the success of most students. When students are in the classroom, they get the normal education experience: instruction and assistance from the teacher, social interaction and camaraderie with friends, encouragement and motivation from administrators. In addition to in-person instruction, teachers use online resources for assignments and lessons. Students are able to access everything they need remotely, but the two to three days per week of attending in-person is hugely beneficial. I commend the school for ensuring that students are able to learn and succeed during these difficult times.

Subbing Difficulties

I've struggled with certain elements of being a substitute teacher.

  1. Training - Like most businesses and organizations, this school isn't great at onboarding new employees. I was given a tour of the building, but I was never prepared for the intricacies of working as a sub. Should I dismiss students at the end of class, even if the school-wide bell doesn't ring? Why are some spaces numbered in the faculty parking lot? What should I do when a student asks if they can use the bathroom? There are countless questions like this, and I'm discovering the answers as I go along.
  2. Consistency - Currently, there are varying levels of documentation and details for me when I arrive in a classroom, and each day as a sub is unique. The administration could create a standard document or process that each teacher could follow when preparing for a sub.
  3. Technology - All assignments and homework are handled through Google Classroom, as well as classroom attendance, but I don't have access to this website. Does Google Classroom offer any options for giving access to a sub?
  4. Role - There is very little interaction between me and the teacher that I am subbing for. I could be a partner with the teacher, but I am usually just monitoring the students and distributing bathroom passes as needed. It is rare that I actually get to be a "teacher".
  5. Preparation - I usually don't get any information about the class that I am subbing for, or what the students in the class are learning about. It would improve my ability to assist the students if I were prepared.

These are all minor issues, especially when compared to the issues that teachers and administrators deal with every day. This is a wonderful school, and I am proud to be a small part of their team.

Teachers Are Awesome

I hope that more people get to experience a teacher's job, so that they can appreciate how hard it is. And, I hope that all teachers get to experience a non-classroom job, for comparison purposes, so that they can confirm how hard it is to be a teacher.