Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Subbing for Beginning Teachers

A number of years ago, I made the comment to a principal I was talking to that I thought that all new teachers should be required to sub for a couple of years, before they were given a full time teaching position.  There are quite a few reasons why this is a good idea.  First of all, it gives the new teacher a chance to get more experience.  The big advantage of this is that the teacher is typically encouraged to broaden his/her experience, in that jobs in the narrow range of expertise that s/he developed during student teaching are limited in number.  If s/he opts to sub in a broader range of areas, this can be advantageous in a number of ways:  s/he gets to see a broader view of the curriculum - both what might come before the age range s/he is most comfortable with and what comes after.  This gives added depth to his/her understanding of how the curriculum at his/her chosen grade level fits in with the overall curriculum.  S/he gets to know a broader range of students and their typical behaviors and needs.

Another significant advantage is that the teacher gets to see a broader range of schools and even, in some cases, different school districts.  I subbed several times at a Montessori school that had students in grades pre-K through 8th grade.  I had never had direct experience with Montessori schools before and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this particular school.  Not all schools, even in the same school district, are run the same.  It helps to know what the teacher feels most comfortable with.

It is also interesting for the teacher to see different teaching styles - even within the same school.  Fundamental things like room organization, the arrangement and availability of supplies, and daily time scheduling are quite different from classroom to classroom. 

All of this experience can lead to more confidence for the beginning teacher once s/he has his/her own classroom.

The key drawback is that you can't live on sub pay.  Typically, subs get paid around $100 per day.  Given that the school year is (at most) 180 days, the maximum amount a sub would earn is $18,000.  Given that there are teacher inservice days, parent-teacher conference days, and other non-working days, the typical income is usually much less than this.  And, there are no benefits - no health insurance, no sick leave, no vacation leave.  This means the new teacher has to have some other way of being covered, especially in terms of health insurance.

I have just applied to sub in three different school districts near where I live.  I have no idea yet whether that is too few or too many.  But I do know that a LOT of the new subs at the substitute training sessions are new teachers.  Jobs are scarce this year and many of them are signing up to sub, hoping to be hired on as regular teachers eventually.  Meanwhile, they will get some good experience, even if they are grossly underpaid.

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