Teachers, Paraprofessionals and Substitute Teachers Demand Decent Pay!

If you’ve been following the national news the last couple of weeks, then you know that teachers around the country are staging teacher walkouts, and teacher strikes intended to draw attention to, not only the low pay that they receive but for the conditions they have to teach in. They’re also bringing national attention to the fact that so many classrooms are filled with outdated books, workbooks, and various other teaching material. So many teachers even have to buy basic school supplies out of their own pockets, in order to follow the current curriculum, because the school districts do not have the budget to purchase them.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers have stormed state capitals in peaceful demonstration and spoken on camera to national news journalists about their hopes and frustrations. Across the country teachers are demanding better pay and updated teaching material for their students. One teacher that was interviewed by a national news station talked about have to not only teach computer technology but be evaluated by her superior while she and her class had to use textbooks from l998. In her 1998 computer technology textbook it spoke of the internet being in its infancy stage. Nothing in her classroom set of textbooks even remotely correlated with the 2017-2018 state curriculum! These types of situations are going on all across the country!

Classrooms are running over, teachers are expected to do more and more each year without receiving any legitimate pay raise for all that they do. Many teachers that have spoken on the national news throughout these teacher walkouts and strikes have spoken about having to hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. One teacher said that he made more with his lawn cutting service that he did as a teacher. Contract teachers are even speaking out for their fellow paraprofessionals and substitute teachers who are paid even lower than them, but still expected to do all that is required of a contract teacher when they are given an assignment.

Substitute teachers in Alabama are the lowest paid substitutes in the nation, barely making over $8 an hour. This should be an embarrassing reality for our politicians.

Additionally, this low pay for teachers and those in the education field is steadily creating a teacher shortage. Many of the younger people are thinking twice about accumulating massive student loans and then ending up in a career that doesn’t allow them to get out of debt.

In a recent article in FORBES: Teacher Strikes Strike Deeper Than Paychecks the author, and full time teacher, Zak Ringelstein writes “A decades-long war on the American public school teacher has not only led to decreases in pay and benefits for teachers across the country but an overall degradation of the respect for and quality of the teaching profession itself.” I believe this to be true 100%. This didn’t just start. It’s been going on. My mother was a career teacher, as was my grandmother. There’s a lot of teachers in my family and I know firsthand all the things that have trickled down to classroom teachers over the decades from state politicians that have never stepped foot in a classroom as a teacher. Things need to change. Teachers need to have their voice heard and teachers need supplies, modern textbooks and a paycheck comparable to other professions.

And not to leave on a negative note, because the reality is, all of us in the education field know that we will always have a job, we can relocate and normally go right to work in the same field, and there’s no way that we could ever really be without a teaching job in this day and time; they need us too much! So, that stability is one positive note, as far as your finances and steady paychecks are concerned!

Most teachers, like myself, teach because we’ve felt a calling since as long as we can remember. We feel at home in a classroom. We know it’s what we do best and it’s also one of the things we were meant to do. However, we’ve worked hard to put ourselves through college, we’re professionals, and we deserve a decent salary too! Our students deserve better!

Get involved! Call your congressman! And stay connected with like minded people in the education field such as the wonderful staff at SubSidekick. And feel free to contact them  with any other your questions or concerns; they’re just a quick phone call away and would love to hear from you!

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.” – – Donald D. Quinn

Building Better Work-Life Balance as a Substitute

As a substitute, there are days–and even weeks–when you don’t know whether you’ll be working or not. Since teachers can’t always schedule concerns like illness, you may get last-minute calls that interrupt your plans for the day, leaving you scrambling off to work no matter what you had going on, simply because you can’t afford to miss an opportunity to work. Building work-life balance, therefore, can be a challenge. By following these strategies, you can help build better balance between your career and your regular life.

Set boundaries with your schools. Are there days when you simply aren’t available to work? Are there classes that you really don’t want to sub in? As you build a stronger relationship with the schools where you work most often, they’ll respect those boundaries–and respect you for being willing to set them.

Set boundaries for yourself. There are days when you can drop your plans and head in to work at the drop of a hat. There are also days when you simply can’t–and you shouldn’t be expected to. While it’s important to be available to the schools where you wish to work–and repeatedly turning down those schools may decrease future opportunities–you also need to know where to set your personal boundaries regarding which days you can work and which days you can’t.

Build a life outside of work. It can be difficult to develop relationships with your colleagues when you never know where you’ll be working or you’re in a different part of the building every day. Building a life outside of work, complete with friends, hobbies, and activities, is one of the most effective ways to improve work-life balance.

