Substitute teachers generally do a great job!

Substitute teachers have no contract, no benefits, no paid time off, vacation, or sick days, and they don’t necessarily have to be licensed teachers (U-46 requires a college degree). To put that in some sort of perspective, with a simple state license, I could be a substitute teacher in many local school districts.

Ain’t that a terrifying thought?

A school district the size of U-46 uses upwards of 150 subs a day (I checked), not only to cover teacher sick days, but those in staff, parent, and student meetings, in training seminars, and chaperoning field trips.

'I presume you're the substitute teacher?'And being a sub is a lot like that proverbial slab of raw meat that’s about to be thrown to a pack of hungry lions. The lovely little darlings know you’re just a place holder and they can sense fear far more acutely than a pit bull in a room full of rabbits.

If you manage to survive the students, there’s the automated 5 a.m. calls, the Affordable Care Act making it much more complicated, and if you’re a really superb substitute teacher, the district won’t hire you full-time because you’re much more valuable to them as a pinch hitter.

It’s a bleeping great life all for $80 to $100 a day. If any of you ever catch me saying I want to be a sub, you have my explicit permission to beat me senseless with my carbon fiber baseball bat. But despite those difficulties, on any given midwinter day, there are probably 600 substitute teachers toiling in U-46 and D300 alone.

So let’s crunch some numbers. Using that U-46 150 sub average, that means, over the course of a 175 day school year, there are 26,000 separate sub days in that district. And until this week’s incident, how many substitute teacher issues have popped up in the last 10 years? I’ll wait…

To fill in the blanks, instead of ending it, a U-46 sub encouraged a classroom effort to make fun of a 330 pound peer by adding an absurd caption to a roughly scrawled smart board depiction of said student. The young man took a video of those proceedings and his family posted it on Youtube.

But even though the local newspapers would have you believe this lone sub who sank to the level of his freshman charges is news, the real news is the 259,999 separate U-46 substitute teaching sessions that have transpired over the last decade without incident.

The way the local tabloids are going out of their way to pick this lowest of all low hanging fruit continues to be utterly infuriating.

Without denigrating the great work of 99.99999 percent of substitute teachers, they are in no way full-time contractual teachers who can be “suspended” or “fired.” The school district simply won’t call them to come in. No substitute teacher is ever guaranteed the next day’s work.

So it is exceedingly disappointing that, not only did the Courier News and Daily Herald insist upon referring to this as a “fired teacher” scenario, but they went out of their way to avoid applying any perspective whatsoever.

In a piece that’s poorly written and difficult to follow, at least the DH’s Madhu Krishnamurthy correctly reported that U-46 safety coordinator John Heiderscheidt said, “We are not allowing this substitute teacher back in U-46.” She also noted that, “Substitute teachers are licensed by the Illinois State Board of Education and hired by school districts as needed.”

But that didn’t stop her from using the terms “teacher” “suspended” and “fired” over and over again.

My beloved Dave Gathman (Courier-News) was even worse because I expect perspective from someone of his caliber and there was none. Shame on you Dave!

And here’s the bottom line! Would someone please tell me why neither reporter mentioned how this aggrieved family put a bullying bullseye squarely on their son’s forehead by going to Youtube and Facebook BEFORE they went to the district?

Ah yes! Victimhood at its best!

I spoke with U-46 CEO Tony Sanders immediately after the incident went public and he essentially said this sub would not be called to teach pending an investigation and, if the facts held up, he wouldn’t teach in U-46 again. That’s it! Problem solved. End of story.

No school district is going to put up with that rare rogue sub for a second because they simply don’t have to!

And yes! Despite some rabid parents’ pronouncements to the contrary, there does have to be an investigation. Even if you’re caught shoplifting on camera, you still get your day in court. Some folks really need to start taking their Ritalin.

There is no excuse for what this substitute teacher did, but there’s also no excuse for the blatantly lazy and sensationalized news coverage of this non-event either. Because, when you consider the vast number of subs and just how difficult the job is, the only thing that surprises me is this doesn’t happen more often.

One thought on “Substitute teachers generally do a great job!

  1. Why is this a story?

    Because it is extraordinary that he got caught and punished. Ask around. Most people I know (including myself) grew up with both good and bad teachers. Ask that CEO how many teachers are let go for substandard performance then look at U46 test scores. Look at how many U46 schools are failing year after year after year and keep the same staff and then tell us how U46 Teachers are 99.999% perfect. It’s absurd! And don’t tell me the schools are bad because the students are poor. Brains are brains. It is the school structure which perpetuates these problems.

    My drafting teacher in High School spent his class-time reading the newspaper; he just put the page assignments on the board. When that was too much work, he talked to his peers in the hallways. It was Lord of the Flies in that class. Literally.

    There’s an emotional chord which resonates between the readers and this piece. I’m glad the parents reached out publicly because I don’t buy that U46 is 99.999% perfect.

    Substitute teachers don’t have Tenure protection, and are generally doing their best to get hired on full-time somewhere. Some are starting out looking for their career. Some are scrubs that are substitutes because no district wants them for a reason.

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