Insight: A Substitute Teacher’s Perspective

Being a substitute teacher is a challenge. High school is scary. Maybe actual fear is an exaggeration, but I get the butterflies and I don’t smile. They see a smile as weakness and then I’m sunk. I never let them see me sweat. I’m a substitute teacher, a replacement for the teacher who knows them; the good, the bad and the detention-worthy. I know nothing.

Substitute teaching has ups and downs, but there are also two ways of looking at it. You could say there is zero responsibility and zero accountability. On the other hand, your responsibility is huge, to not disrespect the school that has invited you, trusted you, to not disrupt their students’ routines. They have let a stranger in their building, in their space, without even an interview.

In this economy, I am always recommending substitute teaching, to those of my friends who I know went to college. I live in a small community, so even with three districts, I don’t stay busy. But in bigger cities it’s full-time all the time. I can move anywhere in my state and not look for a job. I just drop off my credentials and I’m hired.

I started around my own children in parochial school. I worked there for two years. It was like being paid to volunteer. Once I got the hang of it, I expanded to the public school.

My favorites are the little ones. They love you instantly, they’re easily distracted and pliable and I usually understand all of their assignments. They have lower attention spans so they change activities often. Most of I’m leading them around in a crooked line like little baby ducks.

Occasionally the sun shines and I get an extended assignment. Maternity leave is common. My longest was three weeks. By the beginning of week two, I felt like a teacher. I felt like they were my kids. On the last day, it was hard to say goodbye. This is why I am a substitute. I have enough trouble toiling over the future happiness and success of my children. Thirty or so a year would just be too much. My hat’s off.

The secret is balance. I tell them in the beginning, It will be nice or it won’t, I get paid either way. I’m not a pushover, but I don’t bark at them either.  I never send them away to the office, to detention or even to sit outside the door. That just shows defeat. That just tells them I need someone else to do my job.

When I was in school, we loathed substitutes. We thought they were sub-standard, not smart, they didn’t know us, they didn’t know our school or our ways. I wasn’t the sweet girl or the troublemaker, but I pushed a button or two. Now, I know better.

Contact Sub Sidekick for a multitude of resources to make this the best job ever.

Next Article4 Can't-Miss Books for Substitute Teachers