Hey! We've got a SUB!

Imagine the glee on students faces when they arrive at their classroom in the morning to exclaim:

“Hey! We’ve got a Sub!”

For many students, a substitute teacher represents a free-for-all day, where the mettle of the sub is tested by normally well behaved students acting like maniacs.

The saying: “While the cat’s away, the mice will play” couldn’t be truer.

I began my teaching career as a substitute teacher. It was 1980 and there was a glut in the teaching world. The only way to stay in the career I loved was to become a sub. Schools had special people who called the subs each morning. I learned to appreciate those callers over the years.

Our caller, Linda Miller, would answer, give you understanding words of healing, tell you to go back to bed, and assure you that she would find the right substitute for your classroom.

Unfortunately, those days are gone. Computers and competitive business companies have taken over the enterprise of finding substitutes for sick teachers. Today, that personal touch; the reassurance of someone having your teacher back, is over.

On October 22, PESG, one of the two main companies providing substitute teachers, folded. The comment made by their lawyers was: “that PESG had been seeking capital to stay afloat and negotiating with a competitor to sell the business in a way that would have avoided terminations.”

You would expect, then, that the other company must be doing a bang up job providing subs, right?

Well, they may have the corner on the market, but the crisis in education is not only finding full time teaching staff, it is finding subs for all staff (Bus drivers, Kitchen, Paraprofessionals, even subs themselves).

Districts in Michigan have been accused of doubling and tripling up classrooms so the teachers that are present can monitor the students. Everyone knows this is not good teaching.

But schools are now between a rock and a hard place. They often have teachers who are supposed to be planning lessons, taking an absent teacher’s class.

Not a good plan.

While the state has lowered the number of college course credit hours (or even their content) for subs to be in front of kids, this certainly doesn’t guarantee best practice when it comes to teaching. These people need some type of training. It is irresponsible to suggest that our students in Michigan are not important enough to have credible and informed people serving as teachers in our schools.

We are reaching out to schools, administrators, and colleges. Our company, a nonprofit for the training support of early career teachers, has experienced teachers, mentors, and administrators in its wheelhouse. We can put together PD days of training for these folks. We are begging to help.

I would think our phone would be ringing off the hook.

But Education doesn’t work that fast. It makes committees. It has scads of meetings. It says it is working on something and that takes time.

This problem has been looming for at least a decade. How much time do we need?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, kids are the ones who will suffer.

Thanks for listening.

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