Sunday, April 15, 2012

Caution: Rant Ahead

OK, I normally do not do this. But it has been a rough three weeks... not with my class or the school... just rough overall. Plus, I have a migraine and am grumpy. I am telling you this because maybe I am overreacting here, but I just betcha that I have some other sub friends who have experienced similar things. My beef? The way subs are generally treated and talked about.

From what I have seen, we are often treated as second class citizens by students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Now, I have been lucky enough to be in some schools that do otherwise (I am in one right now), and I have made some teacher friends who certainly don't treat me that way.

What drove this home recently? I heard a comment from a student. I saw this student (whom I had subbed for last year) in the hall and he asked me, "Are you a real teacher now?" I have also had a parent ask something similar on meet the teacher night. She shook my hand, and the first thing she asked me was, "Are you a real teacher?" Now, the student I can easily forgive, but what I really wanted to say to the mother was, "Are you a real parent?" Of course, I was nice and polite even though she treated me like dirt.

Over and over again I hear things like "she's just a sub" or "that happened because there was a sub." And it just irks me. I enter the teacher's lounge in some schools and subs are relegated to the other end of the table. We are not talked to at recess unless we force the issue. It really does feel like a form of segregation.

Now, I completely understand where this sentiment has come from. I went through the "training" my district provides, and it was really no help at all. And the requirements to work as a sub are very low (to match the pay and nonexistent benefits), so of course, you don't usually attract the best of the best that way. I have witnessed some scary subs in action too and heard the horror stories of the ones I haven't seen, so it's no wonder that others have these opinions of subs.

Boy, oh boy, would I love to change those stereotypes! If fact, that's a big reason I started this blog. Even though my ultimate dream is to have my own classroom, I really do like most parts of being a sub. And I wanted to show other subs and teachers that we don't have to be just babysitters. Teachers, you can leave us meaningful lessons that require some actual teaching. And subs, we have to do our part too. If you don't feel trained, learn more! Don't treat subbing as a means to an end, but the end itself. Don't take the easy way out. I always try approach each sub job as if it were my own classroom (even just for the day). Maybe, just maybe, over time, we can start to change those opinions of subs.

Feel free to share your sub stories (good and bad).


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. I have felt like a second-clas citizen in some schools but it is happening less and less. I don't know if it's my attitude that has changed (ie. I know what I'm doing, I look like I know what I'm doing and I know what is expected of me) or if the culture of schools is changing.
    I do still find, however, that the staff room is a lonely place for a sub.

  2. Amen! I cannot praise you for this post enough. This says EXACTLY what I wish I could say so many times -- but have to refrain.

    I am so glad you wrote this. While I'm not glad that you are treated this way, I AM glad that someone else understands what it's like. I live in north Texas, and subs are treated like second-class citizens here, too. It's so discouraging and almost makes me not want to be a "real" teacher anymore.

    The sad part is, I have two degrees in education and two years of teaching experience under my belt. But because I was blessed with good genes, I look about 18 on a good day. So when all teachers and admin treat me like a baby, I feel like I have to constantly defend myself. It's exhausting and frustrating.

    I could go on... but I won't. In short, THANK YOU for writing this!

  3. I could not agree more with your post. I have been in many of the same situations. One time I was asked if I knew how to teach math or if they should have the para teach it!! UGH! I started choosing only certain schools to sub at. It did help when people realized that I am a licensed teacher. I always do the best job I can in any classroom, and yes even if only for a day. Thankfully my sub days are over. I did land my full time job because the Principal was impressed with the job I did as a sub in his building!

  4. I teach first grade in a small town. It is so small that we only have a handful of subs. This can be a challenge, but the nice thing is that the teachers and students know all of them. I tell my students that they will be having a "guest teacher" rather than a substitute. I think just changing the terminology helps. I know when I graduated and subbed it was so hard! Thank you to all of the guest teachers out there!

    By the way - I love your blog!

    1. I like the "guest teacher" idea. It probably won't work w/ my 5th graders, but with the younger kids it just might.

    2. I am in Kansas and almost every district refers to subs as "guest teachers" in the classroom. I think it has to do with the "guest" and how it holds kids to the high expectations of having a "guest" in theclassroom!

