One of many reasons why money matters: Subs? What subs?

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I have been pretty sick at points this month but I just keep dragging myself to class. I like my coworkers. I don’t want to foist extra students on them. I like my students. I don’t want to waste their days.

We rarely have subs available. When I see the front office calling early in the morning, I know that I am about to be asked to sacrifice my one (alleged) planning period. We get paid for taking extra classes, but at the cost of taking a straight-through rocket ride to the end of the day.

I work in a tough school. The kids are hard on subs. I vividly recall a sub who stormed into the teacher’s lounge, shaking and howling loudly a few years ago, after having been told to fuck herself, along with various other expletives, before watching students lie to the principal about her. “This is not a school!” She sobbed, waving her trembling arms about, before walking out midday, leaving the kids with no sub for art. She never came back.

Where are our subs? North, South, East or West, they go to the schools where the pay’s the best. We don’t pay well. We don’t provide easy working conditions. Some subs have tried to work smaller classes, taking only special education or bilingual classes, but then our administration would shift those subs into regular classes instead. The subs finished out the day in unexpectedly larger and rowdier classes and never came back. It’s only October and we already seem to be effectively without subs.

We used to have subs when the administration was less demanding. The subs did next to nothing except keep the kids alive, but at least we had subs. If you left the right work behind, and set up a reward system, the students’ day did not have to be wasted. Now we are squandering ridiculous amounts of student and teacher time.

Doubled-up classes don’t work well. Teachers are giving up planning time to run back and forth across the school, and don’t have any time to prepare for whatever sub plan they find (or don’t find — kids have been known to stash the plans). When classes are split up between other teachers, the divvying process also derails education. One lesson plan can’t usually be spread all across the hall — Who has time to make that happen in our perpetually short-staffed school? — so students end up joining the class they land in. Do those students do any work? Probably not often. A student stuck in a health class who is not taking health can be 100% certain that health classwork won’t impact his or her grade.

Eduhonesty: I understand why my Assistant Principal is trying only to employ dedicated, quality subs. Other districts find those subs. Why can’t we? A number of retired teachers live in and near my district, teachers who have taught in my school and know how to teach in my school. Why aren’t they walking through our door? Student behavior may be part of the problem, but for the right money, I’m sure we could find the subs we need. If the pay was equivalent, I might well return to substitute teach after retirement. I like my kids. I know them. I’ll be able to connect with their little brothers and sisters.

But after I retire, I expect I’ll decide to work for more money closer to home.