Know when to turn it off. Most teachers struggle with bringing work home–and substitutes, who need to have plans in place for classrooms that might not have sub plans and materials to provide for students, are no exception. It’s important, however, to know when it’s time to stop working. Set specific work hours for yourself, and when they’re over, turn back to the things you’d rather be doing! You’ll quickly discover that this is more effective than constantly working and helps you keep perspective on your job.

Your job is important, especially if you love what you do and want a better interaction with the students and schools you work with. By building work-life balance, you’ll be able to improve your odds of job and life success. Want to learn more about finding those important jobs as a sub? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Teachers Can Enjoy Spring Break Too!

Spring Break is more than a vacation for students who are anxious to put down their text-books. It is a welcomed victory and a milestone for teachers everywhere.

And yet, teachers find themselves most often spending this well-earned break in the classroom. Not physically of course, but mentally they plan away new organizational charts and implement classroom management techniques. They find themselves solving problems in the classroom and thinking of how to tackle the next book report assignment. More than likely, they are doing this all while grading a stack of papers.

Some find these activities to be a blast. The perfect way to spend a Spring Break holiday. But for those really needing a break from anything resembling chalk dust and red markers, try these fun activities this Spring Break.

Pot Luck Pool Party

Have fun in the sun and unwind with all your friends. A pool party is simple to throw together and when you include a pot luck, it is an inexpensive affair full of sun, relaxation and potato salad.

Read 

Simple enough, right? Until you find yourself nose deep in lesson plans and charts. Force yourself to read something you will find enjoyable. Read for pleasure. Plan an early night in pajamas and snacks and indulge in that book you have not had time to pick up. If you don’t have one of these books on your nightstand already it is the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and browse the used book stores. You might find that hours have passed while you discovered long-lost literary loves.

Rediscover a Hobby

Plan one day where you devote yourself to the things you used to enjoy. A teachers life is a blessing that fills up most hours. The rewards are great but sometimes the cost is not having enough time to do that thing you love. Rediscover it. Do you like to paint? Then paint. Do you like to write music? Write music. Do you like to spend time with animals? Plan a date to volunteer at the animal shelter. The point is to redirect yourself to…yourself.

Relax

The dreaded five letter word. Relax. It sits right there next to the word “self-care” in the “that is for other people but not for me” dictionary. Teachers often find relaxing or taking time for self-care a selfish act. This Spring Break, get out of your comfort zone. Find out what self-care and relaxing really means to you and do it. This is not about woo-woo magical unicorns. This is about being a better teacher, a better colleague, a better partner, spouse, and friend. When you neglect taking time to relax and you are running on Twix bars and a prayer, you are not the best teacher you can be. Self-care and relaxing is about finding time for you. It is about making yourself a priority. After all, you are the most important person in that classroom. Start acting like it.

Go Outside

It is so simple it is almost always overlooked. The power of being outside. We can think of a thousand fun things to do during the Spring Break and most of them will include being inside. So take that fun thing you are thinking of- and take it outside. Eat, read, talk on the phone or grade papers to your heart’s content, just do it outside. It is amazing how much this small change in location will brighten your mood. You never know what you might see or who you might run into.

When Spring Break Sunday rolls around and you are ready to head back into the classroom, do it with renewed vigor. Check out Sub Sidekick for alerts to get you the job!

Top things to do during Spring Break

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – subbing is hard. One of the biggest perks of working in a school, however, are vacations! You still get a spring break! If you’re anything like me, Spring Break usually starts with a lot of lofty ideas for how I’ll use all the extra time, and ends up being a week of avoiding things so I’m right back where I started. Below are easy and achievable ways to make your Spring Break one to remember!

1. Have a staycation, and mean it!

Turn off your phone, your email notifications, load up on your favorite treats, and grab a blanket (and/or a bottle of wine)! Use the time you have to really indulge yourself – maybe it’s a bath every evening, maybe it’s a week with a loved one, maybe it’s catching up on all the new fiction releases! For some, a staycation is hard to actually execute. It’s so easy to switch on your notifications and get swept away by your to-do list. To avoid this, make a list on the first day of break of things that need to happen over the time off. Schedule time each day to work on what absolutely needs to get done, and you’ll feel that much better about treating yourself to a movie and popcorn from the comfort of your own couch.