    3. Guest Teacher in Northwest HoustonMay 8, 2012 at 5:35 AM

      The term "Guest Teacher" will work. It depends on how the expectations are set with the students especially if you work in a district that only hires certified teachers. I have explained this to 1st graders all the way to 5th graders. All students are receptive to the terminology and actually like it.

  5. I'm right there with you. Subbing can be hard some days and I do believe we get less credit. I'm glad I found you and some other sub blogs to find great tips to use in a classroom!

    Sparkles , Smiles, and Student Teaching

  6. Aww...firstly, I just wanted to say that as a new graduate teacher (and an older one at that!), you, your blog and your resources helped me so much as I entered the world of subbing! I am in Australia and unfortunately I have found some (not all!!) schools, teachers, parent and students here, have the same attitude towards subs (or casual teachers as we are called here). I am lucky to have been asked to take the one class for 2 whole terms, which is just wonderful, but I am dreading going back to subbing for all of the reasons you have mentioned! Such a poignant and heartfelt post! I hope that things change sooner rather than later. Subs can be AWESOME teachers too!! xx

  7. I subbed for a year and a half in Ohio. I found which teachers I would go back for and which ones I wouldn't step back in there room if you paid me double. That was because they either didn't leave plans, they left busy work, or what they left was all foreign to the kids and I was frustrated by the end of the day.

    With that being said, I became very flexible, instantaneous, and brought stuff with me to make sure that I was prepared for such things each day. That made me a better teacher too. Subs love coming in for me on planned days because I leave them detailed typed plans with everything laid out, copies made, pages marked, CD's cued, etc. They want for nothing. They know which child will help and which child(ren) should not be together etc. They know procedures and drills. That way my kids can't pull a fast one. Also, it helps, in the school I am in now, to know which subs are strong and are willing to take on a 5th grade class. Most won't. I always say good morning to a sub no matter who they are in for be it a grade level, art, PE, etc. They are people too!

    If we treat people like we want to be treated, then everyone will be better off.

    Funny story for me.... I was moved 3 years ago on day 5 of school to my current work site. There was a sub in a 4th grade classroom. I didn't know. No one told me. I thought she was the teacher b/c she commanded the respect of the kids, knew the content, and had them on target. It was amazing. When the classroom teacher came back, I was like, where did Ms. so and so go.... They said.. that was the sub... Boy was my face red. LOL Thankfully, she was the sub for my grade level partner later that year when she was out for surgery. She was a blessing. I told her about my red face moment and she just laughed and thanked me because she never thought of herself as a classroom teacher b/c she's not certified as one. She would love to become a teacher but just never did it. I was like WOW, you would never have known it!

    Keep up the good Sub fight! It's hard to find a great one!

    Melanie Miday-Stern

  8. Thank you for sharing this post! I am a first year teacher and I decided to read this because I like to see things from another's point of view. I do know that subs are stereotyped. Even though I'm teaching for the first time, I've already been told who I should pick as a sub and who not to pick as a sub. I hope that soon everyone will see subs as an important part of the school. I also hope that some subs will begin to view their job as important (I personally know a few who don't take it seriously, but not all). I know that I sure do appreciate my sub! I know there are a lot of dedicated subs out there who are willing to teach and I think it is so awesome! And I admire you for sharing this post and speaking up for all the subs out there. :)

  9. I say you hit the nail on the head. Quite often I hear, " Are you a real teacher?" And so often I want to reply, "No, I'm fake." But I refrain from it and smile and answer that yes I am real, even if I sub.

    I feel the segregation at a few of the schools too. One school I often end up sitting by myself or I end with the silent treatment. How different from 2 schools that would scoot over so you could join in and be part of the family!

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  10. Don't feel so bad. I was out of the classroom for a year as a writing specialist and I would get that question all the time, "How come you're not a real teacher anymore?" Then when I went back into the classroom, "How come you're a real teacher again?".

