The Substitute Dilemma


When I first started teaching, my school had three “building subs” who showed up every day, covered for sick or absent teachers, and in the event of 100% staff attendance, helped to support teachers in the classrooms or provided additional support in the office or library. These were individuals seeking teaching positions who gained a great deal of experience by being in different classrooms every day.

The school benefited as well, as the three individuals came to know students, teachers, and curriculum. When a teacher absence was necessary, there was very little loss of learning with someone so knowledgeable of the students and curriculum in the classroom. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a few years. Due to budgetary constraints, the positions were eventually eliminated.

Over the past dozen or so years in education, I have noticed a growing problem that has now evolved into a near epidemic: the lack of qualified substitute teachers. As a building Principal, I usually spend the first part of each morning playing “Tetris” by shuffling staff members in and out of classrooms when we are short-handed. Substitute teachers agree to provide coverage for a teacher, then ditch us at the last minute. Sometimes, no one picks up a substitute job at all. Usually, we are understaffed several days a week. Basic Skills teachers are pulled out of small group instruction, or librarians and other specialists end up covering in classrooms. Students are even used to seeing me in the classroom “subbing” several times a week.

And it’s not just my school or district. Most other administrators that I have spoken to are dealing with the same problem. I recently spoke with a school librarian who said she was pulled from the media center regularly to cover classes. As an administrator, while I struggle with this problem, I try to help where I can. I make a point to check in with, provide positive feedback, and just say THANK YOU to the quality substitutes that do show up to work in our building. Every little bit helps.

While I’m thankful for those who do answer the call, I know that even more needs to be done.

The substitute dilemma seems to have reached a breaking point.

And we need to do something.

If any of you have any other ideas, please feel free to share. PLEASE!!!


Rich (@RACzyz)