Rethinking How We Treat Substitutes

Rethinking How We Treat Substitutes – Brief Article

Ever since we started planning the package of articles about substitute teachers for this month’s issue, I’ve had flashbacks to my own schoolboy experiences in classrooms run by a substitute. The most apt word to describe the picture that replays in my head is “disorder.”

The substitute teachers assigned to my elementary and secondary schools in upstate New York, seemed ill-prepared to maintain class decorum, and they probably considered themselves lucky to find detailed instructions and materials from the teacher they were replacing for the day. This combination of factors usually resulted in little meaningful instruction and learning.

The substitutes I recall were drawn from the ranks of long-retired teachers (the most memorable targets of my classmates’ disrespectful behavior) and stay-at-home moms–the traditional source of fill-in staffing for most school districts.

Today, however, with school districts almost desperate to fill their substitute teacher needs, school leaders could do much more to make their buildings friendly places for substitutes, where they are made to feel welcome and appreciated and can count on the support they need to succeed in what is admittedly a difficult assignment. As our coverage suggests, these accommodations can be more meaningful than increased pay when recruiting and retaining substitute teachers.

I’m not necessarily proud of the part I may have played in making life miserable for well-meaning substitute teachers a generation ago. So you might consider our attention to the subject in this month’s School Administrator as a modest make-good effort. I hope you will find the advice worth pursuing.

Jay P. Goldman

Voice: 703-875-0745


COPYRIGHT 2001 American Association of School Administrators

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