    I was a sub for a while before my first job, so I definitely make sure I talk to any subs who might be at recess or lunch. Plus, that way I get to know who I might think would be a good fit for my class. Some people are just too snobby for their own good. With the way things are going, they may end up being a sub someday themselves!

    Feel better friend, migraines are the worst!
    Sunny Days In Second Grade

  11. I subbed for 5 years before becoming a "real teacher".... UGH I soooo hate that comment!!!! Subbing is one of the most difficult jobs to do !! Yes as a sub you put up with a whole bunch of crap but as you said there are some good schools and teachers out there. Sometimes I wish I could put one of those talkers in your shoes for a day and see how they do. Hope your migraine feels better and I pray for better weeks ahead for you :-) The end of the year is tough on everyone.

  12. Amen sister!!! It is very frustrating! Subbing seems like even harder work than being a full-time teacher! And I can say that as I've been both a day-to-day sub, a long-term sub and a full-time special education teacher! Just because you're not in the same classroom everyday, doesn't mean your job is any easier...actually it is the exact reason why it is harder!! Not knowing where you'll be or what you'll be doing every morning?? I want to see ANYBODY else try that for a week! Just think of all the lives you get to touch by being in so many classrooms. You really are doing a wonderful job! :)

  13. Rachel, I can so relate to this post! While I haven't subbed before, this year I am an inclusion special ed teacher. I spend a LOT of my day walking around the room monitoring students and helping out when needed. I am so sick of students asking me if I am an "aide" and when I'll be a "real teacher" and get my "real classroom". As the year has gone one, it has gotten better - but it can still be very frustrating at times.

    Your blog is proof that you aren't just "that sub". You go above and beyond every day to show that you are a sub that cares!

  14. This is so true in many schools especially the part about teachers ignoring you on the playground. Thankfully I've found a school that I've been at nearly every day since January who treats me with an amazing amount of respect. All the teachers say hi to me when they see me, they all want me as their sub, most of the kids treat me very respectfully (I've told them I'm not your typical sub I've taught for 8 years so many call me a teacher and some my favorite teacher ever), administration always smiles and says nice things, I'm invited to all of their free teacher lunch days, got me a cake, card, balloons, and had the kids sing to me on my birthday, etc. I think it just depends on the school quite honestly! Sadly most don't act the way this special school treats me!

  15. This is my first year of subbing and I absolutely LOVE what I am doing. I have a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and find that, if subs with a teaching certificate are treated as second rate citizens, subs with a degree of another discipline are treated as third rate citizens. I work in a great school, and for the most part, really like the environment that I get to work in just about every day. However, there are comments when some find out my degree isn't in education that "I guess anyone can be a sub" and are amazed that I get to have a classroom "all by myself". I truly love subbing and working with the kiddos. I give 100% every second I am in the school (and outside of school when I see students around town). I work hard to understand student behavior, follow several teaching blogs, have taken education courses, and have read hundreds of books/articles/online resources all to find information to help me in the classroom. I am a great sub and I'd love to be treated as a colleague, not just a filler.

    Also, the school district that I am in did not offer any training when I started (there wasn't even an interview) so everything that I have learned has been on my own and through day-to-day experiences. I've never had any administrators nor regular teachers sit in my classroom to provide feedback and/or assess my abilities. Some form of review process and feedback would go a long way in cementing the idea that subbing is "real" job, both for teachers and subs.

    Subbing is the best job I have ever had and I am very happy to call it my career choice, hopefully for many years to come. Thanks for all of your support to subs!!

  16. I subbed for many years and I loved almost every moment. For the most part everyone treated me very well. The issues I had was not getting backed up by the principal or some cases the teacher. When teachers don't back up the sub, the class knows that they don't have to behave or listen... there will be no consequences for their actions.

  17. I am so sorry! I love the people who are willing to sub for me! I am very picky about who comes, and I will go in sick if I can't get one of them. I know the ones I call can teach, handle the class, and love the kids all at the same time. I subbed before I got my teaching degree and in some schools it was like that. I didn't go back to those. I hope you find some really good schools that will keep you busy and appreciate what you do!

