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From the Subs

This column is written by substitute teachers about their life inside or outside the classroom.  Substitute teachers have very different lifestyles.  Some are attending college to get their teaching certificate.  Some rush from the classroom to their second job.  Substitute teachers are encouraged to write in to let us know - what do you think of your life as a sub?

May 2010 From the Subs PDF Print E-mail
I was dog-tired with teaching at a technical college and decided to quit. My husband was delirious because I had quit a job during a recession without another job. According to my husband, quitting a job during a recession is a terrible idea. I had a master plan to fill the new gap in our financial position. I would complete the application process to become a substitute teacher. I had children and had taught Sunday school for the past decade. I had the opportunity to earn $90 per day to work in the community with teens. I had the opportunity to SUB everyday if necessary within ten to twenty minutes of my house. My husband’s blood pressure steadily decreased after I told him about my master plan.

The first assignment was a piece of cake because the teacher had an orderly group of students in an Advanced Placement (AP) class. I could not figure out how to keep the students quite but at the end of the day I did not need an Excedrin. I proudly thanked the teacher for my first sub assignment and was looking forward to the next. The second assignment was hell on wheels because the students were totally out of control. As I called the roll, the students talked louder. I did not even bother to provide my name. Students were laying on tables, wrestling, cuddling, and talking on the telephone. I sat in the seat and shook my head because the life of a sub was looking bleak. I survived until the end of the day, earned my $90, and thought about never returning. I refused to be defeated so accepted the third assignment which confirmed that I could survive as a SUB only if I followed three essential rules:

(1)   Select the correct teacher and subject-A teacher without classroom management does not provide a leg to stand on. Stay away from the core classes such as Math unless you are a certified teacher. The students in the "Hell on Wells" Math class did not give a flip about me or learning.

(2)   Leave the control freak attitude at home-When the students walk in and see a SUB it is free time of fun and relaxation. Write a couple of basic rules on the board and sit back and enjoy.

(3)   Take breaks-During block instructions, teachers have planning sessions in which subs are able to eat lunch. Go outside and get some fresh air to gear up for the next set of students. I promise that you will need the fresh air. If the children are driving you waco substitute sporadically.

The rules of engagement of being a substitute teacher for high schools are essential to survive during a break in employment. Select the easy assignments by either self-selecting teachers or staying away from core courses with 30 students. Leave the control freak hat at home unless you are a certified teacher on the high school level. Having a mental breakdown for $90 per day in not worth the hassle. Take breaks during planning times or assignments if you feel that you are losing your mind. Earning extra money is the goal without ending up in a mental institution. Support the public school system while seeking employment and I bet your bottom dollar that you will have an experience of a lifetime.
~ Cassandra
April 2010 From the Subs PDF Print E-mail
Before going to an assembly I belief it is best to say, "Class, how you go and how you act there is a reflection of your teacher; not me. Her/his peers will be watching you and will certainly tell your teacher tomorrow about your behavior. I will give a report to your teacher, but again it is his/her 'friends' who she/he will hear from on your cooperation and your behavior. If the teacher has the students' respect, they like their teacher, and have been 'taught' properly they will definitely behave.
March 2010 From the Subs PDF Print E-mail

Every Dog has its Day; apparently, substitute teachers’ day occurs during National Substitute Teacher Recognition Week, or SubWeek, according to The Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University. Interestingly, this week of recognition coincides with Teacher Appreciation Week, recognized by parents and administrators, and the National Education Association. There are approximately 270,000 substitute teachers in the United States and it would be interesting to know how many of them received recognition during SubWeek, May 4-8, 2009.

Arguably, substitute teachers are “regular” teachers. In most districts in the United States, substitute teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree. For many of us, it is a choice to work on a part-time basis and our credentials are equal to or better than the contracted teachers; after all, No Child Left Behind mandated highly qualified teachers and specifies requirements for long-term substitutes.

