Substitutes in the classroomSomehow my topic got posted twice, so I'll create a new question out of this one. Should states require certification for substitute teachers? In my state and the...

Substitutes in the classroom

Somehow my topic got posted twice, so I'll create a new question out of this one. Should states require certification for substitute teachers? In my state and the neighboring ones, the only qualification is a clean criminal records check; the person technically does not even need to be a high school graduate. It this acceptable, or should schools be demanding more qualifications? Doing so would of course mean they would have to step up to the plate and pay subs a decent wage as well, but what is the price of wasting a child's school day?

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In an ideal world, substitute teachers would be certified in the field in which they are subbing, and can provide at least minimal instruction. I had a difficult time finding a teaching position after being certified; and subbed for nearly three years. During that time I was called nearly every day by teachers who had left teachable plans, and often expressed relief that they would not lose an entire day.

As I said, this is in an ideal world, which doesn't exist. There are not enough certified personnel who are willing to sub, and school districts have no intention of paying professional wages. I have had some success using retired teachers to sub; but they are not always available.

When there are no "real" teachers available to fill in, I either leave a test to be completed (with appropriate instructions for proctoring) or a book for the students to read, or in the absolute worst case scenario, a movie dealing with the subject. I refuse to use worksheets as a matter of principle; I think they are a waste of time, do not emphasize the proper elements of a lesson, and turn students off to learning. May the day never come when I have to leave worksheets for my students simply to keep them busy.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some people really like subbing, are good at it, and can engage students in ways that the regular teacher may not - there is some value in the novelty of a new face and voice. For many-to-most teachers, substituting is tough!

I am sensitive to post #4's concern about the difficulty some districts might have if certification was required, but I find it concerning and scary to think that some subs might walk into classrooms with no training in education and no background check.

When I started teaching, another good activity for substitutes was showing movies, back in the days of 8mm projectors. Now, when we are showing live streaming videos off computers that are password-locked (which means inaccessible to substitute teachers), that alternative is not as practical. I always tried to find activities for my students that engaged them with material as a review for the day. If the class was a good group, they could usually police themselves responsibly and make worthwhile use of the time. If the class was not a good group, that's where the more structured worksheet came into play.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first priority for most districts is probably to create a safe environment for children. So, to ensure there is care for children when an absense is necessary, there has to be a pool big enough to draw from. Requiring a college education or teaching certificate may eliminate many people. Therefore, a background check is most necessary, because quite frankly we are looking for a babysitter. In times like these when districts and state governments are cutting spending, there is no possible way to pay subs more. Teachers will revolt, because that pay will come from one of the only places left: teacher salaries... that are already dwindling.

Many people who do sub have seasonal jobs that make subbing a great opportunity for them despite the money.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, they should not require that because many substitute teachers are also military wives who move around from base to base and they can find wonderful opportunities of work and experience through subbing. They may or may not want to be teachers, and substitute teachers are exactly that: Substitutes. They get paid less and their schedules depend on a phone call. Hence, why also expect them to go to college, and make them pay for an education that they may not be sure they want in this field. We already have enough teachers that should have never put step on a School of Education. At least the subs enjoy the kids because they know they get to give them back :)

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A certification may not be necessary, but I really like the idea #9 brought up of requiring some additional education before we allow someone in to (even for a few days) teach our children.

There is nothing so frustrating than coming in after a sub who had no idea what they were doing, and having to "unteach" what the sub told the kids.  I always try to leave a detailed, understandable lesson plan for my subs...but often they "go off" on their own...and tell the kids things that simply aren't true.  A little  schooling in classroom management and pedagogy would be really helpful for these subs!

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I know it's happening, I leave worksheets that I make up that are based on practicing reading comprehension.  That means they're open book so the sub doesn't have to try to proctor in any serious way.  I just figure that when I'm not there, learning is going to be minimal anyway.  I try to give something like those worksheets that does have a pedagogical value, but I also, in my mind, write off the day and know that I'll need to go over the material again.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Iowa and many other states, I'm sure, there is a program for those who want to become substitute teachers. It isn't particularly expensive, requires some classroom observation time in addition to some minimal time spent in classes, and expects every applicant to have a college degree (and perhaps just an Associate's Degree). This is a middle ground between expecting too much and settling for too little.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that substitutes should need to have a background in a teachable field, with a background check, and education classes. For my state, subs are required to hold a sub certificate. Many of our districts pay subs well. I know of many teachers who make a great living, minus the benefits, only doing subbing.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think that districts should be responsible for hiring subs. They should pass some kind of requirement, but local districts know what's right for them. Requiring state certification would make it even harder fit some communities to get people subbing.

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