  18. I am currently a substitute teacher, and I agree with your post. I've been subbing for almost two years due to a lack of available jobs in the immediate area (and the lack of funds that keeps me from moving to another state). I am constantly made to feel like a second-class citizen when I sub; students feel they do not have to respect me and other teachers sometimes refuse to answer questions or provide help. Only in a few individual schools have I felt welcomed - more often when I was referred to as a "guest teacher" instead of a "substitute." Even in a school where I am in the building EVERY Monday to cover IEP meetings, there are teachers who will talk down to me or dismiss their students' rude behaviors towards me. It's infuriating. Even more infuriating is how some districts' HR departments treat their subs. I interviewed for multiple long-term sub positions earlier this year; the HR department never contacted me to let me know how I did in the interview or where I was "ranked" (based on ability/interview) on the "list" they would be culling teachers from - and then they just started giving the jobs to other subs who had more days in with the district! Why even bother to hold interviews if you're just going to give the jobs to people who have been there the longest (even if they have no skills in the classroom)? It's very frustrating, and there are some days when I really question my career choice.

  19. OMG, I'm so sorry! In our school we are so lucky to have many many wonderful subs! I currently have been gone from work for a week. I took my daughter to urgent care last Monday...followed by a ride in an ambulance to Children's Hospital where she stayed for 6 days. I LOVE the ladies who sub for me. Gosh I hope no one ever treats them poorly, I think they are great. I am pretty organized so everyone always tells me they will sub for me anytime. If I know I am going to be gone, I leave them a little treat too....smarties, tea, hershey hugs...something to make them smile. I always ask subs for other teachers if they need any help etc. I'm so sorry that you are treated like that. I am so very thankful for the ladies who took over for me this week. I dont think I will be back to work for a few more days, but I know my kiddo's are just fine because they have a great sub!

  20. I just stumbled upon your blog and I LOVE it! I sub, a guest teacher. I really enjoy the job. I have found that it helps others' perceptions of you if you dress very professionally (which for me means my Sunday clothes cause I don't have a professional wardrobe).

    I've been a stay-at-home mom for 25 years, and because I have a teaching degree, I homeschooled my three children through elementary school. We successfully transitioned our children into public middle school and have tried to be very supportive as parents.

    My eyes were really opened after I became a substitute teacher a few years ago. I think every teacher should have to be a substitute teacher for three years at many different schools for many different teachers before they earn a full-time position. It would probably make them miss less work and be more thoughtful about their temporary replacement.

  21. This struck a cord with me. I've been subbing for the past 7 years, mostly in the school I attended when I was young. And I like teaching. I really do. I wish more teachers would give "real" plans. I am better suited to elementary students, but frequently find myself in the high school end of our small K-12 school. And when I'm in that high school end, plans that include "Students have the assignment and know what to do" just doesn't cut it. You know what happens to a bunch of 12th graders on a Friday afternoon in June when a sub says that to them? They vanish. Poof. Gone. Suddenly I have 2 students that I like and identify with because they are bookworms just like I was in high school. I had one ninth grader react with disbelief that I was "real teacher" he was under the impression that subs were parent volunteers. There are a few things I wish more teachers would include in their sub plans: bell times, identifying students with special needs, photos of students, medical concerns (it's nice to know that one of your students is diabetic... or allergic to the sun), computer log ins and back up plans for when technology fails, and whether or not any of the assignments are homework. I know that for a teacher with the flu, remembering all this is a little much, but I remember when I was in University - we were told to make a substitute teacher binder with information like this in it. And I have only had one teacher leave something like this for me. I have had good experiences in the staff room, but usually feel a little marginalized. My least favourite phrase is "Who are you today?" And I completely agree that every teacher should take a turn at being a substitute for a few years. All in all, I love my job. No planning to take me away from my family, and I'm home at night, no staff meetings or extra-curriculars. On the other hand, no benefits, mediocre respect from staff, and little to no respect from students. I'm still hoping that I'll get to be a full time teacher, but when my own children are so young, it's a good "gig".


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