If I had to offer a statement to define my experience as a Substitute Teacher over the last school year; I would be resigned to this one lesson, ‘The thing that we have all benefited from– is the thing from which we are farthest removed.’ Too often, I had forgotten what it was like to be a kid. Because of this, my judgments of classroom behavior, or the lack thereof, were usually harsh and uncompromising. The majority of the times were warranted.

The pay was dismal but the job provided a source of income while I sought after a more permanent employment situation. It was not foreign to me, as I had worked as substitute teacher for a portion of my time at the University. The pay during college was great actually (the county was wealthy because of the University). This town however, had some of the lowest wages, I had seen in this position: 55 dollars per day for non-degreed, 75 dollars per day for degreed, and 86 dollars for degreed certified teachers. A substitute in this district is not offered a contract or benefits (with the exception of the teacher retirement program –which only the state can contribute for substitutes) . Substitutes are not paid for days in which they don’t work and no matter how long they work, they can never accrue paid time off (PTO).

It is a thankless job from the standpoint of the district office even though this district could not function effectively without substitutes. After having read this, it’s not surprising to ask “Who would want that job?” But common knowledge dictates that there are two sides to any story. The persons who chose to partake in this unpredictable venture decided to answer to that question with a simple “Me.” Why–you ask?
For starters, as a substitute you work only when you want to–leaving room for the person to pursue whatever it is they are driven to do. You report the principal (technically the bookkeeper or the secretary-depending on the school) the hours are not terrible, Monday-Friday roughly 8-5 with weekends off, and depending on how you look at it–no overtime. Sure the substitute will endure much stress in the classroom early on, as he or she asserts authority and builds relationships with the students. After such grounds are laid, as referrals have been written and discipline has been handed down, Substitutes will often began to enjoy a sort of kinship with the student body of the schools which they frequent. More importantly, if the temporary teacher has the appropriate mindset, he or she will find a higher purpose in the job and therefore approach it—more so as a mission.

Often times substitute teachers are the most immediate role models available to students beyond the faculty and staff.

The person who “wants that job” knows it is critical to not take lightly, the opportunity he or she has to make a lasting impression on the most impressionable human beings on the planet. If no one will stand in the gap, I can proudly state that I have and I will.