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"We have a Sub Today"

As part of this week’s American Education week celebration, we focus is the substitute teacher — the unsung hero of the education world. They come in with nary a clue about what their day will hold except what area they might be in. And still they come.

Oh yes. I’ve heard it echo down the halls many a time. Coach Pecore is absent, or Ms. Black is out. “We have a sub today,” the kids would whisper. The news travels quickly, and the kids are all excited thinking that they get a day off, so to speak. I, too, was absent here and there, but my kiddos certainly didn’t get a break. I think they even grew to hate my absence because it was more difficult with me gone.

Crafting your absence well is a skill learned from lots of bad experiences. First off, you need to get in good with a couple subs on whom you can call. They know they can trust you to provide helpful instructions to not make their day a living nightmare, and you know you can trust them to do what needs to be done. Second, you need to make good lessons. Don’t leave the sub with too little to do. Third, maybe offer a reward — aka bribe — to the classes if you get a good report, and let the sub know so he can remind the students as needed.

I’ve been on the other side. While I was still getting my master’s degree, I subbed around Putnam City a lot. I have also done a couple of long-term substitute roles in music education, so I know a little about the life of a sub.

You can get the feel of an entire building just by entering the front office. Sometimes that’s all you need to know to find out how your day will go. It was never really as bad as Mr.Garvey on “Key and Peele,” but that skit does ring true in a few ways. Kids will try to pull one over on you as a sub, taking advantage of the fact that you don’t know them or their class routines. Hopefully, there is a kind kid in the room who doesn’t think it’s right to take advantage of the substitute.

It is hard to find people willing to live this transient teaching experience. They pay isn’t ideal (though Putnam City pays more than a few other surrounding districts), but the responsibility is not heavy. Sometimes the students don’t behave, which is draining for sure. But at least the hours are pretty good. It’s been a good fit for me at different times in my life. If you’re in a position to serve the district in this way, please visit https://www.putnamcityschools.org/HumanCapital/SubstituteTeaching.aspx to learn more.

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