Sunday, November 17, 2013

sub-substituting

The only thing worse than being a substitute, is being a substitute in a long term contract.  When you sub in a class you step in for a teacher who has specific things to do and needs to step out of her classroom.  Most of those things take only a day, maybe two on occasion; but when a teacher is gone for an extended period of time, 30 days and more, the process of substituting changes into one of teacher rather than substitute.  One way to see this change is to notice what happens when the substitute gets sick; another substitute is called to take over for the first substitute who is still subbing for the original teacher. 

The real issue here is experience and credentialing over just another warm body hired to sit in a class and make sure the kids don’t actually cause themselves or others harm.  The experienced teacher is an asset and has the knowledge to keep a class moving in the right direction.  For the normal substitute almost any-body will do for one day and perhaps even three or four but when a replacement teacher is needed over a longer period the needs of the class require a well versed, well educated and prepared teacher, not a simple substitute.

I therefore propose a simple classificational change of the term “substitute” creating a sub (more appropriately a chief designation) category that designates those willing to replace temporarily but who have those essential qualification needed to step in and swap the teacher for a time, taking over the duties in mass, continuing the educational process as if the teacher were still there, this category should be paid commensurate with their leadership potential and long term needs of the class.

Most districts do pay long term subs more but the pittance currently paid in relation to the duties expected are abysmally inadequate and only the hopeful, newly graduated seem to be willing to bear the often overwhelming duties with very limited compensation.  Very often these long term needs are passed from sub to sub and the class in general tries to survive, never flourishing, never really succeeding but barely getting by as each successive, unprepared and unknowing temporary teacher wanders in, staying a few days, maybe even a few weeks and then leaves realizing the work required is not worth the money earned.  In many cases the district themselves change substitutes in order to keep them from the slightly higher pay of a long term status.  A district may save a whopping 30 dollars a day by limiting the successive days of a substitute within a specific class.  I think we can wipe out the national debt with this practice. 

My current position as a substitute has brought me to a multi-grade, multi- disabilities class that requires a considerable amount of time and effort in order to advance the students in relation to their goals and needs.  My experience as a special education specialist and special person based upon my own set of special talents and special insights have prompted me to stay with this tenuous but ever growing position.  The kids need the stability and I like the job but the pay is nowhere near what it should be in relation to what I have to do to be prepared each day.

To the district I am only a substitute.  I was called specifically for the position because of my credential in special education and I am able to stay in the position because I have a good handle on the class, the kids are progressing as they should and I have good aides that are a tremendous help but for the ordinary substitute the class would be a daily nightmare and I am certain that only a few select few would be able to deal with not only the challenges but be able to create a positive and educational environment conducive to real learning and success. 

I may be patting my own back but I am not alone in this there are many who are well qualified who work as substitutes and get paid the same amount as the 90 year old, retired postal worker who simply needs more money and passed the CBEST (California Basic Skills Test) and decided substituting was great way to keep working.  Those that are highly qualified should be paid much more than those who simply babysit.  I am not a babysitter and take great pride in doing a great job while the primary teacher is away.

Districts need to understand the difference between a substitute and a visiting teacher, a babysitter and a real stand in who knows the lines and is ready to sing or play the part required so the show goes on as before.  Why districts lump all substitutes together boggles my mind except perhaps for the desire of districts to simply not pay for the sake of being cheap. I can think of no reason not to pay those experienced and credentialed persons with a more proportionate rate to their true value.

For myself and in the current position I will most likely continue.  I feel too strongly for the educational process not to continue to serve these little guys.  I can’t imagine the trauma of subjecting them to different faces each week or those that barely qualify as a substitute trying to teach these disabled children.

I know I will be taken advantage of, and I know the district will try to get me to do as much as possible without having to pay me what I’m worth, but my position is also very clear, I know what I’m worth, I will be helping these kids regardless of the districts ineptitudes and uncaring attitudes.  For me, for now that will be payment enough but in the future it would be nice to be treated like the teacher I am and not the substitute who sleeps behind the desk or plays on his phone or simply stares into space, drooling and slack jawed waiting for the bell to ring.  We have enough of those in government, we don’t need them in school.