2. Explore something new in your city/country/state!

Whether it’s a new restaurant, a store that just popped up, or a new hike near your usual trail, go explore! It can be so fun to try something you haven’t tried before, and there’s no reason you can’t do that from the comfort of your own city, or a neighboring one. I’m sure we’d all love to travel somewhere new and exciting on every break, but often spring break is just too short, and travel is just too expensive. However, going somewhere for a change of scenery can happen no matter where you live or what funds you’ve saved.

3. Practice a skill or hobby – or learn a new one!

From day-long workshops at local community colleges or other centers, to a how-to book at the library or a quick Google search, there’s so many ways to learn a new skill. You can get embroidery tutorials on Youtube, free language exercises online, even a kit to make your own cheese!

4. Most important of all: DON’T FEEL GUILTY!

Whatever you do with your break, know that you earned it. Teaching is incredibly fulfilling, and it can also be incredibly exhausting. You know your kids deserve a break, and so do you! Taking time off can help you reset your brain, come up with new ideas, and ultimately make you a better teacher.

If you want to hike a new trail every day, do it! If you want to sit on your couch and watch all the shows you’ve been missing this season, power on! No matter what you choose, make sure it’s exactly what you want to be doing, and nothing more (or less)!

Then, when you’re ready to get back to work, visit our site!

Substitute Teacher Tricks for Encouraging Positive Behavior

Every substitute teacher dreams of having an amazing class that arrived on time, listened as you explained what the assignment was, worked quietly, and stayed engaged without any prompting. While these ideal classrooms do exist, they can be few and far between. It is more common to have a few students who choose not to do their work or become disruptive. Here are a few simple tricks to help encourage on-task behavior.

  • Have a simple reward system in place. If you have a “sub bag,” consider packing a few inexpensive goodies like mechanical pencils, novelty erasers, stickers, or any party-favor items that look like fun giveaways. Pass them out to students who are trying hard to stay focused despite classroom distractions, or reward disruptive students when they are actively trying to not disrupt others.
  • Non-verbal cues are a great way to save face. Students generally don’t like to be singled out in front of their peers. While it may sometimes be unavoidable to call out a student for not being on task, having a range of non-verbal cues is a subtle way of refocusing students.
  • If a student is beyond off-task and creating a situation where other students become distracted, this may be a circumstance where singling out a student is necessary. Without fanfare, write the disruptive student’s name on the board. If it isn’t immediately noticed, eventually whispers will get around and he or she will glance at the board. Use this opportunity to have a quiet conversation about what the student can do to get the name erased. And when you see that behavior happen, erase it immediately.
  • No matter the grade level, every student wants positive feedback. A simple “Thank you for staying focused on your assignment,” or “I’m impressed with how well you explained the science experiment,” will go a long way in keeping students engaged. Walk around the classroom constantly, as this gives you the opportunity to provide specific and meaningful comments to your students.

Students who struggle will often do anything other than their work, and they are often only recognized for not being on task. So make a little extra effort to show them you see them trying, and that you want them to keep on trying. Your confidence in them may be the way over the hurdle behind their off-task behavior. If you would like to learn about other tricks and tips to use in the classroom, Sub Sidekick can help.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Sending Students to the Principal’s Office

Any substitute teacher would agree- the job is no walk in the park. Sure, you aren’t burdened with lesson planning, and some days your main responsibility may be simply handing out worksheets and keeping the kids from running rampant throughout the school. And yet, to really substitute teach productively takes substantial effort and savvy, as well as the ability to step into another teacher’s classroom and encourage a focused and orderly atmosphere. So what do you do when you have a problem student disrupting the class? As educational psychology tells us, positive reinforcement is often the most effective method for classroom management, whether you’re in charge of that classroom full-time or only temporarily.

Stay In Control

In tougher cases, removal of a certain child can sometimes feel like your only option: the student is so unruly to the point of derailing the entire class, and you finally send him or her out of the room, perhaps even to the principal’s office. Rather than modifying the target behavior, the source of the behavior is simply removed. But consider: what exactly does this accomplish? The classroom may be–temporarily–returned to some sort of order, and the surface problem of disturbance is solved, for the moment. But what you’ve just done is reinforce the problem student’s belief that unruly behavior gets them what they want: either attention or escape from the classroom, two common motivations for kids who act out. In turn, the kid is training you, conditioning you to send out any problem students in the future for a quick and easy fix. In addition, you are implicitly telling the rest of the class that you are not the one in control. Resist the temptation of sending away the disturbance, or risk setting a problematic pattern for yourself.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Ensure that your expectations for the class are clear from the start, as this will minimize temptation for the children to test your limits, see what you’ll let them get away with. Begin the day or period with a firm explanation of what behavior you expect to see from them. This doesn’t have to be unnecessarily strict or accusatory–often simply showing your students respect, letting the children know that you see them as responsible and rational human beings, results in their respect in kind. This is also a good time to call role and learn their names as best you can. Using names shows your personal investment in them–it’s a lot less demeaning than “you in the purple shirt”–and allows you to hold specific students accountable if they do act out.

