Picture a school, sitting on a hill. It’s Tuesday and the beloved weekend is far away. The classrooms are full of students, but one is missing its teacher. Just then a lady with a clipboard walks in and she says, “Alright everyone, Mr. Carter is out today. I am your substitute.”
The kids, who were practically asleep 5 seconds ago, get excited. “Bro, we got a sub!” One kid whispers quite loudly. They´re excited because this means 40 minutes of anarchy. The kids start chatting among themselves and the sub has to shout to be heard. “I…. need you to open your workbooks to page 11!” Unfortunately, no one hears her, or cares. The rest of class is paper airplanes and pencils flying wildly. The sub tries to keep order, even threatens to write names down but without knowing anyone; she’s lost.
This scene takes place across the country, and I have faced it many times. The problem? Substitute teachers seem to be horribly unequipped to teach class.
Every day, thousands of students have subs and are mostly unproductive. However, this isn’t even the worst problem. Thousands of substitute teachers are quitting because of frustration in the job at a critical time when teachers are quarantined due to COVID. According to Time magazine, over 75% of schools in America have a significant sub shortage. On average those schools can fill only 80% of substitute demands. This has led to principals, superintendents, and others to fill the gaps or face school closure.
This significant problem needs to be addressed. Though most Americans have no idea this disaster is happening. The federal government is not focused on this issue either.
So what’s the solution? Some states have taken action by raising pay and lowering demands for substitutes, but there is another way to help. Schools should offer or require substitute teacher training. There are of course already substitute training programs, but they aren’t useful.
Subs don’t have a problem teaching educational lessons or topics. They struggle to get kids to learn, focus, and give respect to them. According to stedi.org ¨To become an excellent substitute teacher, the most critical ability you can master is how to easily manage classroom behavior and teach effectively.¨ We should focus more on that and it wouldn’t cost much. Subs in training could observe a regular class day and take notes, and solve real life scenarios.
The government needs to implement these ideas. It would help unruly kids learn to behave and adapt to new circumstances and would allow our subs to do their jobs better, our kids would learn more and our teachers would sleep better knowing they’re being covered by smart, capable substitutes.