Teacher's Desk: Seasoned Subs

Cool: I now recruit as well as teach. At my urging, the mother of one of our previous students became a substitute teacher at our school. I thought if she got a license and tried substitute teaching, it would give her flexibility and income. Lo and behold, it worked. She now earns more and can flex with doctor’s appointments for her mentally ill children. Now she substitutes all over Denver. She has run into the substitute annoyance several times now: rude employees and even ruder students.

When I was a substitute teacher several years ago, I really was lucky! Rarely did I suffer the indignities of a poorly run organization and bratty kids. Most schools know that substitutes need a list of school and/or classroom rules and procedures; access to a telephone (give them the outside line code); unlock the classroom door; tell them where the bathroom is and give them a stack of referral forms for the spring naughtiness syndrome (mostly found in middle schools and in some high schools) which abounds. Substitutes need to know the procedure for removing disruptive and rude students.

Parents: I would like to think that most of you would be absolutely embarrassed by your children’s behavior towards substitute teachers.

I have yet to figure out how an accomplished educator can manage to teach for 40 to 50 minutes (and in some cases 90) and not leave material for more than 20 minutes for their substitute! Teachers need to leave plans with instructions. I’m sure many teachers are like me and after leaving specific plans and having them ignored, tear up the substitute’s telephone number. But for those substitute teachers with diligence, having specific instructions is a godsend.

It is also the responsibility of the teacher to make her students aware of the consequence (stick or carrot) of inappropriate behavior prior to the substitute teacher’s visit. I usually give extra credit points for a positive report and deduct points from their grades for unwanted behavior.

My worst experience as a substitute, myself, was in a kindergarten classroom at a Montbello elementary school. I was pretty convinced the child was really an adult in a little person’s costume. No matter what, that one was going to graduate kindergarten and find himself immediately contained at Canyon City.

I really enjoyed my experiences at the Douglas County middle schools I “subbed” at, as well as, Hamilton Middle School, Gove Middle School, and Hill Middle School, a short walk from my home. At Hamilton, one of the teachers I regularly substituted for would allow me to plan the lesson and teach. I truly enjoyed it and the students were terrific too!

All too often, substitute teachers hear, “You’re nodda teacher, you’re just a sub.” These ignorant students fail to realize that the majority of substitute teachers are retired with more experience and accreditation than most of the teachers in the building!

Kathleen Kullback is a special educator at Colorado High School Charter with an MA in educational leadership and a former candidate for the Colorado state Board of Education.