Provide Competing Motivation

So what should you do, when faced with a student who just won’t settle down? If it seems that his or her behavior may largely be a result of high energy, and if you’re dealing with younger kids, try giving the entire class a quick round of ‘wiggle time,’ a minute or so of free license to jump or dance in place, to expend some of that excess liveliness (within reason–don’t turn a blind eye to kids head butting each other or otherwise causing physical harm). Alternatively, learn a quick two minute guided breathing exercise, meditation, or yoga routine you can share with the kids. This can work wonders in calming excessively high energy and focusing attention, and the kids love it.

If the student’s motivation seems to lie more in a need for attention, from you or other students, distract him or her with a stronger motivation. Reward good behaviors–which you delineated at the beginning of class–with anything from candy to five minutes of free time at the end of the period. Or, for younger kids, the reward could be a mysterious box on your desk that you promise to open, containing a puppet or small toys- curiosity is often in and of itself a powerful motivator. The main point is to provide the students with reasons to exhibit good behavior and reduce motivations for disruptive behavior. And if you do find yourself pushed to the point of discharging a student from class, don’t be too hard on yourself; everyone has a breaking point, and it’s better to remove the student from the situation than to snap and lose your cool. Just try not to make it a habit.

However, with these few tactics, you should be able to avoid the final recourse of sending a child out of the classroom. For more tips on substitute teaching and positive reinforcement in the classroom, or to learn about SubFinder, our app designed specifically for people like you, contact us.

Being A Better Substitute Teacher: Remember Your Experiences

Think back to when you were in school and you had a substitute teacher. Did you enjoy having a sub? What made you like or dislike the substitute and why? Ask yourself these questions as you prepare to enter the classroom.

1. What did the substitute do that made me feel comfortable in my class? Did they try to keep to the teachers usual routine or was the day totally different. Although as a substitute we may not be able to do things exactly like the classroom teacher, it is essential we do our best to follow the schedule and routine as best as possible.

2. Was the substitute nice or mean? Ok let’s face it, nobody likes a mean substitute. Picture a cranky old lady wagging her finger and yelling all day. On the other hand, it is imperative that you aren’t so laid back that the students run over you. A substitute must find that happy medium of being stern but approachable.

3. Did the substitute look like “A Teacher?” Most teachers don’t come to school everyday in a business suit, but they also do not come to school in a halter top and cut offs! It is essential that you dress the part in order for students to respect you and accept you. Look around at what your child’s teachers wear most of the time and keep it professional.

4. Was the substitute confident? Kids sense fear and weakness. In order to be successful in a classroom you have to be confident in what you are doing. It is fine to ask questions and clarification. It is not okay to say I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, so let’s have a free day. By arriving early and reading the lesson plans and getting prepared you will be ready when the students enter the classroom.

5. Was the substitute easily distracted? We all remember those substitutes, especially in high school, that we knew we could distract by asking them about something they liked. Next thing you knew they had been talking about some unrelated topic all hour and class was over. The problem was they never gave the assignment the teacher left and now the class is behind schedule. Don’t be that substitute, stay on task and keep the students focused.

I know for some of us it has been a long time since we were in school and thinking back to remember our substitute teachers may be difficult. Nevertheless, if we try we can remember a few classes where we had a substitute and ask ourselves these questions.

For more information, contact us.

How to Become a Preferred Substitute Teacher for Special Education

There is always a need for substitutes in every kind of classroom. This includes special education. Working in a special education classroom is very different from traditional classrooms and you must be prepared for anything. Here are some tips for becoming the preferred substitute teacher in special education classrooms.