Recent research indicated that students experience the equivalent of one year with a substitute teacher over the course of their education. Sadly, the same research revealed that frequent teacher absences results in lower test scores. This type of research is damaging and may not be relevant. It is entirely possible that the lower test scores reflect poor teacher quality; however, the classroom teacher may be experiencing more absences due to the strains of teaching and it is actually the “regular” teacher responsible for the lower test scores.

At any rate, substitute teachers join the ranks of many under-respected, underpaid, and overlooked professionals that include law enforcement, firefighters, and social workers. At least substitute teachers are sustained by the thought that every dog has its day and for substitute teachers it is during SubWeek.


Miller, R. (2008). Tales of teacher absence: New research yields patterns that speak to policymakers. Retrieved November 6, 2009 from,

Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University. (2009). Retrieved November 6, 2009 from,

Tamara Ryan
February 2010 From the Subs PDF Print E-mail

For some, substitute teaching is a part-time job.  They sub a few days a week and do other things to make money, or their spouse works and substitute teaching provides a little extra money.  But I am a full-time substitute teacher who relies on income from subbing to make ends meet, and the last three years I haven’t missed one day.  Many people are surprised when I tell them I work every day.  “You work every day, even the first day of school?” they ask skeptically.  Yes, I have worked the first day of school each year as well as the last day before Christmas break -- and first day back from Christmas break. 

People find it hard to believe that a teacher who has had the summer off would miss the first day of school, but this year, for example, a teacher wanted to be present for his child’s first day of kindergarten, and I was called to sub.  The rest of the first week I filled in at a middle school that had still not hired a computer teacher. 

Emergencies happen; teachers have surgeries or a family member requires immediate attention.  Suddenly, the school needs a substitute the first day of school, or the day after spring break.

Last year, when an English teacher was scheduled to grade advanced placement exams out of state, I finished out her class the last week of school, administering final exams and then grading them.

To sub every day, one has to hustle, which means checking early in the morning for someone to call in sick, or late evening for a job opening the following day.  Though I have had long-term assignments, some for two months or longer, it has been mostly single day jobs that have kept me employed.

Subbing every day takes me all over the county, to three or more school districts and assignments that can be thirty miles apart.  Teachers and staff have gotten to know me so they will plug me in advance or call me first when a teacher is out ill.

With the economy in my state of Michigan the worst in the nation, I am grateful to be able to substitute every day, and comforted to know someone out there needs my services.

Richard Martinovich

April 2008 From the Subs PDF Print E-mail

A typical weekday outside the classroom for me:

6:00 AM ~ My husband appears standing next to my side of the bed with our baby girl crying for food. Since he is waking me up, it must not be a sub call day today. The dogs will be happy that they don’t have to be alone all day.

6:30 AM ~ I stumble down the hall to put her back in her crib, instead of getting dressed to go to work.

9:00 AM ~ The alarm goes off and I might get up, wash my face, and eat a breakfast bar before we start the day.

9:30 AM ~ I hear the baby cooing in her crib for me to come get her. She sits in her high chair and giggles as I feed dogs and I attempt to check email while she is occupied

Morning ~ Full of diaper changes, baby feedings, and playing with Baby, make phone calls if she decides to nap since its hard to talk on the phone over Pterodactyl yells

Noon ~ Fix lunch and try to eat it before it gets cold - hopefully Daddy surprises us and comes home and makes me something

Afternoon ~ I try to get housework done with Baby attached to hip grabbing at everything within reach

3:00 PM ~ Right around now I realize that I would just be getting home to my daughter if I was subbing. Thankfully, I don’t have to sub today, and I get to be home all day with her. That’s one of the perks of being a sub; I can work when I want to.

5:30 PM ~ We go outside and wait for Dad, the three of us go out to run errands

8:00 PM ~ Home for dinner

9:00 PM ~ We hope bedtime for baby... Finally a chance to scrapbook, sew, or do computer work... or maybe just relax and watch a movie

11:30 PM ~ BED (wait I forgot... shower... then bed)
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