Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sub Pay, Part II

There is a thread going on LinkedIn about how much subs around the United States and elsewhere get paid.  As I wrote about before, Sub Pay, supply teachers in Australia get paid nearly the same rate as regular teachers, sometimes a bit more, to compensate for the fact that their jobs are less certain.

Teachers around the US are reporting that sub pay here ranges from around $60 per day to around $150 in the larger cities.  This is TERRIBLE.  Even those making the higher amounts, are making less than poverty level wages in their areas.  For some substitute teachers, an increase in the minimum wage would mean that the schools would have to raise their pay as well. 

Parents:  your children will be taught approximately a full year by substitute teachers in the years between Kindergarten and graduation from high school.  Administrators:  you are paying your subs less than your cafeteria workers, your custodians, your clerical staff, and your teacher aides - are you wondering why you can't find all the subs you need?

Many of the substitute teachers who teach America's children are certified teachers.  Virtually all substitute teachers are college educated.  When they are in the schools, substitute teachers frequently do similar work to what the regular teachers do.  Why don't they get comparable pay for comparable work?  It is true that they don't have the same jobs as regular teachers.  Regular teachers have huge time investments in lesson plans, grading, parent contact, and teachers' meetings.  On the other hand, subs, as evidenced by various threads on LinkedIn, also do a lot of lesson planning, purchasing of materials for "just in case", and teacher contact, most of which is completely uncompensated.

Subs also have additional challenges that regular teachers do not.  They need to be ready to teach a wide range of subjects and age groups at a moment's notice.  They have to be able to discern and apply the various regulations and procedures of the schools they are at.  And no, they are not all alike or even similar.  Subs often have to be prepared for substantial changes in lesson plans - a cancelled assembly, an unscheduled interruption, or even the occasions when lesson plans are missing entirely.  And this is, unfortunately, NOT rare.  Regular teachers know what can fill that time - subs sometimes have no idea - they don't know what has already been covered or what is planned for the future.  

Subs have special challenges when dealing with kids with special needs.  Teacher very often do not leave a list of the children who have special needs and how to deal with them.  They don't mention the times various children leave the classroom for extra classes.  I have had teachers tell me that I don't need to worry about Child X, because she has a full time aide - only to find that the full time aide is sick and also has a sub (or they couldn't get one) and you just have to deal with it.  What are you supposed to do with a child with a ODD diagnosis, when they refuse to do anything you ask and start eating bits of dirt off the ground to see what you will do?  Especially when you have 30 other children in the class and are supposed to be teaching a social studies lesson and the teacher left no information other than the diagnosis.  

And, most of all subs have to be especially discerning about all of the students.  They haven't had weeks or months to get to know them.  They have a few minutes and a lot of students.  They don't know one child's parents are going through a divorce or that another child's grandmother just died.  They don't know the kids, but they have to understand them as much as possible anyway.  

As one other sub has commented, substitute teachers rarely get training by the district.  There is usually a substitute training session of a half to a full day at the beginning of the year - and that is it.  Subs usually are not invited to attended district teacher training institutes; they are not instructed on the use of new tools, such as white boards.  In many places, they are not given sign ons for the computers, nor keys to the classrooms, nor codes to use the copiers.  They do not get training for the new curricula. 

Finally, not only do subs not have guaranteed work or income, they also get no sick days and no benefits.  In a country where health care is frequently tied to one's job, subs are left on their own for health care, which can be hugely expensive, because the sub is not part of a larger group, such as a teachers' union.  Individual plans are typically costly. 

Subs are vastly underpaid. 

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