  1. Be prepared for anything. If you have not worked in a specific classroom before, prepare yourself for almost anything. There is no “what to expect” guide for special education and every classroom is different.
  2. Don’t be easily shaken. Many things will happen that you are not expecting, but if you go with the flow the students will be more accepting of you and so will the other teachers.
  3. Be ready to go. Most of the time when working in special education you will have to go everywhere with a student or a small group. This includes the gym, the playground, and the cafeteria. Most of  the students must have someone with them at all times.
  4. You will stay busy. Prepare yourself for very short breaks and very few of them. Because these students must be monitored constantly on a one on one basis you most likely will have fewer breaks than when you work in a traditional classroom.
  5. It may be more physically demanding. Many of the students you will be working with will either have some kind of physical limitation that will require you to assist them in that manner or they will need to hold your hand everywhere you go. This is true for all grade levels.
  6. The students will take a while to accept you. Many students in the special education classroom do not do well with a change in their environment. This includes when someone other than the regular teacher is in their classroom. Don’t be offended, it’s not personal. Just give them a bit of time and space and allow them to acclimate to you. If you push it may take longer.

Working in the special education classroom can be a big challenge at first, but if you push through it can become a very rewarding experience. If the teachers and students become comfortable with you they will likely request you back. Once the students become familiar with you the teacher would much prefer that the same person return each time they are gone as opposed to having to familiarize a new substitute every time.

For more information on this topic contact us.

What To Pack In Your Substitute Bag

When I began substitute teaching I brought 1 thing with me, my lunch. I believed that every teacher would have a plan for me to follow. Well, I quickly learned that was not always the case. Sometimes the teacher did not have time to prepare a plan and you have to improvise. Also in many cases they did leave a plan, but you finish early and have to fill time.

I learned from a fellow substitute teacher that she dealt with this problem by carrying a “sub bag” to every job she went to. So I began to put together my own “sub bag.” I chose contents that would work in many different situations and were educational. I also learned that because I worked in classrooms from kindergarten to 12th grade, that I needed variety. This is a list of things that I put in my “sub bag.”

  • Flash cards; everything from letters and numbers to vocab words and math problems.
  • Stickers; usually any child in grades 5 or below appreciate earning stickers.
  • Small prizes; pencils, erasers, cute novelty items, just remember no candy!
  • Worksheets; I keep about 25 copies of worksheets that would be relevant to each age group (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12).
  • Color sheets and crayons; no matter the age, surprisingly most kids enjoy coloring. I keep more intricate color sheets for middle and high school students.
  • Substitute report form; I don’t want to forget important details to report to the teacher, so I keep a form to fill out for all teachers. It has a space for absences, kids that were helpful, kids who were a problem, and a general notes section.
  • Books; I keep a couple children’s books, a chapter book that could be completed in one day, and a few articles that I can give to older students to read and write a summary about.
  • Items for myself; when you are substitute teaching in multiple places, you don’t always know your schedule ahead of time. Your lunch break could be anytime between 10am and 2pm. I keep a water bottle, a couple small snacks, kleenex, and a book for myself just in case I have long breaks.

Preparing a “sub bag” and bringing it with me to every job has helped me to quickly improvise in many situations. I always leave a detailed description or copy of anything I do that is outside the teachers plans. I only use my own materials if I have to, when a teacher has left detailed plans and there is no extra time I always follow their plan. My bag is “in case of emergency” only. For more information on this topic, please contact us

Engaging Disengaged Students

Many substitutes will find that students tend to lose interest in their class when the usual teacher is not around. Finding a way to keep the students on task is always a tough job, especially when the students do not view you as their teacher. So what can a substitute teacher do to engage the students and earn their respect?

  1. Know the rules. If the students see that you are not maintaining the rules that the teacher and school have set, they will test your boundaries and see what they can get away with. Whether it is “no throwing things across the class” or “ask permission to leave your seat”, enforce the rules of the school.
  2. Talk to the students. The students will respect you if you make an effort to get to know them, even if it is just for one day. However, this has to be done at appropriate times to prevent the students from getting more off topic and distracted. When done correctly, this will let the students know that you are there and you care, resulting in more respect and attention from them.
  3. Use your inside voice. Yelling will not re-engage your students. It is more likely to annoy them and result in them losing respect for you. If a student is off task or getting too loud, quietly remind them to get back to work. If the whole class is loud or off topic, give them option. Neither option should let them get away with their misbehavior. For example, one option can be that they get back to work now and you will let their teacher know about their behavior, or you can call in the person in charge to see for themselves.
  4. Have fun. Learning should be fun whenever it is possible. Even if the work they are doing is not very engaging, try to put in a joke or make a student smile whenever you can. A happy student is a learning student and you have the opportunity to help every student learn.

For more tips and information on substitute teaching, contact us here.